Maintaining A Life When You Work In The Law (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Transcripts

Maintaining A Life When You Work In Law

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Meetings, debates, as Robert found out, you need moderation in order for these public forums to work. But as the woman we'll meet next can attest, you also need moderation in order for more personal things to work too like, for instance, your personal life. Marci Rose Levine is a partner at a top Washington law firm. She's also a mother to three young children, that's a combination legal insiders say is relatively rare in a town known for burning out young attorneys, especially young female attorneys. Tara Boyle spent some time with this attorney, slash, mommy to learn how she's finding a work life balance that isn't too hard or too soft but just right.

MS. TARA BOYLE

00:00:43
Marci Rose Levine, a partner at the law firm, SNR Denton is in the throes of a high stakes negotiation.

MS. MARCI ROSE LEVINE

00:00:50
Would you like to have one?

JASON

00:00:51
Yes.

LEVINE

00:00:52
Okay, I'll find you another one.

BOYLE

00:00:53
It's a Friday afternoon and she's standing in the kitchen of her Bethesda home with her two-year-old twins.

JASON

00:00:58
Jason.

BOYLE

00:00:59
And...

GARRETT

00:01:00
Garrett.

BOYLE

00:01:01
...who are battling over accessories, specifically a glitzy scarf belonging to their sister Samantha. Luckily, Marci is able to rustle up a second scarf and avert a crisis.

LEVINE

00:01:10
There you go. Say, thank you mommy.

JASON

00:01:12
Thank you, mommy.

LEVINE

00:01:14
Thank you.

BOYLE

00:01:14
The boys have been home all day. It's Veterans day so their preschool is closed and that means Levine's Friday has been action packed.

LEVINE

00:01:22
We had a really great morning. And I found like a free play at my gym in (unintelligible) and they were great. And they took a nice long nap. So this is the first time today when we've really been home, just sitting and dealing with all of their energy.

BOYLE

00:01:39
Usually, Fridays are when Levine catches up on everything that didn't make it into the rest of the week. That's because she works a reduced schedule with Friday's off and an earlier departure time Monday through Thursday.

LEVINE

00:01:49
That means that I generally leave the office around 4:45 or so each day so I can pick up my children from preschool and from regular school. So I do work some odd times after they go to bed in the evening, sometimes on the weekends. But I have a lot of flexibility which is -- what's been really important for me.

BOYLE

00:02:09
That flexibility allows her to spend this time with her sons who, it should be said, are charming in every way but are not so interested in letting mommy do an interview. And what is this like on a daily...

LEVINE

00:02:20
It's chaotic. The twin experience is unlike anything I've ever experienced before.

BOYLE

00:02:26
So we decided to continue our conversation on Monday. In the hushed K Street offices of SNR Denton where Levine is a partner in the Health and Life Sciences sector.

LEVINE

00:02:35
I started out my career primarily working for hospitals and physicians and then really primarily hospitals for a long time.

BOYLE

00:02:41
Like many attorneys, Levine is busy all day long. She bills clients in six minute increments, meaning her time is always money. But she's found a way to keep work from becoming her whole life.

LEVINE

00:02:52
I tend to not be on big, huge investigations, litigations, things that you think of, you know, big teams of lawyers. I work for sometimes more modest sized clients.

BOYLE

00:03:05
Clients who back her desire to work a flexible schedule. And she's not the only one who has this option. She says about 10 percent of the attorneys in her practice group at SNR Denton have similar arrangements.

LEVINE

00:03:16
I think there's a lot of people who really crave this flexibility and it's men and it's women. It's people taking care of children and it's people taking care of parents and it's people who just have other interests. I think it can really work but you do have to have people who are committed to making it work.

BOYLE

00:03:31
And therein lies the catch.

MS. MANAR MORALES

00:03:33
You have to have a law firm chair that is going to be supportive of this issue. You have to have general council out there who are saying these issues matter to us from a business case because we know when you're not able to retain the top talent, those costs that are costs to the firm become costs to the client.

BOYLE

00:03:50
That's Manar Morales, executive director of the Project for Attorney Retention or PAR. PAR works with law firms on what Morales calls balanced hours policies. She says the number of hours attorneys are expected to work has spiked in recent years.

MORALES

00:04:05
Back in 1963, 1,300 billable hours a year was considered full time. In 1985, it was 1,800 billable hours and today it's 2,000 plus some firms at 2,200 billable hours at year.

BOYLE

00:04:19
So in terms of hours worked per week...

MORALES

00:04:22
That means that a person has to work 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. every weekday and seven hours on Saturday, twice a month.

BOYLE

00:04:28
Which she says is one of the reasons you see so many women leaving their attorney gigs after just four or five years. Some women are opting out of the traditional track all together. In fact, a new survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers finds that, for the first time, fewer women are entering big firm practice.

LEVINE

00:04:45
You want to play -- you hear this song?

JASON

00:04:47
(unintelligible) computer.

BOYLE

00:04:49
Back at the Levine homestead, Marci Levine is seemingly defying this trend. She was first promoted while on maternity leave in 2003 and became a partner several years later. But that doesn't mean her daily juggle is easy.

LEVINE

00:05:01
You know, like the other night, I came home and I'm in my nice little dress and my tights and I take my shoes off and I'm doing things around the kitchen and then I step in something wet and I turn around and there's Jason completely naked, no diaper. I said, Jason, did you do something on the floor? And he smiled and laughed and runs away and I can't find the diaper anywhere.

BOYLE

00:05:23
It just goes to show, in motherhood, as in work, flexibility and a sense of humor are essential. I'm Tara Boyle.

SHEIR

00:05:37
Whether you found the key to work life success or are struggling with these issues yourself, we want to hear your story. You can reach us at metro@wamu.org.

SHEIR

00:06:05
Time now for a quick break. But when we get back...

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

00:06:07
Is this garage heated?

MR. BRIAN CASTELLI

00:06:08
No.

BEN-ACHOUR

00:06:09
This is the warmest garage I've ever been in.

CASTELLI

00:06:11
Right. It's not heated. It's because there's a garage door that seals itself...

SHEIR

00:06:15
And keeps the autumn chill away. We'll go inside a house that's taking energy efficiency to a whole new level. It's coming up on Metro Connection, here on WAMU 88.5.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.