Category Archives: Bar

Making her way

Check out this interview of Christine Beshar, Senior Counsel at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and her son, Peter Beshar, General Counsel of Marsh & McLennan

Highlights:

• Mrs. Beshar didn’t attend law school but studied for the bar & became a lawyer on her own. Pretty bad-ass, in my book! And then she became the first female partner at Cravath. Double bad-ass!

• Mrs. Beshar modeled her marriage after her own parents’ partnership: She & her husband were a team & worked together, in the beginning traveling together for the same organization. At first, I thought this was just quaint & antiquated. But then I thought of my own project(s) with MFA Dad & the husband-wife business ventures of some good friends. It can really be fulfilling to work toward a shared goal alongside your life partner! And it’s not something most couples have the opportunity to experience these days.

• She started an on-site childcare center at her white-shoe Wall Street law firm! There’s so much awesome about her story about this, including how she orchestrated the whole thing with the other (male) partners & the fact that it was always open to all employees of the firm.

• Mrs. Beshar talks about the sinking feeling you get when facing a childcare disaster. (Oh, boy, do I remember that feeling, too! … Nothing like having to call your tax prof the morning you’re on call to report that the nanny is MIA. …)

• What really struck me about Mrs. Beshar, though, was the sense I got that she expected a lot of herself but was able to roll with the punches. She comes across as laid back & willing to follow the twists & turns (& opportunities) life has thrown her way.

There are really so many wonderful things about her life story! (And in case it seems odd as you watch & realize she isn’t being interviewed with her son, stick with it – they are interviewed together later.)

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Filed under Bar, Lawyering, Mothering, Parenting, Partnership, Working

Studying for the bar (x 2)

A reader recently asked for some help with passing the bar while caring for twin toddlers. I have many thoughts, but I’ve only passed one bar & I have only one child—so I’m hoping others will contribute their thoughts as well in the comments!

Her situation: She attempted the bar once. She has 2 days a week to study & has significant family obligations. Directly after graduation she was on bed rest so she didn’t take the exam that summer. She waited a year but admits that studying was difficult with the new babies (umm, understandable!)—she didn’t get through all the lectures & did only about 15-20% of the practice exams.

First of all: Wow! How lucky your children are that you prioritized caring for them over acing the bar when they were itty bitty & really needed you intensely! Seriously, there is no shame in not passing on the first go.

But now you’re ready—so how to pass this go?

I know it stinks to have to take the bar again (an understatement, I know), but you know what you’re in for & you probably have a good idea of where you went wrong the first time.

Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball & can’t tell you with certainty that, yes, you will pass. But I think it bodes well that you are prioritizing your studying enough to find childcare two days a week & you are starting early! Plus, the kiddos are a bit older & you have experience on your side.

As for nitty-gritty studying techniques, can you isolate what works well for you? If outlines seem too intimidating, try making your own flash cards. Or visa versa. Obviously, you’ll want to watch more of the lectures or study the prepared outlines or both. Do practice exams until you drop (or fall asleep, which I imagine will literally happen more than once).

There is no way around it: This period of time will be challenging. Carve out short periods of time when you can concentrate on just being with your children (if possible, outside of the time you spend going to appointments). Focus on them. Have fun. You need it & they need it.

The good news is that your toddlers are likely entering a more active & distractible stage. Of course there are challenges, but generally they are living in the moment & are very forgiving of our preoccupations & being away from them when necessary. If you give them consistent time-ins (periods of attention & play) you will all feel better & happier.

Then make a date with your local coffee house. Get out of the house if you really want to study. I also had a limited amount of time to spend alone with my books (as, I imagine, do a lot of parents studying for the bar)—You can still pass the bar with childcare only 2 days a week as long as you make the most of that time. Sometimes working at home is feasible, but my experience was that getting out of the house was necessary if I was going to be able to concentrate while I was studying for the bar.

There’s room for silliness, too! Sing your babies a torts or negotiated instruments lullaby (I’m guessing they’re still young enough that they won’t mind the strange words!). Tell them the tale of corporate veil piercing as you nurse or feed them. Go for a walk with them in the stroller & review some flash cards (minding where you’re walking, of course). You’d be surprised how you can fit a little studying into the nooks & crannies of your day.

In the last month or so of studying, I remember going over problems in my head while putting my son back to bed in he middle of the night. … Which reminds me, prioritize sleep! Get to bed early if your toddlers are still waking throughout the night.

If you have a spouse or partner, talk to him or her about expectations. And don’t be afraid to ask (directly & clearly) for the support you need. Take a weekend afternoon to get out & study. Swap evenings. Whatever you need to carve out more dedicated study time. This is important!

Someone gave me this advice: It’s a marathon, not a race. You have to train, but you also need to ration your efforts so that you don’t burn out before you pass the finish line.

Try to have a bit of fun. A lot of the material really is interesting. And some of it may just be useful!

Lovely readers, what other ideas do you have?

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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Bar, Partnership, Studying

Balance…

I’m talking about something more subtle (or sinister, depending on your point of view, I suppose) than simply the ability to stop working at 5.

I loved law school. I am so excited to be admitted to the bar next month (officially — yay! I passed the exam!). I know this is the right profession for me.

And, yet, I find it so easy to “check out” in order to focus on motherhood. Reading books about parenting. Communicating on mommy forums. Meeting up with other parents from my local AP group. … In other words, engaging in all things domestic & ignoring the part of me that is a lawyer.

It may be that there’s a simple explanation: I just finished law school & passed the bar… who wouldn’t need a mental break after that!

But, just the other day I found myself feeling a twinge of guilt & envy when another mom of a toddler was talking about how she couldn’t stop reading a book that happened to be about something I supposedly care a lot about. She was also talking about a crafty class that I, too, would have loved in my former, non-mama life.

I know that being a mom is not the only thing that defines me. I proudly wear other hats. It just seems that, for me, the mama-hat is a 20-gallon hat right now & the others are beanies with little propellers on top.

Day-to-day this doesn’t bother me. And, secretly, I hope it will help me maintain some sense of my parental duties once I start working full time. Yet, I feel bad that I’ve let my professional interests fall to the wayside in favor of nesting (could this be because I had not a moment to indulge in any nesting when I was pregnant & still in law school?!)

I also feel disconnected from my colleagues & law school friends. I’m never the one who’s on top of the latest relevant legal news. I’m that girl… the one who beams when given the chance to talk about my dear child.

I don’t actually think this has much to do with being AP or not, though that would be an easy target. I really think it has to do with my personality… I’m a workaholic but I’m also single-minded — I can multi-task but my brain is much happier if it can focus on one thing… and I have an uncanny ability to focus on one thing for a long, long time.

So maybe it’s time that I force myself to do a little multi-tasking. It’s been wonderful focusing on being the best mom I can be, but the other parts of my identity deserve some cultivating, too!

How do other moms deal with it? How do you motivate yourself to keep up with the profession when you find toddler development infinitely more interesting that developments in employment law?

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Filed under Bar, Lawyering, Living, Parenting

If someone gave me $225 today…

Courtesy of modish at http://www.sxc.hu (my fave free photo site from back in the day when I designed book covers) ... a little bird told me I needed more pictures on my blog...

 

… I’d call a cleaning service & take T out for the day while the apartment was being cleaned. A girl can dream, right?

I was reenergized after taking the bar, but now I’m just depressed by how much there is to do & how little time there is to do it in with the munchkin running afoot. I have dreams of getting my house & life back in some semblance of an order, but I can hardly figure out where to start! (For a funny take on this type of dilemma, check out this Hyperbole and a Half post … It pretty much perfectly describes my mood right now. … Thanks MFA Dad, for the link!)

I honestly don’t know when the last time most surfaces if my house were dusted. And I’m ashamed to say that this is totally on me as my husband is dust allergic. Now I’m just overwhelmed as I can’t even uncover most surfaces to even actually dust.

Also, since I failed to timely provide my husband with all the information he needed to correctly file our taxes last year, it’s my turn to file this year. (IRS agents, if you are reading this, don’t worry it’s fixed!)

Argh! I am failing miserably after one week of being the mostly-stay-at-home parent (except for the excellent meals I’ve prepared for dinner… which isn’t to say that I didn’t feed T guacamole & crackers for lunch…). Life was so much easier when I had a legitimate excuse for ignoring all these messy details of life. … Maybe if I get that bar review course book deposit returned to me sooner rather than later I’ll either pay someone to (finish?) cleaning my apartment or pay someone to complete my taxes. While I’m waiting, I’ll just procrastinate by writing more blog entries & fretting now about moving & starting my new job in the fall…

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Filed under Bar, Living

Leaving the little one to go take the bar exam

I recently left my son for just over three days (& three nights). At first, when I purchased my plane tickets, I felt great guilt at the thought of leaving him. Maybe “guilt” is not the right word… Anxiety would be more accurate. And even then, “anxiety” isn’t quite right either… I knew my son would be safe & well-loved while I was gone. I suppose I worried some about nighttime wakings. And nursing. Mostly the nursing. And my missing him. Mostly my missing him.

I had to travel out of state to take the bar exam (it’s over! woo-hoo!) & there was no way my little guy could go with me. I mean, technically I suppose it was possible… But, yeah… NO!

Well, after phone calls, texts & daily skyping here we are… He is not traumatized. I’m not traumatized. He’s happy. I’m happy. He’s still nursing (for better or worse). Yeah, I have to say leaving him for a few days was far easier on us all than I ever imagined. His grandma tirelessly played with him each day I was gone & at night he snuggled with his dad when he needed to.

Yes, he asked about me. But each time, someone reassured him that I would return & every night I told him that I would be home soon.

All of which leads me to contemplate the fuss many of us, and many attachment parenting types in particular, make over leaving our babes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m of the mindset that any unnecessary separation from a young child is just that… unnecessary. We don’t take vacation without our son, we don’t go out much in the evenings, there’s really not much we do without him aside from work & some hobbies. We simply get on with our lives with him in tow. But just because I avoid unnecessary separation doesn’t mean that I believe separation (necessary or not) is by definition harmful or traumatizing.

You see, while I identify with attachment parenting, which assumes a certain level of … um … attachment… I don’t quite like anyone telling me that I can’t or shouldn’t leave my child in the care of another person, even his dad, for reasons a, b, or c. (See a prior rant on this general point here.)

And, as any of you other lawyer-mamas out there can attest, it’s darn impossible to be a law-student- or lawyer-mom without leaving your little one at some point. It’s a fact of life for us.

I, therefore, had to giggle out loud when I read this blog entry by Dr. George Wootan suggesting that mothers should not leave their babies/toddlers until they reach three years of age. Can you imagine?! Three years old!

The argument goes that babies & toddlers have no sense of time & that any leave-taking is akin to telling the child that his mother is gone forever. Dr. Wootan tells us that it’s ok to leave your child during naptime, so long as you leave him with someone familiar to the child. Those who return to work for any reason other than (absolute) necessity need to do some “soul-searching.” Oh, but thankfully he has some advice for you if you must leave your child for several hours!

OK. This seems like awful advice on so many levels! I’m not going to argue the rightness of his idea about toddler concepts of time & I don’t doubt that they cannot truly tell the difference between 30 minutes & 8 hours. But there is no logical connection between that fact and the conclusion that any leave-taking amounts to total abandonment. I mean, dramatic a little? It takes practice (& time that many mothers don’t necessarily have during the transition, if any, from maternity leave to returning back to work) but gradually increasing a parent’s absence will help even a young baby learn that she can trust mommy or daddy will always return. (And, yes, I’m including daddy, because I simply don’t buy it that maternal attachment is the end-all-be-all while paternal attachment is optional.)

(Unrelated to my overall argument: I think it is terrible to unexpectedly skip out on your child during nap-time as general tactic for finding alone time! It’s really akin to sneaking out the back door without saying “good-bye” after the babysitter’s arrived. I know my son would flip out if I put him down for his nap & he woke early to anybody but me! Likewise,  he has been known to flip out on me when his dad is the one who put him down for his nap.)

So I suppose I may be guilty of being hypocritical… Earlier I mentioned that we generally don’t leave our son unless it’s “necessary” & now I’m criticizing this poor doctor here for telling me to do some “soul-searching” if I leave my son for any reason other than (financial) necessity.

I definitely have my own ideas about what’s “necessary,” but I’m not going to share them here because every woman, every family, every mother has a different idea of what a “necessary” absence means for them. But, I will say that my definition of “necessary” is a lot broader than Dr. Wootan’s, and it includes development of a life & existence that is separate from the child and personal to the mother. Dr. Wootan, on the other hand, seems to think that anything other than a need to fill basic financial needs is unnecessary. (Though don’t worry, if you, poor soul, are among those who must work to support your family, Dr. Wootan isn’t going to tell you that you are “doing less than your best”… But he’s also unlikely to argue that your best is the same as  his definition of the best…)

I will concede that a little soul-searching never hurt anyone, especially not when it comes to families. Reprioritizing is a fact of life for working moms & working parents in general, & taking into account a child’s needs is certainly part of that process. But such advice is hard to swallow coming from someone (a man, no less… sorry… just had to point that out) who is suggesting that those of us who care about our careers & individual pursuits are bad mothers for leaving our children before they turn 3.

I also love that the author admonishes mothers for leaving their young children and then goes on to give us advice… “If you must leave your child…” Yes, please. Tell me what I can possibly do to avoid being the worst mother on the planet in your view, because I really care about what you think the second best (or worst) option might be. (Cue eye-roll.)

Again, I don’t actually disagree with the advice that follows in the article. (Extended breastfeeding & sharing sleep, if you’re curious.) But, again, alienating your audience & then giving sound advice is hardly the way to convince folks of your point of view. But I suppose this is not the point of this blog entry, as evidenced by the comments section, in which readers overwhelmingly praise the piece as the gospel truth.

This is the sort of nonsense that alienates working women from the idea of attachment parenting & fuels the belief that attachment parenting is really anti-feminist, if not anti-woman (see Erica Jong’s WSJ article). Which is too bad, because I think attachment parenting actually has a lot to offer working moms… real tools that make parenting more fulfilling even with an overly-full schedule.

Rant aside, how do you stay connected when you have to leave your child(-ren)? Especially during a stressful period at work or a business trip or finals or just a long day?

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Filed under Bar, Feminism, Parenting

I’m back…

… and the bar sucked. Except that my hotel upgraded me to a corner suite overlooking the Chicago skyline … Gorgeous but for the fog & gray skies.

It’s over & I feel like I have a whole new life! Oh… if I could suppress that little nagging worry about whether I actually passed or not this new life would be that much more enjoyable!

But I have some posts cooking already, so stay tuned!

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Filed under Bar, Blogging

Hiatus…

The bar exam is in less than a week. I have about 3 days left to study… Therefore, I’m not going to be posting anything here for a bit. At least until after the bar exam, but maybe a week or so after that.

Luckily, no one’s life depends on my continued blogging presence, so I think you’ll all survive. I have many ideas for future posts, so hopefully I’ll be back with a vengeance in a couple of weeks!

Good luck to everyone taking a bar exam this coming week… Especially my fellow mama-lawyers-to-be!

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Filed under Bar, Blogging