Last week, we heard from family law attorney Alison Silber about her experience with maternity leave as a solo practitioner. This week, Alexis B. Kaplan of the Law Offices of Alexis B. Kaplan, LLC writes about how she prepared and handled maternity leave in her solo practice. Alexis focuses her practice around estate planning, probate, and guardianships. Her practice is located downtown Boston and is in its third year. She lives in Brighton with her husband and daughter.
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Planning for a baby while also juggling a new business is not the easiest task. In fact, one of the first people I told in the legal community that I was pregnant was none other than Jared Correia when we met to discuss important issues that I should take care of in advance of maternity leave. In addition to taking advantage of LOMAP as a resource, here are some other strategies that helped me.
Many pregnant women experience “nesting” near the end of their pregnancies – the need to clean and organize their homes in preparation for their baby. If only I had that, my office would be in much better shape! Instead, I experienced “networking” – an attempt to meet with people and keep up relationships out of a fear (unfounded) that after the baby I might not be able to do so. I had coffees, meetings, and a panel planned right up to my due date. I made people aware that I might need to cancel a meeting, and I made preparations such that any event that I planned could go on without me.
Most people were understanding. Especially as a solo attorney, having a trusted group of colleagues is important, and many of those relationships started well before my baby arrived.
When I emailed a friend a week before my due date and said that I would not be able to meet with him for coffee that day, he replied that he was not surprised. Of course, he was also the attorney who I asked to be there to handle any unexpected emergencies while I was on leave. Fortunately, with a practice largely focused on estate planning I did not have any time sensitive issues that came up while I was away that I needed his assistance. I also had to let another attorney know that I could not go with her to a Starting Out Solo meeting because I was in the hospital with my baby. A week after my baby arrived, I learned that the Boston Bar Association New Lawyer Section’s Public Service Committee’s “Building Your Practice Through Pro Bono” event which I organized was successful and well attended despite my not being there.
Having remote access to your files, documents, and business phone is important. I use DropBox, which stores files in the cloud and can be accessed from multiple devices. When I save a document or scan a file, I have access to it immediately on both my work and home computers. My business phone number is a Google Voice number, which allows me to listen to voicemail remotely and place calls from anywhere while displaying my business number. With Google Voice, I could hear the phone ring when I was home with a crying baby, and was able to listen to the voicemail and return the call during the baby’s elusive naptimes.
In addition to electronic mail, it is also important to have a system in place for your physical mail. In my case, I gave one of my office keys to a friend whose office is near mine. On days that she picked up mail for me, my husband would then stop by her place and pick up the mail from her on his way home from work.
A nice perk of maternity leave for me was the ability to take advantage of community resources and join supportive networks. I enjoyed spending time with friends and their babies, and I was introduced to the Allston-Brighton Family Network (ABFN) through their introductory “Welcome Baby” visit. When I was back from maternity leave, I was able to be a resource for ABFN as a speaker for parents on estate planning.
Of course, the most supportive network is the one that I have at home. My husband, Josh, has always been very supportive of my practice, and my baby, Elisabeth, is a wonderful part of our family.