How many of you have taken business phone calls when you're with your kids and had to figure out a way to mute background noise and come off as professional?
I have my hand raised. One day, Attorney Jennifer Westerlund and I were talking about the lengths working mothers go through to balance work and family and the crazy places where we have taken work calls while with our kids. Jennifer has some pretty funny stories to tell. Recently, I received an email from Jennifer updating me on her career and her efforts to balance work and family. The "balancing act" isn't easy and we all make compromises but I felt like all of you could relate so I asked Jennifer if I could share her email on my blog.
This weekend, I spoke on a panel to female college students at University of Miami. We talked a lot about compromises and opportunities for women. I wonder, especially after reading Jennifer's experience, if bigger firms and corporations realize that they need to help the talented women flooding into their businesses create balance. Will these organizations continue to let their dealmakers walk out the door? Do you feel the future for women is an entrepreneurs rather than leaders in the corporate environment? I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading Jennifer's balancing act.
South Florida attorney Jennifer Westerlund
Hope all is well with you. It has been a long time since I saw you last. I just closed a large deal on Monday and I am reflecting on the craziness of the past couple of months and remembered the time I told you about doing deals from my closet floor… No closet floor on this deal, (I was actually in my office) but mostly in NY, but the juggling act continues.
I am not sure if you know but I left my large, international law firm last February for private practice, to achieve better "balance" in my life (mainly to achieve some personal business goals that have been eluding me that I would not be able to achieve if I were working for a firm). I continue to serve all of my clients, which is gratifying. It is also extremely challenging, particularly as a corporate/M&A lawyer which is rare given the need for other disciplines.
The deal I just closed was for my largest client (a billion dollar public company) which I have been representing for years. The deal was a $325M acquisition of an industrial business from one of the largest companies in the world. I did work with a couple of former colleagues from my prior law firm on some special issues not within my competency, but it was amazing that a sole female practitioner with an office outside of a major financial center had a front and center seat at the table next to basically 15 other men from the largest Wall Street firms in NY working day and night to close this deal.
It was like entering and exiting the twilight zone flying out to my former home of New York City and sitting at a table of high power executives from top flight firms and companies and working all night on seriously complex issues in tense negotiations, and then flying back to the chaos that is a suburban family with four kids under the age of 10 handling what I consider to be equally challenging and patience-testing issues like finding soccer cleats, sibling rivalry, homework etc.
Actually, I am not sure which was more trying, but I do know that flying in and out for several days at a time really gave me perspective in seeing the two worlds independently of each other, as opposed to the norm which most of us professional women live with one foot in each simultaneously, where everything is jumbled. I'm not sure if you have spoken to other women professionals who have had the same experience of achieving some sense of clarity during times of the ultimate imbalance (where you are either "on" or "off" with work/family due to traveling)?
There won't be another "Dealmaker" award for this transaction without a big firm's PR behind me, but I feel like I defied the odds a bit for women professionals who feel like they may have their feet stuck in the muddy waters of professional ambitions and undying dedication to family, afraid to leave the umbrella of a big organization and take a chance. We can do it!