Pursuing Rewarding Legal Careers While Balancing Motherhood Through Axiom: In Axiom Attorneys’ Own Words
By Meaghan Johnston
Many women in the legal field who are considering or already have children often believe in the myth that they can’t have a rewarding career and competitive compensation unless they make certain sacrifices for their families. Alternatively, others believe in the myth that they can’t achieve true work-life balance while raising children if they instead spend time focusing on their careers. Here at Axiom, women can have it all. We understand the unique values and skills our high-caliber female lawyers and legal professionals bring to their clients, especially with a working mom's unique perspective and dedication.
We interviewed six female Axiom attorneys to understand how they balance both parenting and providing complex legal work. These highly experienced and skilled women explained some of the obstacles they’ve faced as working mothers in the legal industry, addressed misconceptions about practicing law and raising children, and shared how Axiom allows them to succeed in both their work lives and their personal lives.
Myth: “I won’t be able to experience flexibility or achieve true work-life balance. Both motherhood and practicing law are demanding of my time.”
Fact: With Axiom, you don’t have to choose one over the other. You can have both. Axiom allows you to take time off for your family between engagements, with no questions asked.
Myth: “I won’t be able to have a successful career if I have children now. I can’t worry about having kids yet because it will set me farther back in my career from my male colleagues.”
Fact: Axiom allows you to balance starting a family with progressing a rewarding career.
Myth: “If I refuse to work long hours or take time off to spend with my family, I’ll miss out on the big deals or interesting work.”
Fact: Axiom allows you the opportunity to work with high-caliber clients who don’t expect you to work overtime or sacrifice special family moments.
Flexibility and True Work-Life Balance
All the women we spoke to shared adamantly that the flexibility Axiom offers allows them to enjoy practicing law while also providing the necessary time to spend with their families.
“Axiom has helped me to evolve my career so I can live the life I aspire to and still continue to practice in a meaningful way,” says Marcia. As the mother of four children, ranging from ages 9 to 15, her life is busy between her family, active lifestyle, and challenging career as a skilled attorney with experience in commercial, regulatory, and contract law. “I am able to simultaneously pursue a fulfilling family life with a rewarding professional life. I am so grateful to have found Axiom because I simply couldn’t find that balance in a law firm environment. It energizes and inspires me.”
Marcia shares that she maximizes her time and is an efficiency taskmaster – planning schedules and special events weeks in advance, making her children’s lunches the night before and tossing laundry in the washing machine during meeting “bio breaks.” “I am up crazy early working before my children wake up, cover meetings while they attend school, then go to games and recitals, and check homework. I make them breakfast, drop them off at school in the mornings and come back and work like a fiend. Most nights, I am back on my computer after dinner and their nighttime routine. Some people call my schedule ‘crazy,’ but it works for me because it allows me to be the kind of mom I truly want to be.” Axiom’s flexibility allows her to choose her clients, her projects, and the hours that work best for her busy life.
While a different path led her to Axiom, Kate shares the same sentiments as Marcia. Like many others in the U.S. workforce, Kate was laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic in July 2020. While stressful, this time also offered her the ability to reflect on what was important to her. To continue bringing in income to help support her family, she began her own consulting practice, where she realized she enjoyed being independent but knew she needed to find flexible work beyond just consulting.
She discovered Axiom, which helped her maintain her autonomy but also allowed her to spend more time with her son, who always comes first. As a working mother, Kate was petrified of not having stability or a stable income but found it wasn’t the case when she joined Axiom. “It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. You have to take the risk to reap the reward.” Prior to the pandemic, she had signed up to obtain an interior design certification, but when she started working with Axiom, she was able to continue working on it due to the extra cushion in her schedule. “I’m able to have more work-life balance and pursue hobbies, and I can take time to go kayaking and hiking with my family.”
Like Kate, after a company merger in 2016, Colette found herself searching for a new job, leading her to begin legal consulting on her own to make an income. As an attorney specializing in insurance law, she found she enjoyed the flexibility of being a contractor. It was stressful though, and the work was not substantive. She realized she was truly burned out and should move away from being a contractor. On top of that, she wanted to make a change and relocate her family to Maryland. Like Kate, she decided to move from consulting to Axiom.
Axiom enabled her to move to Maryland, finding the perfect position to match her skill set and desired work. “Especially as a parent and moving to a new place where he didn’t know anyone, I felt better knowing I can see my 14-year-old off on the school bus and when he gets home.” She understands that working remotely through her Axiom engagement allows her to spend more quality time with her teenager and really grow closer to him. Her work-life balance has exponentially improved, and she can take “me time” by enjoying walks or coffee breaks throughout the day since she has no commute eating into her workday.
Jennifer, a trade compliance attorney with a background working in the government, in-house, and in law firms, says: “Axiom offers me the best of both worlds – even with a pandemic, it offers commensurate pay, but also the flexibility and the opportunity to have interesting work.” Now, she gets to do the work she loves while balancing her family life and receiving a salary matching her experience. “Many people think flexible legal work doesn’t offer good opportunities or a career, but with Axiom, I can get a variety of in-house experience without actual job hopping.”
Colette adds: “Life still has to go on outside of work. We need to work to support our lives, not the other way around. If you don’t have the support at home or have a long commute, your work life and your home life become easier.” She also appreciates that working through Axiom allows her not only more time for family, but more time for professional development and free educational resources. “I’m able to just manage myself with my talent partner helping with logistics and checking in. They also provide free CLE training, LexisNexis resources, and I love their referral program. The system is all set up and easy to manage, and then they let us do the work we came here for.”
Many of her friends have been with Axiom in various capacities over the years. Right now, she says Axiom is all she needs. She might one day consider the right permanent job if it came along, but she’d never return to contract work. “I’m so grateful to have Axiom employ me. The legal field is usually slow to accept change, but Axiom already shook things up to allow us to be virtual, allowing me to relocate for what’s best for my family.”
A Successful and Rewarding Career
Many early-career lawyers are often at the age when they are considering starting a family. For some women, they must decide if they want to first spend a few years in a firm or pause their careers to have children. The firm life usually doesn’t lend itself to a proper work environment for someone needing to care for small children, so often, women feel forced to choose one or the other.
“I used to be a workaholic when I was working in the law firm environment,” Marcia shares. “I didn’t start a family during those early years, because at that time, I couldn’t seem to establish boundaries or limits.” She struggled to create work-life balance and felt like both parts of her life were the worse for it. “My family and social life suffered because the law firm culture didn’t encourage balance or quality of life outside of work, and at that time, I couldn’t figure out how to excel simultaneously in both spheres.”
Marie also worried about the ability to balance a legal career with a family. After years as an in-house legal leader for various international corporations, she decided to take time off to raise her young children after her third child was born. She was delighted to spend time with them, but she was scared of how it might impact her legal career. “I was worried taking that time out would affect my career, but Axiom showed me that would not be the case and I’m grateful for that.”
Once her children were in school, she was excited to get back into legal work, and a former colleague from her law firm days suggested she consider Axiom. “When I first came back after having my third child, others were telling me ‘Gosh, you are brave to try to get a higher job. You should probably just go into a lower role than the role you were in prior to having children.’ I felt like I was apologizing for having children, and it wasn’t fair. But Axiom wasn’t like that.” With Axiom, she didn’t have to justify her employment gap.
“If I had gone to a company that wasn’t like Axiom, they would probably have put me in a dreadful, non-dynamic box, where I was bored out of my brains because I took time out. Not only did they not do that, but they also gave me a choice – they said here are three great opportunities and see which one you want.”
Challenging and Exciting High-Caliber Work
To stay on the partner track, most law firms frown upon taking large chunks of time off from work, forcing many employees to worry about vacations or extended leave until close to retirement. For lawyers earlier in their careers, they might hesitate to take time off at all. With Axiom, it doesn’t matter where you are in your career – you can spend time with family in between engagements without risk of judgment.
Jenny, a commercial, contracts, and data privacy lawyer with law firm and in-house experience, chooses Axiom again and again due to its flexibility for her family. “When my son was three years old, we took almost a year off to travel through Central America, some of North America, and some of Asia. You can get sabbaticals in a permanent role, sure, but you wouldn’t be able to take so many blocks of time off. Here and there I’ve taken off two or three months. It wasn’t a career choice – it was a lifestyle choice that impacted my career decision.” Jenny has found Axiom offers her the perfect balance: allowing her to fulfill her passion for providing high-caliber legal services while also spending quality moments with her family.
While she says she is not averse to leaving Axiom, she’s very happy where she is and with the career choices she’s made thus far. “Just last year, someone came to me with a permanent role that was really interesting, and I was tempted. But then I stepped back and looked at the benefits of Axiom and weighed that against the other things coming across my desk, and it just comes out in favor of Axiom.”
Kate encourages other ambitious working parents to break the constraints of a toxic workplace or the stress of not feeling valued. “If you’re considering something like Axiom, just do it. There are no worries of office politics or drama. I don’t have to bring any of that home with me to my family, which is fantastic and often an overlooked point.”
Marie agrees: “I can’t sing Axiom’s praises high enough. I was asked [by Axiom] do I want to work full-time, part-time, three or four days a week? Do I want to work three months, six months, then go on ‘the beach’ [to take time off]? This is like a dream come true. Not only are you taking me back from where I left off, but going forward you are allowing me to work, then take off more time to spend a summer holiday with my kids? Where else where would you get that? In law, this just doesn’t happen. Axiom is the only law organization that offers that kind of dynamic solution. Law is a bastion, isn’t it? It’s the last to change. It’s the dinosaur that does it after everybody else has done it, but Axiom jumped in there first.”
Kate’s first client at Axiom was one of the most recognizable Fortune 500 brands in the world, which provided a lot of complex yet exciting work but didn’t interfere with her family obligations. “I can’t express it enough, having worked at both in-house and law firms with 16-hour days (which I did for way too long), that Axiom was my solution to attaining true work-life balance so I could put my son first.” She could pick her son up from school and coach his soccer games without it affecting her daily work.
Jennifer adds: “There’s less pressure being outside counsel, but the work is still interesting and exciting. The hours are predictable and rarely require any weekend work.” Jennifer enjoys switching projects once a year or so and says she’s always learning and challenging herself, learning about different companies and meeting different people. “Honestly, I used to be such a planner, but now I do what is right for me and my family. I plan to work for Axiom for the foreseeable future as I cannot imagine a job that is a better fit. I am continuing to expand my skill set while being able to be present in my personal life. In a world that is ever-changing, Axiom has been supportive and allowed me to adapt to the new normal, whatever that ends up being.”
Marie is based in one country and her client in another. She appreciates she can do her job near her family but work in a multinational, serious job. She gets the kids to school, does her work, then greets them again after school. She gives her kids dinner, puts them to bed, then goes upstairs to hit the documents again and gets her work out the door. “I don’t have to commute two hours back and forth to work. I can do a top-end job. They used to say to women, ‘you can’t have it all, or else you won’t see your kids at all.’ And now you can. You can live wherever you want. You can live close to your family, live near elderly parents. You can do all these things that before you couldn’t, and it destroyed a person’s psyche and mental health. You would live in New York at a law firm and your family might be on the other side of the world and you couldn’t help when there was an emergency. Now you can do these high-caliber jobs from anywhere, work from home, and have the most amazing work-life balance.”
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Meaghan Johnston is a writer with more than a decade's experience analyzing legal and healthcare industry trends.
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