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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    October 01, 2014

    Final Thought
    Parenthood and Law Practice Have a Lot in Common

    Working in a law firm helped prepare the author for life as the mother of twins, and lessons learned as a parent now are relevant to her law practice. 

    Deanne M. Koll

    My life is a mess. I have twin 10-month-old daughters, I’m a partner in a 13-lawyer firm, my husband works full time, and both sets of grandparents live three-plus hours away. Most days, I can’t remember if I put on clean underwear. When people ask me “How do you do it?” I usually respond, “the day’s not over yet.”

    Deanne KollDeanne Koll, William Mitchell 2006, is an attorney and shareholder with Bakke Norman S.C. with offices in Menomonie and New Richmond, Wis.

    Honestly, though, it’s really not that bad. I’ve realized that my law practice prepared me for managing this crazy life of motherhood. There are life lessons that ring true in both worlds. Here are a few that have helped me along the way.

    The squeaky wheel can’t always get the grease. My twins (hereinafter affectionately referred to as “The Monsters”) have completely different personalities. Paige is the diva and Sylvie is the chill-master. If I spent all my time on the “squeaky wheel,” Sylvie would think she was orphaned. I try to spread my attention equally, even when Paige is having what we lovingly refer to as a diva moment. This is important because otherwise poor Sylvie wouldn’t get any of our attention.

    The same principal applies to work. Ever wonder why you can’t get any of your “A” clients’ work done? It’s because “A” clients aren’t the squeaky wheels. They’re not calling every day, sending 20 emails, or otherwise pestering you. That’s why they’re “A” clients. As lawyers, we must realize that we cannot just put out today’s fire. We must constantly reprioritize and work diligently through all files, not solely the annoying ones.

    Building a strong team is the key to success. I constantly am thankful for my family. Without their support, The Monsters would not have a stable mother. My husband epitomizes the term “modern dad,” and we come from two intact families who are always supportive, regardless of their proximity. This support group has talked me off the ledge on a number of occasions.

    The same is true for my practice. I have a paralegal who is smarter than I am. And, I have six law partners who truly care about me and each other on a personal level. When you know that your “team” will catch you if you stumble, it’s much easier to show up at work every day, even when you slept only three hours the night before.

    When you know that your “team” will catch you if you stumble, it’s much easier to show up at work every day, even when you slept only three hours the night before.

    Celebrate the milestones. When The Monsters are screaming, there are piles of laundry in the basement, the kitchen floor hasn’t been mopped in a month, and I can’t remember the last day I showered, it’s difficult to enjoy the “moment.” However, when The Monsters first smiled, first rolled over, first sat up, and ate their first solids, I had to smile. I try to consciously remind myself that my husband and I helped them reach each milestone. And, that’s something to celebrate.

    The same is true for private practice. When you’re in the grind and you’re answering discovery, doing legal research for a brief, or preparing for trial, it can be very difficult to remember why you chose this profession. However, when you get a win or a client is exceptionally grateful, rest a beat and bow your head or simply remember why you do what you do. Law is a noble profession. What you are doing is important and has a positive effect on society. Sometimes it’s important to back up and see the forest, not just the trees.

    Of course, neither motherhood nor private practice is as simple as I’ve described above. But, in using these lessons, I can rest assured that on most days, I remember to put on clean underwear.

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