“I did my research online and I chose you because you’re a mom too. You get it.” I cannot count the number of times I have heard this from nervous women sitting in my office for their first intake appointment. I’m a custody and divorce attorney in Roanoke, Virginia, and based on my conversations with other attorney moms across the country, I believe my experience is representative of a broader trend. Savvy individuals in need of legal representation no longer open the phone book and cold-call attorneys. Instead, they are carefully looking at online bios to select an attorney they believe would be a good fit for them. For women who are mothers, they are looking for attorneys who are also moms.
I worried that becoming a mom would hurt my business because potential clients would view me as “less committed” to the practice of law. I had no idea that being a mom would become a marketing niche for me, or that it would give me an advantage over more experienced attorneys who do not have children — both in attracting new client business, and advocating for those clients in the courtroom. My clients have rescheduled meetings when I have had to stay home with a sick kid, and they have known when I’ve taken a recess to go pump breastmilk. And far from being frustrated with me, they are supportive because they have been there too.
Seeking out legal advice is a vulnerable experience because intimate details about your marriage, your finances, and many of your life choices not only have to be disclosed to your attorney, but are often on trial. Motherhood is full of mistakes, frustrations, conflicting advice, and fear about whether you’re doing the right thing. The last thing a mom wants is to encounter an attorney who is going to judge her harshly for parenting choices she’s made. That’s why she wants someone who gets it. It is impossible to understand the extreme fatigue of those sleepless months with a newborn, or why you might take a baby wipe to puke in your hair rather than washing it out, unless you’ve lived through it.
Since becoming a mom, I have been better able to prepare my clients to testify at trial about the unique challenges they face with their children. My clients open up to me better. They often feel like they have been truly heard when we go to trial, and I feel that we have educated the judges a little more about some of the challenges of raising children (because although more women are on the bench now, many judges are still older men who were not the primary caregivers for their children).
While my practice focuses on domestic relations, the experience of attorney moms can be equally helpful in other practice areas, such as criminal defense (where the stress of parenthood can affect intent, or questions about childcare should be brought up at sentencing) and trusts and estates (where the unique needs of a family’s children should be taken into account in the preparation of wills and living trusts). And even in other practice areas, where potential clients are shopping around, the connection a woman may feel for another mom may be the deciding factor for which lawyer she chooses.
Law firms should advertise that an attorney is a mom in her online bio and attorneys should not be afraid to tell a potential client that they have children too. Lawyer moms financially benefit their firms by both attracting new business, and helping to retain existing clients. The practice of law is changing, and in this case, it is changing for the better. Far from viewing attorneys who become moms as liabilities, law firms should view these attorneys as the resources they are.