Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Part-Time Work: Variations on a Theme

I came across an interesting initiative out of UC Hastings called the Project for Attorney Retention [ ]. This page includes observations from attorneys who have been working part-time inside DC law firms: Their comments echoed my conversations with yesterday morning's walking group that included two doctors and a career federal employee. We compared our four very different approaches to part-time work and those of others we know and were amazed by the great variety of schemes.

So many of us are trying to define this work-life balance thing and we're coming up with unique arrangements that allow us to care for our families as well as our professional responsibilities. These options aren't perfect and aren't available to everyone, but we decided that just the act of trying now will make it easier for the next generation to achieve a better balance. At least that's what we tell ourselves! What's your story?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Career Re-Entry Program At American University

Washington's American University has launched a Lawyer Re-Entry Program for attorneys looking to return to their careers after taking time off. See this link for the press release. What a great idea! We need something like this for librarians.

The announcement prompted me to do a quick search for information on career re-entry for librarians. I did find a Yahoo group for stay-at-home librarians ( and an article by Priscilla Shontz on staying professional active while staying at home ( Any other links and information to add here are welcome!

Thanks to Billie Jo Kaufmann, Associate Dean for Library and Information and Resources at AU's law school, for sending the link to LLSDC listserv.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Flexible "Weekends"

In the nearly three years since I've been consulting from home, traditional weekends have gradually disappeared from my work routine. It's now more unusual for me not to work on a weekend than it is for me to draft a section of a report or perform some other work task on a Saturday or Sunday. Kind of reminds me of my days at Crowell & Moring when I typically worked at least part of one day every weekend. There's a huge difference, of course. Back then, I was also working 10-hour days all week, which meant a few months of barely seeing my former condo in daylight. I see a lot more daylight these days. I also burn a lot more midnight oil, working on reports at night after the kids are asleep.

I'm a "shifted librarian," but not in Jenny Levine's insightful sense. Released from the constraints of a 9-to-5 (or 8-to-7) schedule and its companion time-eater, commuting in Washington, I now shift my time across all seven days and 24 hours. It's for that reason that I was intrigued by Tammy Erickson's post, Do We Need Weekends? on Harvard Business Publishing's site. Ms. Erickson is a respected researcher and the author of several books and articles on how successful organizations work.

Ms. Erickson examines the concept of "synchronous work" as a factor that fuels the need to cluster workers together in the same place at the same time. As that type of work erodes, she argues that there's less need to maintain these rigid schedules. She also comments on the role of the Gen Ys in redefining work. A lively discussion appears in the post's Comments.

I must confess to missing weekends every now and then. It does feel as if I never stop working - and the arrival of my new Treo a few minutes ago to replace my dead cell phone promises to make that feeling grow. Fortunately, it takes only a minute or so to come back to my senses and thank my lucky stars that I have this flexibility - at least for the time being. So what if I have to work on a Saturday morning? If that buys me time on Friday afternoon to run my Girl Scout troop meetings, I can live with that. I just wish I could figure out how to promote telecommuting as a benefit for other librarians.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Parenthood, Productivity and Billable Hours

Joe Hodnicki posted an abstract of an interesting article entitled Parenthood and Productivity: A Study of Demands, Resources and Family-Friendly Firms, on Law Librarian Blog a few days ago. Sociologists Jean Wallace and Marisa Young examined the impact of family friendly policies on the billable hours of 670 attorneys in Alberta law firms. It turns out that . . . just a second . . .
    “Maggie? What’s wrong? [Pause] But you have viola practice on Tuesdays, not Mondays. [Pause] Oh, a special practice for the spring concert. Okay, I’ll get your viola to you. Bye, sweetie.”
So where was I? Oh, yeah, Law Librarian Blog. It’s one of my daily must-reads because I can scan it in a few minutes and stay in the loop on the legal and library worlds. Anyway, it turns out that mothers with school-aged children are less productive than non-mothers, whereas fathers with preschool-aged children are more productive than non-fathers. Hmmm. I guess I’m not surprised, but . . .{brrrring, brrring}. Oh, wow, I have to take this call.
    “Mr. Joseph? Thanks so much for returning my call. Listen, I know you don’t want to hear this, but the porch roof is leaking again. [Pause] Yes, I know you’ve repaired it three times, but icicles are hanging down and I’m afraid someone will get impaled. [Pause] Yes, I realize that it’s 70 degrees outside now, but there were icicles hanging down when I started calling you in March. [Pause] Yes, I know how busy roofers are, but we’d really like you to come back to try again. [Long pause] Three weeks from Thursday between 8 am and 3 pm? Could you narrow that down a bit? [Pause] No, okay then, I’ll make arrangements to get the kids to and from school so I don’t miss you. Thanks.”
Sorry about that. So mothers with school-aged children are less productive that non-mothers, but fathers are more productive than non-fathers. And here’s the kicker . . . this phenomenon seems to occur even when family-friendly policies are in effect! So the policies are working, but . . . .{brrrring, brrring}.
    “Hi, honey. How’s your day going? [Pause] A business trip? Next Tuesday and Wednesday? No problem, I’ll get someone to stay with the kids on Tuesday night until I get home from teaching. Oh, we got the invitation for the engagement party on the 7th. I’ll RSVP and put it on the calendar? [Pause] Yeah, it’ll be fun. Any special requests for dinner? [Pause] Sounds good. See you tonight."
Back to those family-friendly policies. So by now everyone knows that taking care of kids and a house eat up women’s time, and many companies responded to this “second shift” by implementing family-friendly policies. This was a swell idea, but according to the study, “fathers seem to benefit more: family resources are positively related to their productivity and family-friendly benefits allow them more time for leisure.” Now I certainly don’t begrudge all those hard-working attorney dads out there some leisure time, but . . . .{brrrring, brrring}.
    “Hello? Yes, this is Mrs. Fischler. [Pause] Will banged his head on the monkey bars during recess? [Pause] You’ve had ice on his head for 20 minutes, but he’s feeling a little woozy? [Pause] Sure, I’ll be right over, but I’ll call the pediatrician first to find out when I can bring Will in. Thanks.”
I’m going to print this out to edit while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office with Will. Maybe I’d better take some papers to grade, too, just in case. Be back soon.

Here I am. No concussion. Whew!
    "No, Will, you cannot play on the Wii until you finish your homework and write five more thank you notes for your First Communion gifts."
I guess I might as well put in the cupcakes for the Teacher Appreciation lunch while I’m doing homework with Will. Sorry, this will be the last interruption!

So, to recap, the family-friendly policies ostensibly designed to give parents, particularly mothers, some breathing room to take care of their kids and other family responsibilities, seem to make fathers in Alberta law firms more productive and allow them to enjoy more leisure time.

Well, the good news is that since the policies are working they’re less likely to be scrapped. Of course, that also means attorneys who are mothers will continue to pull off the legal career equivalent of a “Ginger Rogers,” who was said to have done everything that Fred did, but backwards and in high heels. And just like Ginger, it won’t be quite as good as what Fred achieved. Yeah, they both received Kennedy Center Honors, but who got the first one, huh?

The bottom line is that one way or the other, we working mothers do fulfill our career responsibilities, but with the interruptions and distractions that grease the wheels of family life in the 21st century. We don’t multi-task because it’s efficient; we multi-task because there are only 24 hours in a day – and we cram an awful lot into our 24 hours! Not that I would trade this opportunity to “have it all”, but shouldn’t there be some way to design a family-friendly policy that recognizes the “power hours” of working mothers?

Oh, well, that will have to be in a future post. Time to frost the cupcakes!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Career Lattice or Ladder?

The Washington Post ran a terrific article yesterday entitled, "After a Baby, Full Time or Part?" written by former Life at Work columnist Amy Joyce. (Yup, she had a baby and adjusted her career a bit.) Her article explores the choices some women in DC have made in order to balance careers and young children.

In the article, Ms. Joyce uses a phrase I hadn't heard before - career as a lattice instead of a ladder. The concept comes from Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute. Ms. Joyce writes:

"Women are "redesigning careers to be a lattice instead of a ladder," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute. If you view your career as a ladder and you jump off, Galinsky said, it's hard to get back on. The idea of a lattice implies more flexibility."

Hmmm - that really grabbed me! Not only is "lattice" a nice visual metaphor, it also relates to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child, something these young mothers will encounter on a larger scale when they try to coordinate soccer carpools and scouting field trips a few years from now.

It's a quick read and includes a nice list of websites for working mothers and a good "How Do I" question and answer section on some of the financial implications, both of which are accessible through the Post's free subscription.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

New Look, New Focus

Callinan the Librarian has a new look, designed to complement the soon-to-be launched new website over at Axelroth & Associates. I joined Joan Axelroth and Mary Talley last year and have enjoyed our association enormously. Joan hired me to work at Crowell & Moring in 1985 so we go way back. Mary and I just feel like we go way back. Together we're making the world better for librarianship!

I'm enjoying our work so much that my efforts to balance life and work have taken a bit of hit. I could work all the time -- and would if I hadn't made so many other commitments. Is over-committing a valid technique to achieve work-life balance? I don't know, but this is one of the many questions I want to explore with our community. Accordingly, I'm officially shifting the focus of this blog to issues of workplace flexibility and balancing acts, how we cope now and how coping has changed in the wake of Web 2.0.

So if you're reading this post, please take a minute to answer the survey question I'm using to inaugurate this line of inquiry:

Does librarianship offer opportunities for work-life balance?

Once we have a lay of the land, we'll work through the related questions, like what works and what doesn't, what makes you crazy and what keeps you sane.

And if you do answer the survey, please spread the word to your librarian pals so they can join us in this discussion.

Off to pick up a crew of kids from basketball practice!