My daughter was diagnosed with cancer on Nov. 2, 2020. She had just turned 3 months old. I was visiting my family in Idaho while on maternity leave from my BigLaw job in Washington, D.C., when we got the news. Devastated and confused, we took her to St. Luke’s Children’s Cancer Institute in Boise and barely emerged for months.
It was also the middle of the first year of the pandemic. Storefronts were closed. Offices were empty. Masks were mandatory. As the end of my leave approached, after weeks in the hospital and long discussions with my family, I reached out to my firm and made a request: In light of my daughter’s diagnosis and the pandemic, I asked to work remotely from Idaho indefinitely. I told them my daughter was in the middle of treatment, and we had no idea how long it would take. Her immune system was compromised and, especially without a vaccine, she could not go to day care. If I was going to work, I explained, I needed to be near family who could watch her and support me.
My firm said no. In short, it didn’t make business sense. They told me I could take an indefinite leave of absence or I could return to D.C.
I chose to leave.
Although it was ultimately my choice, I felt abandoned by my employer during one of the most vulnerable moments of my life. Up to that point, I thought I would work at that firm forever. I had dedicated years of my life and thousands of hours in service of the firm and my clients. It was painful to say goodbye to the relationships I had built along the way.
Afterward, I felt utterly lost in my career—I was an aging associate with no clients and no home. But I had learned firsthand that the old adage is true: It takes a village to raise a child, especially a sick child, especially during a global pandemic and especially when a parent has a job as demanding as BigLaw. I chose my village over BigLaw, but I wasn’t about to abandon my career.
It took two years for me recover. After a stint at an Idaho-based firm, I launched a search for an employer with a national presence that would let me work from Idaho. I specialized in class actions and high-stakes appeals, and it had become evident to me that it would be difficult to come by that work in Idaho. I used a recruiter, and I tapped into my own network of contacts. Nearly everywhere I turned, I found pushback and disinterest. Big firms were returning to the office and making in-office days a requirement. Again, the message was clear: Fully remote work was not an option.
Then I found Stris & Maher. This Los Angeles-based boutique took a chance on me. They saw what I had to offer and were willing to let me live and work where my village is while affording me the opportunity to work on complex, cutting-edge cases in federal courts across the country. I was ecstatic.