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May 01, 2024 Your Voice

5 ways motherhood has leveled up your lawyer skills

By Judge Kimberly McTorry

As a lawyer mom of four, I am all too familiar with the angst derived by a question as small as, “What are we going to eat tonight?” You have spent your entire day lawyering and solving other people’s problems, but somehow this is the one that topples the tower—not because it’s burdensome but because the question is a glaring reminder that at least one aspect of your life is a mess. My work is done, but I haven’t fed my kids. Or I made it to every game of the baseball tournament, but I missed the important fundraising gala.

As guilt-provoking as the latter thought is, it’s undeniable that there are a plethora of professional opportunities that happen off the clock.

For many working moms, the joys of motherhood are accompanied by feelings of anxiety, exhaustion and inadequacy. Raising good humans is an honorable and necessary job, but sometimes it feels like it’s at the expense of your career or professional aspirations.

In an ABA study of more than 8,000 lawyers, an overwhelming 60% of working mothers thought that being a mom negatively impacted the way that their co-workers view them.

It can be difficult to articulate these feelings without running the risk of sounding like you’re complaining. Moms—especially new moms, are faced with the dichotomy of joy and sadness that motherhood sometimes brings. You’re experiencing the overwhelming joy and love that come with nurturing a child. But on the other hand, you’re grappling with the loss of agency you once had. And it’s OK. These feelings are normal and valid.

Motherhood changes you, but it’s not always in the ways that you think. We are our biggest critics. But as I’ve said to many prospective jurors, “Feelings are not facts.” From one mom to another, you may feel like you’re losing, but let’s discuss all that you have gained from motherhood. Here are five ways that being a mother has enhanced your skills as a lawyer.

1. Multitasking

“Work smarter, not harder” is a mantra of lawyer moms everywhere. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to take on every task one at a time. As a result, the ability to multitask kicks into hyperdrive. The COVID-19 pandemic propelled this trait, as many of us had to actively participate in Zoom calls with a toddler wrapped around our leg while helping another child log in to class.

Moms are master multitaskers because we must be. Our ability to order dinner while simultaneously locating a shin guard in the trunk while muted on a Zoom call is what makes you a remarkable lawyer. How many times have you had to quickly find a relevant case cite when an unexpected issue comes up in court? Multitasking forces you to find innovative ways to be efficient, manage your time properly and ultimately improves productivity.

2. Time management

When we became moms, we became the ad-hoc personal assistants to our children. We are responsible for not only managing our calendar but also our kids’ appointments, extracurricular activities, etc.

I entered law school with a 1-year-old and soon discovered that I was pregnant with my second child. I was extremely worried about my ability to manage law school while having small children. But to my surprise, as my personal responsibilities increased, my grade-point average did, as well. I rose to the occasion because I had to. This is not unique to me; working moms everywhere have done the same.

Motherhood forces us to be intentional about prioritizing and managing our time. This heightened resilience and organization shows up when we are tasked with managing deadlines, client meetings, court appearances and other work obligations.

3. Not easily rattled

Moms are met with constant interruptions. Toddler moms can’t take a trip to the restroom without a kid following behind. Moms of older children are inundated with text messages throughout the day for Roblox, DoorDash requests and the infamous one-word text of just “Mom.”

Moms can order food in a drive-thru while four separate orders are simultaneously being shouted from the back seat without missing a beat. Now, compare this to being interrupted by an objection, responding to that objection and then instantly continuing with your line of questioning. No matter how many interruptions, we’ve learned how to remain focused and complete a task from start to finish.

4. Mediation and negotiation

“Whoa. Whoa. Timeout!” I shouted as I brought my hands to a “T.” I had just stepped into a shouting match between my kids. I don’t recall what they were fighting about, but I knew it wouldn’t be settled by shouting over one another. Their individual account of the facts was completely opposite. The only way to reach a resolution was to de-escalate the situation, allow each to be heard and assist them in reaching a compromise.

Mediation and compromise are transferable mom skills that are essential to the legal profession. Whether it’s mediating a spat or negotiating a snack, mediation and negotiation is an everyday occurrence in the life of a mom. Don’t shortchange the mediation and negotiation skills that you’ve gained from everyday experiences with the kids. They are the same skills that you utilize when negotiating a contract or terms of a settlement.

5. Issue spotting and problem solving

Do you remember when you first had that “aha” moment of recognizing what your baby’s cry meant? You learned how to distinguish a hunger cry from a painful cry. This, my friend, is issue spotting.

Motherhood teaches you how to quickly get to the bottom of things. For example, when a child is having a meltdown, a disapproving onlooker might conclude that the child is mischievous, while a mom can deduce that the child is cranky because they are sleepy.

Becoming a parent causes your perspective to shift from questioning “what” to questioning “why.” Determining the “why” will almost always provide you with a way to solve a problem. You’ve developed the discernment and intuitiveness necessary to identify and solve problems.

In a very transparent interview, the late great U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shared, “You can’t have it all at once. Over my lifespan, I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time, things were rough.”

Motherhood will be filled with the fuzzy moments and the fretful moments. But we must continue to give ourselves grace.

Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for presence. Sometimes that means working late, and other times that means turning your phone off to roll around the floor with the kids. On the toughest days, try your best to shift your perspective. Embrace the lessons that you’ve learned, and continue to recognize the ways that being a great mother has helped you become a great lawyer. is accepting queries for original, thoughtful, nonpromotional articles and commentary by unpaid contributors to run in the Your Voice section. Details and submission guidelines are posted at “Your Submissions, Your Voice.”

This column reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the views of the ABA Journal—or the American Bar Association.

Hon. Kimberly McTorry

Houston, TX

Judge Kimberly McTorry is a graduate of the Belmont University College of Law. She currently serves as an associate judge in the Harris County criminal district courts in Houston, where she resides with her husband and four children.