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Ten Tips to Prepare for Maternity Leave

Christine D Haynes


  • Start planning for maternity leave well in advance, ideally at least three months before your due date.
  • Clearly communicate with your firm about how your workload will be managed in your absence.
  • Seek out resources and mentors within your firm to navigate maternity leave and working as a parent.
  • Remember to give yourself grace and acknowledge the challenges of balancing work and childcare.
Ten Tips to Prepare for Maternity Leave
Photo by Kristina Paukshtite

Preparing to take maternity leave for the first time can be nerve-wracking. While preparing to welcome a baby into the world (no small feat), you may be wondering how your work will get covered or what it will be like when you return. Like in many things, to succeed communication and setting expectations on both sides are key. Here are some tips, tricks, and things to think about to make maternity leave a little easier:

  1. Make a plan early. Put together a list of all of your cases and relevant information (court and case name, attorneys working on the case, service list, status, important upcoming deadlines, etc.). Provide this to the attorneys for and with whom you are working so that they have what they need to cover while you are out. Babies have their own timeline, so it would be best to start working on this about three months or more before the big day and update it as you go. Make sure your assistant or someone else knows where the list is in case you are surprised!
  2. Find coverage. Ask your firm who will be monitoring your emails while you are out. Let that person know if, when, and how it is appropriate to reach out to you. Maybe you are ok with being contacted if it is an emergency or maybe you are not. Make your expectations clear. If you have cases that are active and will need additional staffing in your absence, make sure the attorneys for and with whom you are working know that and have a plan for when you go out.
  3. Ramp down/ramp up. Ask your firm if they have a policy for ramping down your work as you approach your due date or ramping up when you return. Ask whether the firm has a policy for pro-rating bonuses in a year when you take maternity leave and how that policy operates. Are there options to return part-time either for short-term or long-term?
  4. Hybrid work environment. If your firm has a remote work or mandatory in-office policy, ask whether those policies can be flexible when you return to work. You will still need childcare if working from home, of course, but being able to work in sweats an extra day or two a week may make the transition back to working a little easier.
  5. Parental leave for your significant other. Does your significant other also get parental leave? Consider whether staggering your leaves so that your partner starts his or her leave when yours ends might make the transition back to work a little easier.
  6. Breastfeeding. Find out what resources your firm offers to support nursing mothers. For example, does the firm have a lactation room on-site or access to refrigerators to store milk? Does your firm cover shipping of breast milk if you need to travel? Plan for your return so that you are not surprised.
  7. Consider checking your email while you are out. No one should feel compelled to work while they are on maternity leave. That said, will you feel less stressed checking your emails semi-regularly while you are out so that you don’t return to thousands of unread messages? However, if checking will make you feel more stressed, then skip it. Do what is best for you and your family.
  8. Find mentors. Find other working mothers and ask them questions. They will probably be happy to tell you things that did or did not work well for them. Reach out to them when you return if you have questions and know that you are not alone.
  9. Other resources. Ask if your firm provides any sort of coaching or other support for working parents. Coaches or consultants may be available to you to help navigate maternity leave and becoming a working parent.
  10. Give yourself grace. Raising a child while working is not for the faint of heart. You will have sleepless nights and feel like you are failing at everything. Probably often. But you are not failing. You are doing something that is really, really hard. Hang in there and give yourself some grace.