Both my husband and I are the first person in our families to go to law school. Given my limited exposure to the legal profession growing up, I was fascinated by the childhood experiences of those who come from a long line of lawyers. One classmate, the son of two prosecutors, told me that discussions at home about neglected chores often turned into cross-examinations: “You left your dishes in the sink after dinner, right?” “You are aware that it is your responsibility to do the dishes every night, correct?” “The dishes are still in the sink right now, at 10 pm?” “So you know you need to finish the dishes before you go to this party?”
Although it is too early to ask Billable Baby how many years of therapy she will need to overcome the damage inflicted by our parenting, we have been able to surmise that certain “skills” we gained from the legal profession are completely counterproductive for new parents.
- Relentless nitpicking. In our day jobs, sending or receiving a heavily-marked up document is an every day occurrence. No one bats an eye when a colleague says, "I think there is a comma missing here." For those of us who have internalized this constant pursuit of perfection, the imperfect endeavor known as new parenting is a rude awakening. My partner may not fold the baby's laundry the way I like it. The house is probably no longer spotless. And the grandparents have different ways of changing baby's diaper. We learned the hard way that we needed to shut off our nitpicking instincts and, *gasp* go with the flow more.
- Finding weaknesses in other people’s arguments. Your well-honed logical reasoning skills may serve you well in your reply brief. But when the baby is inconsolable at 4:00 am and you and your spouse have not slept in days, no one wants to hear, “Your point is invalid because your stated assumption 17 hours ago undermines your own argument, making your position disingenuous and NOT AT ALL ANALOGOUS!”
- Constantly anticipating the the worst case scenario. We are paid to essentially worry about, and prepare for, the worst outcome. But as new parents, this ability to constantly issue-spot the worst case scenario can be destructive and paralyzing. I realized I had a problem when I found myself researching SIDS risk for the third day in a row at four in the morning, even though I had already taken every possible safe-sleep precaution. I haven't figured out the best way to counteract this instinct yet, and I welcome thoughts from other lawyer-parents out there.
- Bluebooking. Enough said.
In contrast, the following best practices from the law are actually helpful for us as new parents.
- Recognizing that there is often no right answer. We learned in 1L that the correct answer is usually, "It depends!" Similarly, the parenting advice out there needs to be tailored to your particular client--I mean baby.
- Being hyper-organized. Spreadsheets that track baby purchases with color-coded categories and frequency of use ratings? A changing table optimally set up based on reach distance of wipes, diapers, diaper bags, and onesies? A pump-refrigerate-freeze-defrost-wash-sanitize-dry routine that is timed down to the second? Yes, yes, and yes! Organization skills have been our lifeline in the chaos that is new parenting.
- Digesting complex, often conflicting information to find creative solutions. In law school, we were frequently forced to plow through several hundred pages of readings in one night and distill the key points into case briefs or outlines. It may surprise you that this skill comes in handy when you have to read seven sleep-training books that all contradict one another (plus 10 hours of videos by that sleep consultant who donated your money to a politician you hate) in order to create the perfect 25-step sleep routine guaranteed to put your baby to sleep in exactly 0.7 hours. That law school tuition you are still paying off was so worth it!
So there you have it. Our profession of choice has some transferable skills, but it has not been an entirely smooth transition from full-time attorneys to full-time parents.