Name: Deborah Baker-Egozi
Job Title: Founding Member, Lipscomb, Eisenberg & Baker, PL
City: Miami, Florida
Number of Children/Other Dependents: Two children; ages four and two
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
I don’t like that phrase because I think it is used to make women feel like the challenges of being a good parent and a good lawyer are specific to women only.
What does having “it all” mean to you?
There is no such thing in my book, and somehow only women are told they can, or cannot, have it all. Consider men who have families and careers – if they are working 60 hour weeks and see their kids on the weekends, that is not “having it all.” But nobody ever asks men, “Do you have it all?” It assumes men cannot or do not want to take on active roles in their children’s lives, and if they don’t, they are missing out on a very important aspect of life.
What is the best advice you have ever received on balancing your personal and professional lives?
The most important career decision a woman who wants to have a spouse and children will make is the person she marries. If the spouse truly believes in equal parenting and equal responsibility for domestic matters, your career can flourish.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Doing ashtanga yoga. It’s the one thing I “gave up” when I had children.
Looking back at when you started in the profession, and knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
Get involved with the community and work as hard as you can before you have children. That way, you can take a few years to “coast” when your children are born, because you have already established yourself. I became the President of Miami-Dade FAWL when my daughter was six (6) months old. I wish I had recognized the importance of taking on leadership roles like that earlier on, so I could have done that before I had children. Either way, it all works out and you just do it, but looking back, I would have planned the timing better.
Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
Here is where professional friendships matter. After my first child was born, it was very hard to go back to work, leaving my son with a nanny I had known for one month. My dear friend and President-Elect of AAJ, Julie Kane has three happy and well-adjusted children. I called her about the overwhelming guilt and grief I felt and she shook me out of it. She explained that not only will I be better off in the long run, my marriage will be more interesting, and my children will watch their mother accomplish goals that benefit our family and the community. She convinced me that my children would in fact be better off if I stayed in the workforce, and now, four years later, I am wholeheartedly convinced of that. My children are four and two, and I tell them how I help women and children who do not have what we are blessed to have, and how I am able to personally send them to the best schools and ensure our family is taken care of.
What single change do you believe would have the biggest impact on work life balance or quality of life?
Men taking an equal role in child rearing.
What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
Neglecting my husband.
What part of “balance” are you improving at?
Not taking my husband for granted. There is always time for the kids and career, but spouses require attention too.
As a working parent, how do you balance your career and your role as a parent?
Being self-employed is key, and I try to get my husband to cover parenting responsibilities that he really enjoys. I also try to work out scheduling child-related events with him far in advance.
How important is civic and/or professional involvement to you and why?
Extremely. I would not enjoy my career if I did not have my civic and professional activities. Lawyering is a very stressful way to earn a living, and having a strong network of colleagues is key to enjoying it.
What’s the advice you would give a young lawyer seeking to strike a “balance” between family, self, and the practice of law or achieve better quality of life?
Put yourself in a position so that you do not have to work 60-80 hour weeks when your kids come. Develop your own clientele early on, which is nearly impossible to do at large law firms. The money and benefits can be alluring, but if you know early on that you want to have flexibility and control your own schedule, work towards becoming your own boss.
Any other parting words of advice?
Put yourself in a position before you have kids that you can work for yourself or have enough business that you do not work for another attorney.