Name: Hilarie Bass
Job Title: Co-President, Greenberg Traurig
City: Miami, Florida
Number of Children/Other Dependents: One adult daughter
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
I think the question sends the wrong message to women. You can’t be a superstar without making sacrifices every day in order to meet the demands of all aspects of your life. Every day you make choices about what you are going to focus on and where you are going to spend your limited time. Am I going to work until 10 p.m. to solve a client’s problem? Or am I going to leave early to go to my child’s school activity or go to a spinning class at the gym?
What does having “it all” mean to you?
You have to look at your life in cycles. At certain times in your life you are going to have different responsibilities. It’s not going to be 100 percent perfect every day. You can have it all, but just not at the same time. I used to look at life as a three-legged stool: work, being a mom and community service. Every week I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted in every area. But over time I would make sure I was creating balance between the three legs. Now, my responsibilities as a mom have decreased, so I have added a fourth leg to the stool that’s about taking care of my health and well-being.
What is the best trick you adopted for balancing your personal and professional lives?
Don’t waste time on stuff that doesn’t give you joy and is something you can pay someone $10 an hour to do. For me, I would much rather pay someone else to run errands for me on a Saturday, if it allows me to spend the day doing things I enjoy. Right now that usually means spending my day going to the gym, having lunch with friends or being involved in a community activity. By doing this, I get some down time and it allows me to come back to work on Monday feeling refreshed.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
At different stages of my life, the answer was different. Right now, I would spend that extra hour at the gym or socializing with a client. But 10 years ago, it would have been about spending time doing something with my daughter.
Looking back at when you started in the profession, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give young women lawyers today?
For women with children, don’t skimp on child care when your kids are young. It’s important to have a strong support system. As most of us don’t have family who can serve in that role, you need to make the sacrifice to pay for the most competent care.
Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
No. Every day we make choices about our priorities. My focus is on the big picture and how to make the choices that are best for a particular period of my life. I may not be happy with the fact that I didn’t get to spend as much time on a particular activity on any particular day, but my focus is am I happy with how I spend my time this month or this year. That’s the same message I tell other women who I work with or mentor.
What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
Balance changes over time and the stages of life. When my daughter was young, it was always about making sure I found time to spend with her. One of the ways I made it work when she was very young was by taking her and the nanny with me during some of my travels, particularly for meetings and commitments with the American Bar Association. This way, I could see her at night when I wasn’t working and it helped expose her to travel and new places at a very young age.
What part of “balance” are you improving at?
I have gotten better at finding more time to do the things I need to take care of my own health and physical well-being.
As a working parent, how do you balance your career and your role as a parent?
No longer applicable
What’s the advice you would give a young lawyer seeking to strike a “balance” between family, self, and the practice of law or how to achieve a better quality of life?
Find the things that mean the most to you and create your own three legged stool. But don’t expect to find balance on a daily basis. Look to outsource things that you can to other people.
What’s the biggest obstacle you feel still exists for women lawyers?
We all have some kind of implicit bias in that we feel less comfortable around people who don’t look and act like we do. Female leaders continually face this challenge since the fewer women there are in a workplace, the more you see this type of behavior. In today’s diverse society, it’s critical that we become more accustomed to interacting with people that don’t look like us. When you have more top women leaders at big law firms, you attract more top quality women at all levels because they see that it’s a hospitable environment.