Name: Honorable Lisa S. Walsh
Job Title: Circuit Court Judge, 11th Judicial Circuit, Criminal Division
City: Miami, Florida
Number of Children/Other Dependents: 2
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
It is realistic, so long as you realize that it can be difficult, especially when our children are very young. The difficulty results from several factors: We live in a culture that persistently expects women to be the go-to parents for all exigencies, and that punishes fathers for trying to take a more significant role in their children’s lives. Children get sick. Children don’t sleep much when they are young. Schools and camps are structured around the model of the non-working parent. It is emotionally difficult to leave your children in favor of going the extra mile as an attorney. Trial work often requires travel, long hours, and being beholden to your partners, clients and the whims and requirements of a varied assortment of judges who may or may not accommodate childcare (or elder care) issues.
Having it all is NOT overrated. By reaching your potential as a skilled and talented attorney, you set an example and a benchmark for your children, establish your wage power in your firm and experience a level of personal and professional satisfaction which will carry you throughout your life. Taking time off from your professional career may come with a heavy price. Even a few years off may result in a lifetime sacrifice of earning potential, as well as a sacrifice of the professional relationships and development as a lawyer which ensure future business and success.
What does having “it all” mean to you?
Personal and professional fulfillment. It means being the mother and wife I aspire to be and being the professional I want to be. Having it all means I am not any less likely to reach my potential because I have a family and that I am not a substandard mother because I choose to work.
What is the best advice you have ever received on balancing your personal and professional lives?
That you can have everything, but maybe not at the same time.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Looking back at when you started in the profession, and knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
To worry less. Worry is wasted energy.
Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
Often. Being available to my children is a high priority to me and there have been times when I have had client calls on the weekend or on vacation, or have had to work late into the night to make deadlines. Inevitably, that results in parental guilt.
What single change do you believe would have the biggest impact on work life balance or quality of life?
That fathers (or the second parent in the household) be recognized and valued in the workplace too. That this issue not just be about accommodating motherhood but valuing fatherhood. We recognize the equal impact that two parents have on children in our family law statutes – so should we recognize this value in our professional settings. The professional sacrifice that we come to expect out of women is concomitantly connected to a personal sacrifice we come to expect out of men. I am my father’s daughter. My father’s unconditional love and support and belief in me have everything to do with who I am. Both parents should be given this opportunity to affect the development in the lives of their children as much as mothers do. It would help this whole conundrum.
What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
It is difficult to stay as organized as I would prefer. I also struggle with ever saying “no.” “Yes” is my default position, and I rarely decline any invitation, event, or teaching opportunity. Sometimes, my schedule is excessive.
What part of “balance” are you improving at?
I have become better at delegating, and better at staying organized.
As a working parent, how do you balance your career and your role as a parent?
I am dedicated to use of a calendar, to sharing that calendar with my husband, and to planning ahead. The better that I can anticipate teacher’s conferences, assemblies, doctor’s appointments, driving lessons, school requirements, tutoring sessions, and extra-curricular activities, the better I can accommodate my children’s wants and needs.
How important is civic and/or professional involvement to you and why?
I get such joy and fulfillment from my professional involvements. I became involved with Florida Association for Women Lawyers in 2001, and was sworn in as President in 2007. I grew as a speaker, a thinker, and organizer and an effective person. Organizational involvement advances your relationships, develops business, and gives you a measure of personal satisfaction getting involved in projects to which you are personally committed.
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?
First, set the bar high for yourself. Most of us share the same goals – to be respected, skilled and successful lawyers, to be loving, hands-on, devoted parents, and to be in a loving and committed relationship. It is difficult to achieve all three goals simultaneously. However, as Sheryl Sandberg advised in her acclaimed book, Lean In, do not preemptively assume it is impossible and leave before you even try to balance these goals. Have confidence in yourself. Be patient. Be choosey about where you work. Find a place and mentors who create an atmosphere in which balance is possible. There are those, like me, who truly enjoy seeing younger lawyers grow and thrive. Find us, seek out our advice and support. We want to see you succeed and we want it to be easier for you than it was for us.