Name: Niva Harney-Hiller
Job Title: Partner; Hamilton, Miller & Birthisel, LLP
City: Miami, Florida
Number of Children/Other Dependents: 2 children; boy 4 years old, girl 20 months and pregnant with no. 3
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
Having “it all” is overrated because what does it really mean to have “it all”; that can mean different things to different people. Objectively, someone can appear to have “it all” but in actuality things are not as together as they seem. Therefore, I believe someone should strive to be their best self. As a career mother that can mean that you are torn is several different directions at any one time. However, that is where the skill of the “often spoken about and hardly ever achieved”– balance becomes important.
In striving to attain balance, I believe, you have to be good at compartmentalizing your life. What does that mean? When you are home – you are home; when you are at work – you are at work. It is hard – but try not to let the two overlap because it will lead to stress and confusion and you will never be truly good at home or at work because you would not be giving your best self – which is 100% of yourself. At first this is hard to achieve but over time, you will learn to set boundaries and you will find that over time, superiors, clients and friends will all come to respect and appreciate the boundaries that you set in your life.
What is the best advice you have ever received on balancing your personal and professional lives?
The best advice that I have ever received on balancing my personal and professional lives, is don’t try to do it all. All good people have even better people behind of them. Recognize this and find those “even better” people to help you out. And, once you find them, treat them really good because they will be critical to your success and you to theirs.
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
I would spend an extra hour sleeping but that could just be because I am pregnant and tired all the time. No really – I would probably spend it on myself. Piggybacking on my earlier comments, in order to be the best you – you have to give yourself time for you.
Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
I don’t deal with guilt anymore. I used to but then I realized that there is no point in feeling guilty. It will not get you anywhere. In life, you have to be confident in the choices that you make and have no apologies for them. Ultimately, people will come to respect that side of you.
What single change do you believe would have the biggest impact on work life balance or quality of life?
Getting to the point in your career, where you can build a committed and loyal team so that you all are contributing and no one person has to bear the brunt of the work.
What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
My biggest struggle with balance is making time for me. I feel like there are only enough hours in the day for work and giving to my family. I recognize that I need to make time for myself (even if it is only 30 minutes a day).
What part of “balance” are you improving at?
Balance is and likely always will be a struggle but I think that you can get better at keeping all things in perspective. Seeing the bigger picture, will allow you to focus on what is truly important to you in your life and make time for those things even if it mean sacrificing in other areas.
As a working parent, how do you balance your career and your role as a parent?
As a parent of young children, I rely on good help and I try to maximize the opportunities that I have with my kids. Barring trials or some other work-related emergencies, I have instituted a “no work on weekends policy” – that is my time with my family. Work has my commitment five (5) days a week, the least I can do is dedicate 2 days to my children/family. Also, when I have been working really hard and late (due to deadlines or other emergencies), I try to take off a day in the week and spend some quality time with my kids to make up.
How important is civic and/or professional involvement to you and why?
It is very important. However, I believe in not spreading yourself too thin- if you do, your impact is marginalized in all areas. I also believe in timing. Timing is everything. Right now, in my life, I am called to do the best I can in my professional career and raising young children. When my children are a little older and more independent, my plan is to become more civically and professionally involved throughout the local community.
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?
Realize that you are one person and if you need help, speak up. Don’t be afraid to accept help and when you have the help, learn to work well with others. Build relationships at work because those people will be your support system in the professional sense, should you need them at any low points in your life. Try to carve out even 30 minutes a day for yourself – even if it is exercising , meditating, praying (whatever works for you). That time with yourself, will help you to put all things in perspective. Institute a time to shut down – when you get home at night, put away the emails and enjoy the time you are with your family. Be physically and wholly present in every moment and let it count.
Any other parting words of advice?
I think I have spoken enough! Need to get back to billing! No really – Try to live your fullest life while being your best self!