In March 2020, Virginia Beach attorney Kristen Jurjevich enrolled her 4-month-old daughter in daycare.
One week later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And that meant the daycare was closed.
“The year 2020 was a blessing in that I was able to spend lots of time with my daughter, but a challenge in that I had a huge tension/stress in trying to maintain the same level of output,” Jurjevich told Virginia Lawyers Weekly. “It was a lot of nights and weekends.”
At the end of 2020, Jurjevich approached her firm, Pender & Coward, with a proposal: the ability to work more flexible hours while maintaining the option to work as much as she wanted to ensure the same level of compensation.
“The firm agreed to the proposal, and it has worked as I had hoped for the last few years,” she said.
In the legal profession, parents of young children like Jurjevich face a unique problem: striking the proper balance between the duties of parenthood and the demands of working as a practicing attorney.
“I’m always interested in hearing how other lawyer moms are balancing two of the most amazing jobs in the world — being a parent and an attorney,” Jurjevich said.
Upon becoming chair of the Virginia Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division in 2022, Jurjevich set out to create a panel to discuss how they perform the balancing act.
“I knew there had to be others out there in a similar situation to my own,” she said.
The result of Jurjevich’s vision was “Mom, Esquire,” a panel series sponsored by the VBA Young Lawyers Division that seeks to help bring attorneys together who are facing similar challenges in balancing roles as parents and as attorneys.
The first panel, entitled “Mom, Esquire: Negotiating the balance between motherhood and legal career,” was held in March 2022 in conjunction with Women’s History Month. The panel was presented as an online webinar with a panel of “lawyer moms” at a variety of phases in their career discussing how they find balance.
In that presentation, which remains available for viewing on the VBA’s YouTube channel, the panelists discussed specific efforts they’ve made in their career to help maintain wellness and balance, while also providing advice to fellow panelists on both motherhood and law practice.
Jennifer Ligon, a partner in Williams Mullen’s Richmond office and one of the panelists in the first “Mom, Esquire” webinar, praised the panel’s role in creating a platform for discussion.
“During [Jurjevich’s] year as YLD chair, Kristen — herself a working mom — rightly identified a need for open, honest and direct dialogue relating to the challenges of being a working lawyer mom,” she said. “The ‘Mom, Esquire’ panel series created a safe space to start that dialogue.”
“Through this series, I have met many inspiring, brave and humble women who are eager and happy to share their stories. In doing so, we create a rich learning environment in which we are all equals — we are all trying daily to navigate our many roles as mother, significant other, daughter, sister, client advocate, colleague, community member and, importantly, our individual selves.”
— Richmond attorney Jennifer Ligon
Positive feedback and requests for in-person panels resulted in a second “Mom, Esquire” panel at VBA on Main in Richmond in November 2022. This installment of the series served as a networking event, where lawyer moms could connect and network while discussing the challenges of balancing motherhood and a career in the law.
Then, a second in-person panel discussion was held at the VBA Annual Meeting in Williamsburg in January 2023 as a general session open to all attendees. That panel, entitled “Mom, Esquire: Staying on the Road to Wellness,” featured panelists from law firms of varying sizes, as well as a wellness expert from the Virginia Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.
“We encouraged the attendance of not only lawyer moms, but also their colleagues and firm management, as this is a very important topic that should be discussed amongst attorneys at all levels in a firm — not just the lawyer moms themselves,” Jurjevich said.
Jurjevich noted that this panel featured discussion on how to stay well while navigating the tension between family life and law practice, while featuring a question-and-answer section with the attendees.
“During the panel there was an opportunity for those in attendance to ask questions, and the questions raised indicated that this is a topic that is ripe for discussion,” Jurjevich said.
Ligon, who has been a part of every “Mom, Esquire” series event so far, said the panel series has provided an opportunity to meet others in the legal profession facing similar challenges achieving balance.
“Through this series, I have met many inspiring, brave and humble women who are eager and happy to share their stories,” Ligon said. “In doing so, we create a rich learning environment in which we are all equals — we are all trying daily to navigate our many roles as mother, significant other, daughter, sister, client advocate, colleague, community member and, importantly, our individual selves.”
Jurjevich said there are plans to continue the “Mom, Esquire” series across the commonwealth, and that an organization has reached out about putting on a luncheon panel.
“I do hope and expect that this will become a topic that is brought up and discussed year after year by the VBA and other bar associations or attorney organizations,” she said.
The Virginia Beach attorney added that she is hopeful that more attorneys become aware of the panels — including attorneys who are not lawyer moms but are colleagues or in firm management.
“It sheds light for those who are not a lawyer mom, but may be a colleague or someone in firm management, to help understand how lawyer moms may balance the tension between their roles as parents and an attorney,” Jurjevich said.
Ligon, meanwhile, noted that the series provides a chance for attorneys to not have to tackle these challenges alone.
“No one is immune to the challenges of balancing personal and professional lives. But many people do not feel like they have a safe space to share their challenges, whether due to stigmas, social expectations of the ‘perfect working parent,’ or other reasons,” Ligon said. “This series creates a space to be honest, vulnerable, and authentic, so that we may learn from each other, prioritize our individual and collective wellness, and know and feel that we are not on this journey alone.”