When attorney Carol J. Wessels joined the all-female firm of Nelson, Irvings & Waeffler SC, she did so to practice elder law.
But Wessels also landed in an environment which catered to a working single mother.
“One of the benefits of the firm is it is family-friendly,” she said. “If we all worked 100 hours a week, we’d triple our income, but we all feel like we can spend quality time with our families.”
While Wessels is occasionally in court for a contested guardianship, transactional practices tend to be low on court time and high on flexibility.
Quarles & Brady trusts and estates attorney Kathleen A. Gray has long enjoyed the ability to attend to family issues during traditional working hours, but also meet her clients’ needs.
Because the practice is light on litigation, attorneys can be productive away from the office, accessing client files or drafting documents from home after putting their kids to bed.
Gray recalled a male colleague with young children who would leave work to coach their soccer team and return to the office later in the evening.
But because T&E attorneys “are not appearing in court with any frequency, we can set our own schedules more easily than other practices,” Gray said.
As the father of a newborn, elder law attorney Andrew P. Brusky appreciates the option of bending his office hours.
His wife recently finished her residency as a family practice physician, so Brusky tries to accommodate her somewhat unpredictable schedule.
“I’m home in the morning and come into the office about 10:00, work until 5:00 and then relieve the nanny at 5:30,” he said.
From time to time, Brusky said he’ll have to reschedule an appointment, but rarely does it at the inconvenience of a client.
“One of benefits of elder law is that most of my clients are retired,” he said.
Consistent hours, little travel
Wessels noted there can be an element of unpredictability in her practice.
Sometimes she has to move into “crisis management” mode, if a client calls from a nursing home in the middle of the night in need of immediate help.
“It’s not as if you can say I can do the work anywhere, anytime, anyplace,” Wessels said.
But despite the occasional unpredictability, trusts and estates allows practitioners to avoid the extensive travel of an international or business practice, noted Gray.
Both Gray and Wessels said the family-friendly nature of their practices was not something they thought about at the start of their legal careers, but they have come to appreciate their situations.
The same is true for Brusky, of Brusky Sjostrom & Alberts SC in Wauwatosa.
He said his practice gives him a chance to strike a balance between home and work.
“I work fairly consistent hours and don’t take extended vacations … but my practice has enough latitude if something comes up or someone gets sick,” Brusky said.