Happy hours and golf outings during school pick up time, conferences absent any childcare or breastfeeding accommodations, unpaid speaking engagements… these were the networking opportunities available to past generations of lawyer moms building their legal career. Today, MothersEsquire is changing the game.
As an active member of the organization and the mom of a tenacious nine year old daughter, I was thrilled to represent Hovey Williams at the first-ever MothersEsquire conference last week (May 13, 2022) in Louisville, Kentucky. I was truly blown away by the wealth of knowledge shared, the connections made, and the sense of belonging I felt there. It was a transformative experience.
Started by another intellectual property lawyer / mom in 2012, MothersEsquire was originally a little Facebook group for lawyer moms to vent, seek advice, and share referrals. Ten years later it is that and so much more. The Facebook group has grown to over 7,000 members across the nation and around the globe and is also now a full-fledged non-profit with a board of directors busy shaping legislation, pushing for reforms within the legal profession, and hosting their annual conference by and curated for lawyer moms.
While the world pressed pause to confront a global pandemic in early 2020, MothersEsquire’s ranks began to grow rapidly. Its members leaned hard on this virtual lawyer-mom network the lifeline that kept many of us going in a time of great isolation, fear, and uncertainty. Typical posts on this page range from venting about being mistaken for the secretary again because of ones gender to job postings, asking for career advice, sharing stories or concerns about our kids, and especially sharing the “I am not a cat” video. A recent popular post asked everyone to name their favorite pen brand. These conversations, big and small, often lead to activism, friendships, and referrals… and of course allowed many a lawyer mom to up their pen game.
As we continue working toward achieving greater equity in the legal profession, it is important to recognize not only the contributions of lawyer moms, but also the obstacles that contribute to a much higher attrition rate among women than men. The MothersEsquire conference modeled what recognizing and accommodating for these obstacles can look like at a professional conference by paying each of its speakers, providing onsite childcare, and providing nursing/pumping rooms with live streaming of each session so that nursing and pumping moms didn’t miss a thing.
The theme of this year’s MothersEsquire conference was “Together We Rise.” This is a powerful truth that I have been fortunate enough to witness firsthand at my firm. They not only sponsored me to attend this incredible conference, but also have shown in countless ways over the years that they truly value what lawyer moms bring to the table. Hovey Williams was ahead of its time when it went paperless nearly 10 years ago and provided remote work options for its attorneys as needed even before a global pandemic forced the issue. It was a benefit that moms, dads, and even non-parents utilized. This kind of flexibility has resulted in an incredible retention rate over the past decade, especially among our lawyer moms. The resulting low turnover provides continuity and value to our clients and has simultaneously been very profitable for the firm.
As we shift to a new phase in the pandemic in which more firms are returning to in-person work arrangements, Hovey Williams has combined some of the best aspects of pre-pandemic and post-pandemic life by asking its employees to come into the office just two days a week, with one of those days being every Wednesday. Lunch is always provided then, and the return of in-person connections and collaboration with colleagues has been incredibly popular thus far. At the same time, the remote work options and the resulting flexibility remain for the majority of the work week, giving us the best of both worlds. As an intellectual property law firm, Hovey Williams continues to innovate new ways to support its diverse workforce while fiercely protecting the innovations of others. Together we continue to rise.
About the Author: Jaclyn Alcantara is an Associate at Hovey Williams LLP in Overland Park, KS, specializing in patent prosecution and counseling. She holds an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and served as a Patent Agent at Hovey Williams for 10 years before returning to school to pursue her law degree. More about her legal practice can be found on her firm bio page and she can be reached by email at [email protected].