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How working parents can beat guilt in law

The onus is on leaders in law firms and organisations to create safe spaces for lawyers who are juggling work with parental responsibilities, an executive has said.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 16 November 2023 SME Law
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Amanda Kerdel – who is family law finance provider JustFund’s director of partnership development – recalled that when she was pregnant with her first child, she used to work in private practice as a family lawyer.

“When you’re pregnant, things come up and you may not be able to function as well. But when you’re in private practice, I think you feel so guilty about taking a day off because you’re unwell,” Ms Kerdel said ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023.

“Feeling guilty about something that is very natural, like having children, which should be an enjoyable part of your life, says a lot in itself.”


Working parents in all fields often juggle their careers with parental and household responsibilities, which could impact how they work, Ms Kerdel said.

“Your children are always going to be your number one priority. I think it’s challenging when you are in a space where you start feeling guilty about prioritising your family over work.”

At the forum, she and a panel of speakers will discuss how lawyers can balance their careers with family responsibilities and how to overcome guilt and societal pressures associated with being a working parent in the legal profession.

Ms Kerdel – who practised as a family lawyer for six years in private practice – said she often felt that she could not vocalise her thoughts and concerns and she “needed to keep in my lane”.

“I think that’s because of the way we were raised. We were taught to be polite and say yes to everything and conditioned in a way where we’re inclined not to speak up,” she said.

To change this culture, Ms Kerdel suggested that employers have a responsibility to create safe spaces that encourage employees to voice their concerns, and provide flexibility so they can balance their career and personal lives.

This includes allowing employees to work from home so they have the flexibility to pick up their children from school or care for them when they are unwell, she suggested.

In her previous role as head of Australia and New Zealand at legal tech company Settify, she recounted that she had a team member who was undergoing a separation.

“I addressed it and said they’re going through a very difficult time. This person said they would never have been able to get through their separation if they hadn’t received support from me,” Ms Kerdel said.

“I think women bring that empathetic, supportive side when someone’s going through something. It’s about creating that space where someone feels comfortable enough to disclose what they’re going through.

“But as a leader, you have to address it in a way that lets them know they’re valued and they can do what they need to do to get through this.”

To support female employees, Ms Kerdel introduced a women’s circle at Settify to encourage women to voice their thoughts and concerns in a safe environment and support each other.

“I think this should be practised in every organisation because there will be topics that women don’t feel comfortable raising with a man,” she said.

“If you feel uncomfortable talking about something with your manager, maybe another woman in a more senior position in the women’s circle can speak to that person.”

On the other hand, employees have a duty to communicate their needs with their manager in order to set the tone, Ms Kerdel said.

“If you don’t communicate this, it can get to a point where you have to take your kids somewhere but you’re too scared to talk about it. That’s when the problem starts,” she concluded.

To hear more about how workplaces could help lawyers balance their legal career with family responsibilities, come along to the Women in Law Forum 2023.

It will be held on Thursday, 23 November, at Crown Melbourne.

Click here to buy tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.

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