Review (phew?)

November 18, 2009 at 10:19 am | Posted in little bug, Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm | 4 Comments
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I was so sure I was going to be let go/laid off/fired (or whatever the current euphemism is for what is happening at BigLaw performance reviews these days) on Tuesday that I booked a painter to begin working on Thursday. Rumors were rampant at work about cuts to be made, not based on performance, but based on hours. Although due to no real fault of my own I’d like to think (I’m a tax lawyer, I don’t work on deals, I don’t do document review), my numbers were, by BigLaw standards, atrocious. So, by Tuesday morning I had done some cursory research of Massachusetts employment law as it relates to maternity leave (can your maternity leave be halted once you have begun it?) and also had consulted with former colleagues who had been downsized right before their maternity leaves to compare what sort of severance they had been given. I was prepared.

I walked into my review with a truly racing heart. My nerves were tingling in a way they had not since I opened up that letter from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Examiners. I also had convinced myself that being laid off right now would be great, actually. I would have three months at home with my Little Bug before the baby arrived. I could get the house decorated, prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas, cook, watch Oprah. Tim could truly focus on his increasingly demanding job for awhile. I’d have the baby, and in the spring I’d think about what came next.

At the same time, I was thinking about how and with whom I’d network. I’d try to start freelancing for the Boston Bar Journal. I’d join some professional groups. I’d get my references lined up. And I had already started to do some soul-searching: why were my hours so low that I was laid off? What sort of message was I putting out – consciously or subconsciously – into the universe about my desire to work full-time at a big firm? What could I have done better? And, worse, I had started asking myself: was this really an hours-based layoff? Was I really a good lawyer?

In the end, I had a glowing performance review. I was truly stunned when, after the first few moments, it became clear that not only was I not going to get fired, but that people actually appreciated my work. “Come on, you didn’t really think they were going to let you go,” was the chorus from my family and friends. But I did – I truly did. See, I’m not sure I’m world’s greatest tax lawyer. This stuff is difficult, and not only do I not take to it as intuitively as others, I’m also quite sure I don’t work as hard. I get Starbucks with my colleagues. Most nights, I rush out of here to get home before 6, and I don’t work from home unless I really need to. I write on my blog, I read the news, I watch crappy TV. If they were going to have to let the lowest-producing lawyers go for economic reasons, why not me?

Oh, I am so lucky to have a job – any job – right now. I have stimulating, supportive colleagues. A caring nanny whom my child adores. A husband who rarely travels and will get home in lieu of me almost any night I ask (and when he can’t, family who can step in.) And, the bottom line is: I could stay home if I wished. I am acutely aware that I have this choice. But, historically, I’m also really bad with choices: I second-guess to the point of anxiety. (I’ve written about this before, of course.)  I am extremely satisfied and proud and grateful in the wake of this review that my choice to become a Big Law attorney seems to have been a good one, but it doesn’t make walking out the door each morning any easier. I am supporting my family and (hopefully) becoming a role model for my daughter, who can now say, “I want to be a lawyer!” But is that any better than being home with her, reading to her, making her lunch? I just don’t know. I can’t know. As irrational as it seems, maybe the choice should have been made for me.

What to Wear: Pregnant Lady Lawyer Edition

October 27, 2009 at 8:27 am | Posted in the firm | 1 Comment
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Apparently, this blog’s most popular posts have been about my wardrobe: my post-partum/ nursing mom get up, and then my work wardrobe. Now that I’m six+ months pregnant, it is time for an update: what to wear while pregnant and working as an attorney in a somewhat conservative law firm (i.e., “Big Law”). I first considered this issue when I spent the final six, very large weeks of my pregnancy with Little Bug as a summer associate at my firm. Fortunately, I still have those clothes, but I’ve had to update that wardrobe to include both the first trimester and colder weather. I had enough misses the first time around (and ended up buying way too many clothes, since I didn’ t know what would really fit,  be comfortable, and be office-appropriate) that I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

First Trimester

Guess what — you are not going to be sporting an Angelina-esque baby bump any time soon. This revelation was initially kind of shocking and depressing. Instead, I just got thicker and thicker and my waistbands got tighter and tighter (and my boobs bigger and bigger) until well into my second trimester.  You just feel fat, and you so want that little bump so you can say to the world, “I’m not fat! I’m pregnant, see?”

So what do you wear to work during this awkward phase? My theory is that you can wear looser, flow-y tops, but only until you start to show that little bump. Then, it’s actually a relief to wear tighter, more fitted maternity clothes so you look somewhat stylish again. (You don’t want to wear a tent for 40 weeks.)  Here is what I did this time:

1. Buy a Bella Band. Stat. I pooh-poohed this the first time around, but, thanks to Big Mo, I now appreciate its genius. You can start wearing this as soon as you can’t get through a day without unbuttoning your pants, and it extends the life of your “normal” clothes for months. (In fact, I’m still mostly wearing my “normal” Theory work pants with the Bella Band, and will do so for as long as I can.)

2. Wear tops that are supposed to be loose and untucked.  The buttons on your “normal” work shirts will probably start to gape in the chest area, and I think it looks kind of sloppy to wear shirts untucked unless they are meant to be so. Instead, go buy a few shirts like this (from J. Crew)

jcrew shirt2

or this (from Banana Republic)

banana shirt

in a size or two larger than you’d normally wear.

3. You can still wear your cardigans and jackets unbuttoned. In fact, I’ve found you can do so throughout your entire pregnancy. (Later on, you just wear them over a nice, fitted, maternity T — see below.)

In short, then, for your first trimester and part of your second, you can extend the waistband on your normal pants with the Bella Band, wear more flow-y tops over that, and then top it off with your normal sweaters and jackets. Keep wearing your killer heels, and you’ll feel as good as it is possible to feel when you are nauseous, exhausted, and generally bloated.

Baby Bump (Second and Third Trimester)

This is where I’m at now, and I’m definitely wearing maternity clothes. In addition to my “normal” pants, whose lives have been miraculously extended with the Bella Band, I’ve been able to narrow down my wardrobe to a few staples. Again, you don’t want to spend a ton of money on maternity clothes, but you also have to spend enough money that you still look professional. I did shell out for a few key things, but otherwise rely on Old Navy and Gap maternity, as well as Ebay (more on that in a moment). Also, most of what I bought is black and gray. Since I don’t have very many clothes, I need to mix and match quite a bit. One color tone enables you to get away with wearing the same pair of black pants more than once in a week (and, remember, you can still wear your “normal” shoes and jewelry to liven things up).

1. Gap essential tank. I wear either the tank top or the cami almost every day under whatever top I’m wearing. This is just a personal preference, but I like to keep my belly covered just in case my shirt is loose or happens to ride up a bit. If you’re wearing the Bella Band, the tank top makes another layer over that, and by the time you add your top, you look nice and smoothly put together.

gap tank

2. Wrap dress. Not only is a wrap dress supremely comfortable, but if you wear it with a great necklace and black tights and heels, you can wear it to a client meeting if you have to. At the moment, I have three: Old Navy (super cheap but surprisingly professional and you can throw it in the wash); Gap sweater dress; and a fun, patterned Diane Von Furstenberg maternity dress (not cheap in theory, but cheap in practice because I bought it on Ebay).

3. Tops. When I was pregnant with Little Bug, I immediately bought some Gap maternity button downs, thinking they’d be oh-so-professional. As it turns out, they look like tents, and I hate them. You can’t really tuck in button downs when you’re pregnant, right? And so they end up just hanging limply over your bump.  Again, loose and untucked  is good for when you’re not really showing, but once you are showing, wearing something that isn’t fitted just makes you look bigger.

Instead, I own four nice-quality, fitted maternity tops and two fitted (the fitted part is key, have you figured that out yet?!) maternity 3/4 length t-shirts, which I wear with cardigans that I already own. I have tried not to skimp on tops, as, obviously, this is what people will notice the most (especially because they are covering that large belly…)  Ebay can help out a lot here:  I found a colorful, patterned DVF maternity top and a black-and-white patterned top from Pea in the Pod.  (Note: normally, I think shopping at Pea in the Pod is akin to larceny, but there are just some necessary professional clothes you need to own that you really can’t find elsewhere, so at least check it out and figure out your size. Maybe buy one or two things there, and then stalk Ebay?)

I also bought a few tops from my absolute favorite maternity brand, Isabella Oliver. The prices are relatively steep, but of the several IO tops I own, I wear at least two every week. I also have the 3/4 length t-shirts in black and white and, again, wear those under sweaters.

IO t

I also own one of their white wrap blouses. Unlike the tent-like blouses, this one is crisp, fitted, and I think the most professional thing in my maternity wardrobe. I always feel great when I wear it (and, when you are pregnant, this counts for a lot!)

io wrap blouse

4. Bottoms.  I own this black skirt by IO, which I wear almost weekly. (I wore it a lot post-partum, too!) Again, because I wear it so much, I feel like it was worth the money. The fit and quality are incomparable.  I’m still making do with my “normal” pants, although I am not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to pull those off. Therefore, despite the highway robbery, I did buy one pair of pants at Pea in the Pod — a pair of gray pin-striped trousers. I own two Gap maternity skirts from my first pregnancy — both reasonably priced and perfectly suitable for work. One is navy and one is khaki, although this means that I can’t really wear them into this winter season anymore (I can’t do bare legs much longer, and I refuse to wear hose — only black tights). In addition, I own these black Gap pants. They are relatively inexpensive, are perfectly suitable for work, and you can throw them in the wash.  Everyone has their own preference, but, in general, I only like the pants with the “secret fit”  or “full panel” waistband — the panel that covers up your whole belly. Nothing else will stay up on me.

5. Suits. Do you need a maternity suit? I’d argue yes, if you’re an attorney or in a profession where you meet with clients. At least a jacket. I shelled out for a Pea in the Pod suit last time around. The jacket, I loved. Still love. The pants were horrible and didn’t fit. But I’m very glad I have the jacket.


It’s black, of course, so I can get away with wearing it with either black pants or a black skirt. In fact, I have a client meeting next week and will be pulling it out for the first time. If I don’t wear it again, fine. I’ll give it to someone or will sell it on Ebay. But it’s peace of mind to have it if an important meeting comes up.

6. Coats. Another hotly debated question: If you’re very pregnant in the winter, do you need a maternity coat? A good friend of mine got through her winter pregnancy wearing her “normal” down jacket (although she swears it is now stretched out in the stomach…) But if, as a lawyer, you don’t normally wear down jackets or your husband’s fleeces to work, I’d buy a maternity coat (especially if you’re due in March or something and really will need a coat during those big-bump months). Old Navy has nice, super cheap coats. And you don’t have to worry too much about an inexpensive coat wearing out after a season because…you won’t need it again next year (presumably!) Again, check Ebay too.


I don’t have all that many clothes. My staple outfit is black pants or a black skirt (with black tights). Then I wear my Gap cami layered under either (a) my patterned maternity tops or (b) my black or white Isabella Oliver t-shirt with a “normal” cardigan. I tend to wear bright shoes (think: red patent flats, yellow patents heels, black and white spectator heels), so I don’t end up feeling too drab. To mix things up, once a week I’ll wear one of my wrap dresses. If I have a client meeting, I’ll wear a wrap dress, my white Isabella Oliver wrap blouse with black or gray pants, or my one maternity jacket.

A few other thoughts on maternity clothes

1. I mentioned Isabella Oliver, above. The prices are steep, but please at least check them out. If you buy just one or two things, have one of them be either this black skirt or these black pants. You can wear them from day one of your pregnancy and also post-partum. Somehow they manage to be comfortable and professional. If you buy one top, buy one of these t-shirts or this wrap blouse. You’ll thank me, I promise! (Note on Isabella Oliver sizing: I’m normally a size 8 in pants and wear an IO size 3 on the bottom. For the 3/4 t-shirts, however, I wear a size 4 — her clothes are beautifully fitted, but I tend to be a little bigger on top and don’t like things to pull. I’m a size 3 in the wrap blouse, though.)

2. Ebay. Why didn’t I use Ebay with my first pregnancy? Oh yeah, because I had no idea what I was doing. Or my size in any maternity clothes. It’s worth it to go to Pea in the Pod and try on a few things and make note of your size and then try to find similar items on Ebay. I love the DVF maternity stuff. Her clothes run small though (I’m normally a size 8 but always wear a L in her clothes — pregnant or not!).

3. Maternity jeans. PAY ATTENTION: do not, I repeat, do NOT go out and buy those expensive Seven for All Mankind maternity jeans that you see at Pea in the Pod or wherever. Even with the full belly panel they do not stay up. I was warned by pregnant friends the first time around and bought them anyway — and after five minutes the crotch was at my knees. This time around, I thought, well, maybe I’m a different size than I was the first time or maybe they make them better. And I bought them again (see, they are sooo tempting!) and had the same problem.  I suggest Gap maternity skinny jeans or Isabella Oliver jeans. Size hint for jeans: for my body type, the great thing about being pregnant is that I don’t have to worry about waist size. I’ve always found that the size of my pants was probably always a bit bigger than I needed it to be in terms of the fit in the butt or legs just so that they would fit at the waist (I will never ever be the girl with the flat stomach. It’s genetically impossible, and I accept that.) But when pregnant, I can wear a size smaller jeans that fit in the butt/legs because I don’t have to worry about them fitting around the waist (does that make sense?) Also, remember that jeans stretch. While I might normally wear a size 8 in pants, my Gap skinny maternity jeans are a size 6. They are awesome.

Comments and suggestions welcome! What are your favorite maternity finds? What purchase has been the biggest waste of money?

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