Time to Make Work Work.

by Christina Michael


In the course of interviewing for the full time, contract officer job, I had to call my job references. Remember the old boss to whom I cried (a.k.a. Old Boss #1)? He was one of them. Immediately, Old Boss #1 asked, “Do you really want to work full time?” Of course I’d prefer something flexible that paid enough to justify the expense of going back to work (emotional and financial [childcare and work clothes made after Y2K]). But Old Boss #1 was not prepared to offer that deal (at least not now).


My second reference was my old law firm boss from 10 years ago (a.k.a. Old Boss #2). He, too, asked if I really wanted to go back to work on full time basis. Then, he added, “Why don’t you come and work for us on a part time basis.” Hmmm. That sure sounded attractive. But did I really want to go practice law again? As I’ve said before and all lawyers know, it can be such difficult, grueling work, which was exactly the reason behind my attempts to “reinvent my career wheel.” I told him I would have to consider the part time proposal and weigh it against the full time opportunity.


I thought about the part time opportunity and the full time opportunity. I crunched some numbers, both economic and emotional (full time work that sounded far more “fun” and new, part time work that was more flexible but very hard lawyer work) and then came up with a part time, hourly rate proposal. I phoned Old Boss #2 and suggested the hourly rate I had calculated as well as the reasoning behind the rate. After a very long, in fact eternal, moment of silence, Old Boss #2 said he’d have to get back to me.


Days and weeks passed with no return phone call from Old Boss #2. I persisted and left voice mails for Old Boss #2. Finally, one day when I found the chutzpah to call Old Boss #2 for a third time, Old Boss #2’s voicemail did not answer my call. “Hi, Christina.” (voicemail can be so much easier sometimes, especially since I was shaking like a leaf – guess my prayers of leaving a message weren’t going to be answered this time). “Oh, hi,” I said to Old Boss #2. Any news on my part time, hourly rate proposal? “Yes.” Eternal Moment of Silence #2. Had I asked for too much? Was I not worth the value I had placed on myself? Breaking the Moment of Silence #2, Old Boss #2 finally said the firm was willing meet my terms except at a far lower hourly rate. I asked, “How much less?” I thought, “bargain basement, Filene’s Basement rates?” Then I heard “Half.” Had I misheard Old Boss #2? “Half, really, truly?” I responded? “Yes, half,” he said. Because of the flexibility and the part time nature of the work, as well as the cavernous gap in my resume (recall, 6 years), the firm felt that half of the amount that I had requested was appropriate.



I'm about to have my second baby and am wondering if it is worth taking time off...I'd be livid to be told I was worth half of what I thought.


Let us know how it turns out (if you have time!). Your story resonated with me. I graduated law school in 1992, had my first child 3.5 yrs later and worked 9-5 in legal publishing (law school loans, you know), taught college human resources and rehab'd an old house. I quit to stay home in another three years when my second child was on the way. Right when my second one started kindergarten, we moved to a state that won't waive me in as a member of the bar. I've substituted and worked at the school library, but now I want to make some real money without doing the full-time legal grind. However, I don't have old bosses or legal world contacts in my vicinity (except my husband's firm...and that doesn't "count"). And I'd like not to wake up in another 5+ years and find this problem even knottier. Lastly, I don't want to sacrifice the great home life I have built. The biggest regret I have is missing so much of my first child's early years (though it couldn't be helped), and I won't be gone during the teen years if I can help it. Aren't there thousands of women like me out there? Can we create a demand for our skills? Can we convince others to compensate us for what we have to offer, and not to emphasize what we don't have to offer?


OMG you're returning to the law. I wish you the best of luck. I've read your column with great interest. I think it's great that your old boss is willing to give you a shot after 6 years, but the paycut is BS. The legal market talks the big talk about on-ramping and how it values women in the law, but they still can't put their money where their mouths are. I stopped practicing law three years ago after having my daughter. I tried the part-time thing (60%) at a big law firm, but just found that I wasn't being a good attorney (not committed enough to get the good work) and not being a great mom either. I'm in legal services now -- not glam like being an attorney, but not stressful either. Best of luck to you!


I just returned to one of my old bosses for a flex 10-20 hr/week job last week. I know exactly how you feel. Now that I'm working, I'm terrified that I'm not doing a good enough job to justify what I asked them to pay me, screwing up at home, and still not really "getting out there" b/c I work from home. But its a start, and its always easier to get a job when you've already got one (who says you have to tell your next boss your hourly rate or how many hours you really worked). Now if I could just get the damn printer to print and my new boss to call me back...