How to Prepare for Parental Leave as a Legal Professional

Ashley Herd: How do you prepare your whole legal team before taking leave and what was your experience?

Meyling Ly Ortiz: Parental leave on our legal team at Toyota started with me. Based on the work and projects I still needed to get done, I accessed whether they should be paused or continued and then I proposed a plan to my manager.

This was helpful in determining the workload and whether or not we needed to bring someone in, pause some of the work or have it be delegated amongst the team and because of our 12 week policy, it was very manageable.

Ashley Herd: Deanna, how you fill in and support the rest of the team so that they're not feeling overburdened when that person's out on parental leave?

Deanna K: In general it's a testament to the close collaboration of our teams on a normal everyday basis. When a team member does indicate that they will be taking time off for the birth or adoption of a child, we do try to divide up the work of the person who will be out in a way that it doesn't put a burden on any one particular colleague while that person is out.

We try to establish a very open line of communication, throughout the chain of reporting.

That's been successful for us and particularly if you look at the litigation side of legal, sometimes it's a little bit easier to anticipate what the upcoming deadlines are with the litigation schedule in place. We just try to be very agile and able to pivot when necessary. So far we've found it's worked as long as we  have open conversation and communication. If we have a very strong collaborative culture where people are open to talking about if they need help, then it helps to make parental leave situations go more smoothly as well.

Ashley Herd: Meredith, when you are bringing someone in during that period of time what does that look like from a preparation standpoint and how have you made that successful in your work at Stash?

Meredith Smith: I have a small legal team at Stash so we can't just add on to people who are already really close to a hundred percent capacity. So for me, it was really important to make sure that the people who were not taking leave on the team, weren't just picking up the extra work.

It takes a lot of looking into each team member's role and trying to estimate what the scope of the workload looks like and what we can deprioritize.

Then we started to determine what can the people at Stash who are non-lawyers do? Is there a workflow or a process we can put in place to assign HR do some of these things without us for a little bit? There's a lot of ways you can get creative but for me, at some point I really just needed people to do the work so I hired some temporary help from a couple folks at Lawtrades.