THE 3-MINUTE INTERVIEW: Susan Smith Blakely

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People,Taylor Holland

Blakely is a lawyer and author from Northern Virginia who has come out with a book on how women can manage the work-life balance, called "Best Friends at the Bar: The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer." The book launch, hosted by Georgetown University Law, will be Sept. 27.

What led you to begin writing books? I'm a litigator married to a litigator and had two children to raise. As a result, I wasn't able to stay on a partnership track, and I made a lot of adjustments to my career. But the one thing that mattered to me most, in the end, was that I stayed in the industry. ... It became clear to me throughout my practice that the retention rate for women lawyers is very low. Forty-six percent of women leave their chosen career in midcareer, and that is at least twice or three times as many men in that same situation. Something had to be done about it -- there was not much being written about it at the time, and that's when I wrote my first book, which came out in November 2009.

How do women achieve the work-life balance? You have to think about how you want to position yourself to stay in an industry and to stay in a way that will be consistent with what I call your personal definition of success. ... Women have to account for the fact that their responsibilities will change. The emphasis may be on their personal life at certain times and on their professional life at other times.

Are these books only for female lawyers? These books can also apply to men. The issue underlying these books is the issue of work-life balance, and we are finding much more today than ever before that men want this kind of balance, too. - Hayley Peterson

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