Chris Pearce: “There is more to life than being good at our jobs”

As PidKids continues through a second year of success, one thing we have realised is that it is a helpful forum for parents who are lawyers to come together and share war stories and advice on what works for them.

With this in mind, we have decided to interview lawyers in different parts of the profession with varied experiences about being a parent, a lawyer and everything that comes with that.

This interview is with Chris Pearce, the Managing Partner of Blackwall Legal.

Describe your life as a lawyer and parent.

Manic.

Being a lawyer is hard enough as it is, and I think historically one of the ways I’ve learnt to provide good service to my clients has been to my clients’ (and sometimes my colleagues’) stresses, challenges and difficulties.

Becoming a parent has helped me to step back a bit and recognise that it is important to maintain independence — our clients’ problems are not actually our own, and there is more to life than being good at our jobs.

All of a sudden, my evenings and weekends are not my own.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned as a parent that has helped you as a lawyer?

I’ve learnt to appreciate family and community way more than I did before.

I think it’s easy to think life is every person for themselves, and unfortunately some people do have it really tough and have to make things work pretty much on their own.

I can’t begin to imagine how tough it is for single mothers — I’ve been incredibly lucky to have great support from family and it’s important to acknowledge how much that helps me get by.

Applying the same principles at work is quite important — getting involved in organisations like Piddington is very important because lawyers can and do help each other out.

Even if you are a sole practitioner, having colleagues around that you can bounce ideas off and go to for support is invaluable.

What challenges you to be both a parent and lawyer, and how do you resolve that?

Time management is pretty tough. I manage a team of almost 20 at work. In 2020 I tried to work part-time for a bit, to allow me to spend more time with my kid.

I tried taking Wednesdays off, but it didn’t really work for me. I would work until very late every Tuesday to get everything done, and then be tired all day and not really present with bub, only to find myself way behind again on Thursday.

Importantly — I don’t think that means part-time options aren’t workable in the profession, rather, it just didn’t work for me (ultimately I think managing our firm is probably a full-time role).

Our solution is flexibility: even though I work pretty hard, I can find pockets of time where I’m available. Our child tends to go to sleep a lot later than other kids and (fortunately) wake up a lot later too. It means even if I’m not home until 7, I might still get a couple of hours with him before bed which is nice.

What is your parenting hack?

If you never let them know the Wiggles exist, they won’t know to ask to watch the Wiggles, and you might not ever have to watch the Wiggles.

How do you maintain your mental health?

There’s no easy answer to that because everyone is going to have different challenges. What works for me might not work for others.

There are times where it all gets a bit much at work and time at home (with or without kids) usually helps with that.

Equally, when things are a little crazy at home, sometimes a quiet day in the office is great.

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Lawyers promoting collegiality, seeking access to justice.

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