Attorney at Law Magazine had coffee and gluten free donuts with Andrea J. Skolnick, attorney at Skolnick & Bardwell, P.A., to discuss balancing career and family and the pressures facing women in the legal profession. For five years, Skolnick has practiced law alongside her father, William R. Skolnick. Her ability to zealously advocate for others while maintaining a genuine, down-to-earth attitude has made her a great fit for family law practice. Skolnick combines compassion with common sense to deliver practical results to her clients.
AALM: What advice would you offer women legal practitioners trying to balance their lives and law practice?
AJS: Do less. Yes, you read that correctly. Do less so that you can be more for yourself. Women are expected to do it all and be everything, to everyone no less. This pressure, these seemingly endless expectations that have been thrust upon us not only affects our ability to be effective legal practitioners but affects how we show up outside of the workplace. I say that as someone who is fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive partner who understands the importance of equity. I find now, more than ever, fellow women practitioners manage just about everything both inside the household and out. In my divorce cases, I notice it becoming a significant factor in marital discord. If we are not talking about an equitable division of labor and responsibilities, let us start the conversation now. To future practitioners – plan for those late nights and lost weekends. They will come, but you do not have to be alone in them.
AALM: Do you find that as a woman you face any challenges that men don’t?
AJS: It is a common marker of success for women in our society: the woman who has it all – a spouse, children, a thriving career (and a fit body and flawless personal style, of course). Yet, it seems that men are seldom tasked with the same societal challenge of “having it all.” In fact, society’s barometer of “success” is brazenly different for men. Early on in my motherhood journey, my brilliant sister-in-law said to me, “You can have it all, just not at the same time.” If she and I were men, would we have even been having the same conversation?
AALM: What accomplishment are you most proud of achieving?
AJS: Being admitted as a member of the Minnesota Bar. Some may scoff at that response as though becoming a licensed attorney is not considered “enough” of an achievement these days. However, I consider it an honor and a privilege to act as an officer of the court and serve my clients during the most difficult and turbulent times in their lives.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
AJS: Without question, becoming a mother has been the most eye-opening experience of my life. The physical, mental and emotional experience of having a child has taught me more about strength, resilience and grief than I could have ever imagined. As a result, I have developed into a more compassionate and intuitive advocate for my clients. My little girl is only a toddler, but I have a feeling she may end up teaching me more than I could ever teach her.
AALM: What was the greatest lesson you learned in law school?
AJS: I never quite understood what my law school professors meant when they said, “Law school is nothing like practicing law” until I began practicing myself. I learn by doing. Thus, my experience working as a certified student attorney in the Legal Assistance to Minnesota Prisoners clinic was invaluable. If future practitioners have a chance to participate in a law clinic, seize that opportunity. I sincerely believe that hands on experience is instrumental in preparing future lawyers for the world of day-to-day practice.