When Vinson & Elkins associate Becky Petereit had to find a nanny before her maternity leave ended, she knew who to ask. Petereit turned to her maternity mentor and colleague Angela Degeyter, and the two met for lunch mid-September at The Oceanaire Seafood Room.
“She spent over an hour discussing hiring a nanny; I had so many questions,” Petereit says. “I don’t know who else I might possibly have asked about that.”
Petereit says she had someone to turn to because of the firm’s maternity mentoring program, in which the firm matches a pregnant lawyer with a colleague who has had a child while a V&E lawyer.
Like Petereit, Degeyter is a bankruptcy/restructuring associate with the firm’s Dallas office.
“We talk all the time, and we had lunch at least monthly while I was out,” Petereit says. The two talked a couple of times weekly by telephone about different things going on with the baby and about what was going on with cases in the Houston-based firm’s bankruptcy/restructuring section, she says.
“She kept me plugged in,” Petereit says. “That was helpful when I came back.” Petereit returned to her practice Oct. 8, after a 12-week leave.
Degeyter says the firm’s maternity mentoring program creates a group that the firm’s expectant lawyers can turn to for information, encouragement and friendship. The mentoring program gives an expectant mom someone to talk with about how it is possible to be a partner, a parent and fully engaged in a career, Degeyter says. It also provides easy access to information about some of the hands-on aspects of motherhood, she says.
“We just have this network of support for the practical things: who are the good pediatricians, about play groups, resources that, without a network of support, it might take you a little bit longer to figure out,” Degeyter says. “I think, to start, it’s the practical things that are very helpful,” she says. “For instance, we all share maternity clothes.”
— Jeanne Graham
Editor's note: For more on parenting matters and women in law, read The New Mommy Track: Women Lawyers Really Can Go Part-Time and Still Make Partner, But It's Not Easy.