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Remote freelance attorney network’s co-founders share how motherhood ‘defined our careers’

A #MotherlyMakers interview with the lawyers behind a freelance law practice that’s transforming the trade.

Remote freelance attorney network’s co-founders share how motherhood ‘defined our careers’

Erin Giglia and Laurie Rowen are both lawyers and co-owners of Montage Legal Group, an attorney network with over 100 hand-picked freelance attorneys. The organization is a network of former large law firm associates and partners, who left law firms (frequently after having children), and now work remotely from home on a project basis for other law firms. Laurie and Erin have been recognized as leaders helping to create work-life balance in the legal industry. They talked to Motherly about what inspired them to start Montage, how motherhood changed their lives and their advice for other aspiring female entrepreneurs.


Motherly: Was there a moment when you realized that you needed to start Montage Legal? What clicked for you?

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Laurie: When my first daughter Brooke was born, I realized immediately that I wanted to spend a lot of time with her at home – much more time than my maternity leave would allow. I didn’t want to quit working altogether, but I wanted “extreme flexibility” in my law practice. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mother and a lawyer at the same time. This simply did not exist within an established framework in 2008, so we had to create it ourselves.

I founded Montage Legal Group in 2009 with Erin. We added our first freelance attorney to our network in January of 2010 about a month after my second daughter was born, and we’ve been growing ever since then.

Erin: After having my son, I was eager to continue my legal practice with the firm. My firm did everything they could to make that possible for me, and my schedule was very flexible. I worked from about 8:30 am until 4:30 pm, went home to take care of my son, feed him dinner and put him to bed. The tradeoff was that I had to turn my computer back on every night at 7:30pm, and I worked until midnight (or 2 am). As much as a loved my firm and my job, that schedule was not sustainable, especially after I had my second baby. Freelance practice, and ultimately entrepreneurship, was the answer for me.

Motherly: What is it about law that is flexible? What other models have you seen in the legal field?

Laurie and Erin: Law practice under a traditional law firm model is rarely flexible. We created Montage Legal Group to make law flexible, both for freelance attorneys and for the law firms that hire them. In a typical law firm practice, associates are often expected to be available nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As clients and the market push law firms away from this model, flexibility has been creeping in. Because lawyers are among the brightest and most educated people in the nation, they are certainly capable of creating practice models that lend themselves to more flexibility, including utilizing freelance attorneys to help make that happen. Freelance practice through Montage Legal Group offers attorneys ultimate flexibility with their schedules, and in turn, offers law firms an agile system to help them meet their important client needs in a pinch.


Motherly: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Laurie and Erin: Treat people how you want to be treated, even in business. We cannot remember who told us this, but this is one of the foundation blocks of Montage Legal Group. We have seen so many businesses and business people fail because societal rules often go out the window if it is “just business.” But our business is a huge part of our lives. We always try our best to be understanding and respectful with everyone in all aspects of our business, especially during stressful or complicated situations.


Motherly: How has motherhood transformed your career? What’s your secret to integrating work and family?

Laurie and Erin:Motherhood literally defined our careers. Motherhood was the transformative moment that made us realize that we wanted something different, something that would work better for us that did not already exist. Motherhood is the reason we created Montage Legal Group.

There are really no secrets to integrating work and family other than extreme planning. When we know a potentially busy time is coming up, whether it involves our children’s end of the year school activities or we are acquiring a business, we frequently say “This will be easy, if we just plan for it.” We try to anticipate stressful periods, and do everything possible to plan. It might be scheduling extra play-dates for our children so they are happy and occupied while we focus on work, or personally emailing all of our clients to get them the help we need prior to leaving for Hawaii with our families. We know business will take us away from our children at times, and we know our family will take us away from our business at times. We expect it, and planning gets us through those times.

And don’t be afraid to get help, either from family, professionals, or a network of friends. No one can have a successful career and a family without help.

Motherly: What advice do you have for women who are mothers in the legal field?

Laurie and Erin:It’s really, really hard to be a mother in the legal field, and that’s okay. Get in there and work hard, and gain the best experiences you can. But stop every so often and look around to make sure you’re on the path you want. Are you practicing in an area that you like and that gives you flexible options? Who are your clients? Will you be able to build a book of business? If you don’t know, then start trying to figure it out early. Above all else, get and stay connected. Meet people everywhere you go. Say yes to article writing and speaking engagements. These things build your credibility and your resume, which can lead to flexibility and career options.

Motherly: What keeps you inspired and excited every day?

Laurie and Erin: We are excited and inspired by bringing sense back to legal practice. Law, which is expensive for clients and often grueling for lawyers, sometimes feels like it doesn’t make sense. Lawyers are among the brightest and most educated people in the U.S., but they are also statistically among the most miserable. No one wants to spend hundreds of dollars an hour for something they don’t want to buy either. The Montage Legal network freelance attorneys are happy to help law firms grow and succeed by providing excellent work product and service. Law firms are happy to relieve some of their burden to people who are happy to help. Law firm clients are happy to pay less-per-hour to get help from an experienced freelance attorney. Everybody wins.

Motherly: What are your words of wisdom for other mothers wanting to turn their passion into a business?

Laurie and Erin:Write a business plan, or create a vision board, or both. Get in touch with people in your industry (through live networking or via social media), and ask them how you can be helpful. Offer to assist with writing articles, or share their information on social media. Once you build a relationship with someone, you can ask substantive questions and advice. Don’t ask for a job – ask for introductions instead. Be receptive to advice, and try to heed it when you can. If someone invites you to attend an event – say yes and show up!

Motherly: What are your big dreams for Montage Legal?

Laurie and Erin: Our biggest dream is to be the premier freelance attorney network in the nation, all while maintaining balance in our own personal and professional lives. We are well on our way!


Motherly: What does “Motherly” mean to you?

Laurie and Erin: Motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Every woman is different, every child is different, and needs change day to day, week to week, month to month, and year to year. “Motherly” means awareness – of yourself, of your family – to find what works best for all of you at a moment in time. No comparing yourself to others. Motherly means finding and doing whatever is best for your family.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

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Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

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Wooden digital camera

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Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

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Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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