What should parents do when COVID and other common childhood illnesses are causing mayhem in the workplace? Isn't it sensible for an employer to step in and provide a solution? Some people don't think so. When attorney Billie Tarascio posted a job description for her law firm Modern Law in Mesa Arizona, TikTok, Reddit and Twitter were abuzz with negative comments over the job description for a legal assistant that included child care duties. The arguments ran across the board on a situation that affects every level of working parent.
In this video Billie talks with Attorney Kylie Bigelow about how the job posting turned into a hot topic of "Am I The Asshole?" on social media.
How do employers manage child care realities?
[00:00:05] Billie Tarascio: Hello and welcome to the Modern Divorce podcast. My name is Billie Tarascio and I am joined here today by Kylie Bigelow. And we are doing a special episode, a little different from our normal Modern Divorce podcast because this week stuff happened, like the internet blew up. We were getting a whole lot of hatred, and Kylie and I are just here to talk about.
Hi. How you doing? Good. I'm doing well. Yeah. It's been interesting,
[00:00:31] Kiley Bigelow: right? Very interesting. I I'm not used to this much attention .
[00:00:37] Billie Tarascio: No, no. We're not used to this much attention. Certainly not for this issue. And so for anybody that you know is new, here's what happened. Kylie has four year old twins and Kylie's, the managing attorney, Modern Law, and she and I have worked together for a long time.
And we were coming up with a creative solution to a [00:01:00] challenge that you had last year with your, your twins. So talk to us about what that challenge was.
[00:01:06] Kiley Bigelow: Right, so they're four-year-old twins. They're in, they've been in daycare and preschool full-time since they were, you know, a year old, but ever since, and I'm sure a lot of other moms and dads with little ones understand this.
But ever since Covid. At least every daycare or preschool that my kids have been at, they take extra precautions now, right? And so if your kid has a slight tummy ache, or oh, they have a 99 degree fever, you're getting that phone call from the school that you have to come pick them up, and then they have to stay home for 24 hours.
And so it's created this predicament, and I know it's not just me because I've talked to several friends and their kids, they're having to do the same thing with little ones. So you're constantly being interrupted in the middle of the day and you have to go and pick them up, and there's not much you can do about it.
[00:01:54] Billie Tarascio: Right? You right. How long do they give you, if they call you to say you need to come pick up your kids? How long do you.
[00:01:59] Kiley Bigelow: Typically if [00:02:00] you need to come right now. Right. So you can't even typically make other arrangements. And I know that's, you know, my husband, he works full-time as well, and he works in office most of the time and he's 45 minutes away from the school, right?
So typically they call me to come get them
Because I'm much closer to them from where I'm.
[00:02:20] Billie Tarascio: Got it. So you and I were talking about this situation and I proposed a solution to hire you, a legal assistant, an additional legal assistant to the legal team that you have now.
And that legal assistant would have a dual role. They would learn how to be a legal assistant. They would work under you. And in the event you got that call, instead of you being the one that needed to stop whatever you're doing with the client, with the court, with a another lawyer that you're training, that you would send this legal assistant to go pick up your kids, bring 'em back to the house where you work all the time, right?
[00:02:55] Kiley Bigelow: Right, exactly. And you know, half the time I would have to go get my [00:03:00] kids and bring 'em home. They were fine. Right. And they're fine. They're very active four year old twins. And so it makes working from home impossible when they're there. And I mean, they can be busy for a few minutes, but then it's Mom, mom, what are you doing?
I need this mom, mom. , in my opinion, I feel like I'm being a crummy mom if I'm trying to work and I'm telling them to be quiet or go sit over there, or you can't be near me right now. Mm-hmm. . And so all they want is attention. And that's what I'm looking for, is somebody to be there to help out during those odd situations.
[00:03:36] Billie Tarascio: And we don't know. We don't know how, how much of this is gonna even happen. You're estimating, how much of the time do you think somebody's going to need to watch your children?
[00:03:48] Kiley Bigelow: Maybe 10%. It, it's, it's not a ton. It just, it does happen.
[00:03:53] Billie Tarascio: And it happened a lot last year. I feel like. Last year was a, was a freak year and we've been doing this a long time.
You and I have been working together a [00:04:00] long time. I have four kids. I have been in this place where you get a call from school and something's happened and you have to be there and it's not really all that easy to compartmentalize. Lawyering and mom, we're on all the time. We're a lawyer and we're a mom all the time.
so we posted this position and the internet got ahold of it and they were angry. And there were two groups of people that were specifically very angry. There was a Twitter thread that had dozens of comments that were so angry that we would have the audacity to ask someone to do this job or solve this problem in this way.
And then there were paralegal. who were very angry that we would create this type of position. And I woke up to just a slew of comments and texts and one of my clients texted me and she's like, oh, wait until you see what's going on. Like, I can't believe you would do this. This is [00:05:00] very off brand for you, like, and.
It was jarring and I had to figure out like, how am I gonna respond to hundreds of people who are super upset about this job description? So I made a TikTok called Am I the Asshole, and that got, that currently has 50,000 views and 3000 comments, and then this morning we were trending on page one of Reddit and that has over 1500 comments and then a story broke.
And so there's a lot of questions, there's a lot of ideas, and it's spurring a conversation that I think is important and relevant and timely. So I thought that you and I could jump on this and talk about it and answer the questions and just have the conversation. We already described why we did it. Many people called this archaic and demeaning. What do you think about that?
[00:05:56] Kiley Bigelow: I don't think so at all. I think if anything, it [00:06:00] creates an opportunity for somebody that hasn't, you know, has been out of the workforce for a while and you know, wants to get into the legal field or wants to do a transition.
I, I don't see how it could be demeaning to anybody at all.
[00:06:15] Billie Tarascio: Well, there's almost this assumption that legal work and childcare or legal work and motherhood just shouldn't touch, like, don't talk about it like it's a dirty word and. I just can't believe that that is the conversation we're having in 2023 when we all work from home.
When, when kids can't have sniffles anymore and go to school because of covid. Like, I can't believe that that is the discussion. . So another, another comment is, well, there's a lot of questions. Would the person have sick pay or how could you expose them to illness? Why don't you describe our, our sick pay.
[00:06:55] Kiley Bigelow: So we have a set amount of p t O days, and so if you're sick, you can be off and [00:07:00] I will manage, or I will work with other family or my husband to, you know, help my kids. I'm not expecting you to come take care of my kids when they're sick. And then if my kids are really, really sick, I'm not gonna have to make you forced to stay with them.
I'm not gonna do that. You know, it's, it's those off chances that, like I said, with the Covid stuff, now it's, they have a sniffle or a tummy ache or, you know, but if they're throwing up everywhere or you know, really, really sick, I'm not gonna make you be around my kids.
[00:07:31] Billie Tarascio: Right, right. And I mean, so I had nannies because, This happens as a mom with young children.
You are asked to juggle both. You cannot compartmentalize, and the only way that I have been able to. Work and be successful and have the career I have is is not by compartmentalizing, it's by integrating. It's by figuring out how can I meet the needs of my employees, my [00:08:00] clients, and my children, and my obligations all at once?
And I feel like that's kind of what Covid did is it woke us up to this, this hard line that we were trying to draw between our work life and our home life. And it really opened up the discussion of how do. How do we make our whole life work? But there was still such a backlash that you would ask someone who has the role of a legal assistant to also have the skills or the role of a childcare provider.
Now at this point, how many applications have we gotten?
[00:08:32] Kiley Bigelow: I think it was over 50 or 60, and that was within, I think, a 24 hour time period.
[00:08:38] Billie Tarascio: So as we started talking about it, more and more people were like, I would love that job. I used to be a teacher. That would be perfect. I would be so bored being a legal assistant all the time.
Like I'd love the variety. Like there was so many people who resonated with the idea and liked the idea of being able to do both. How are the interviews.
[00:08:59] Kiley Bigelow: [00:09:00] We already have a few set up for next week and I've met some people before and you know what, they had both backgrounds. A lot of 'em or you know, are moms and they've had little kids and just cuz they didn't work in a daycare center, you know, doesn't mean that they wouldn't be a good care provider for my kids.
Mm-hmm. . And the benefit too is, you know, I'm, I saw a lot of comments about, well, what do I think? Or, you know, how could an employer pick, you know, a childcare provider for their employee? But I'm the one that's been running it with my HR team. You know, we're doing the interviews. In fact, I had some come to my house and actually meet my kids.
So it's a normal vetting process that I'm doing. I'm not just being thrown somebody saying, here this is who's gonna watch your kids? That's
[00:09:42] Billie Tarascio: not the. Yeah. Many people assumed that I had the audacity to shove this idea on you because I wanted you in the office. Many people asked, well, why can't she just work from home?
Now? What? How do you answer that?
[00:09:59] Kiley Bigelow: Well [00:10:00] I do work from home almost entirely other than when I have to go to court or a client wants to meet in person. But working from home with four year old twins is tough. Like I said before, they want attention. They need help with, you know, setting up their iPad or you know this, they don't like this TV show that's on, or this toy's not working, or they wanna see who's on camera.
It, it's, it's just nonstop. They're both very active, four year old kids.
[00:10:27] Billie Tarascio: Yeah. The expectation that somehow we can work from home as lawyers and also while our children are unmonitored by other people is mind blowing to me. And I just have to wonder, like, do these people have children? ? Have they tried that , the expectations are just crazy.
One person, or one of the questions was, are you going to provide this benefit for everyone? And I, I think that that is a fair conversation and it's one worth [00:11:00] having. There's no way that this is the right solution for each of our employees. There just isn't. So we have, for every employee a flexible work schedule.
You're allowed to flex your time. Every single employee can leave in the day, go to a parent-teacher conference and do that work at a different time. So we have already built in flexibility for every single person that works at the firm, whether you're a mom or not. But you needed something very specific, and so we were working to come up with a very specific solution.
If someone else had a problem, we would experiment and figure out a problem from that angle. So it, it's not, I don't think a one size fits all solution.
[00:11:47] Kiley Bigelow: No, I, I agree with you and especially, I mean, you know, some of our employees have older kids mm-hmm. that, you know, they can go pick up and those kids are gonna be completely self-sufficient and they can do their jobs while their kids are at home.
So it is gonna be different. I [00:12:00] don't think anybody else at the firm has, you know, four year old twins that were getting routinely sick last year, or like I said, you know, having all these covid precautions in place. So it, it is a unique circum.
[00:12:12] Billie Tarascio: But when Covid hit, that's when we went fully remote. We were always flexible.
We always allowed remote, but after Covid happened and families. Started operating differently. We changed the firm to accommodate what our employees needed and wanted and could benefit from. So people can work in the office or they can work from home because we have the systems and processes set up to do that.
And many of our working parents leave at three to pick up their kids and come back. They simply write on Slack, they communicate with. You know, or put on their calendar on an ongoing event. I'm picking up a kid at this point and that works. So there's no, there wouldn't be a need to provide the benefit universally to everyone.
But you and I did talk about how if there are other [00:13:00] people who have sick kids, it may make sense to float this person.
[00:13:02] Kiley Bigelow: Oh yeah, absolutely. And I think for me, one of the big differences too was, you know, prior to last year, my husband was able to work from home every day and he was able to help out. But then, you know, they made him come back in office and so, you know, unfortunately he doesn't get that flexibility like I do.
Or the opportunities to have somebody come and help.
[00:13:22] Billie Tarascio: Yeah, that was one of my favorite recurring comments. Where's this woman's husband?
[00:13:28] Kiley Bigelow: Oh, he is just in the other room? No, he's at work too. And unfortunately, you know, we both have to work. That's just how it is today.
[00:13:36] Billie Tarascio: And there were many a days when you were.
when you weren't, when you were working and Walter was taking the day off and Walter was with the kids, or you both were juggling kids at home? . So don't you wanna be around your kids when they're sick? That was another comment.
[00:13:52] Kiley Bigelow: No, not really. No, I'm joking. No, of course. When they're really sick, I know what they want.
They want mom, I mean, I've had them throw up on, you [00:14:00] know, every normal thing that would happen with a little kid. And again, I'm not talking about those situations. I'm talking about these protocols that are put in place when your kid has a sniffle and has to come home and then all of a sudden your kid's fine when they get home.
So that's what I'm talking about.
[00:14:16] Billie Tarascio: Another question was tax consequences. So this is an interesting one. It's an interesting one for a couple reasons. First, it's pretty well known as part of the discussions that I've watched on this especially in the Mother lawyers group. It's pretty well known that owners do this all the time.
All the time and write it off as a business expense. But now that we're talking about it for an employee, and maybe these same, same people would be outraged about lawyer owners getting the help, but I kind of doubt it because it's simply more accepted. The tax issue is an interesting one because if you are getting a personal benefit, you are supposed to be claiming that as taxable income.
And [00:15:00] until we do the experiment, we will not know what that looks like. So the only thing that we can do is work together and communicate to make sure that we are dotting our I's and crossing our Ts. Mm-hmm. , the other question is Well, and I wanna talk about how did we manage to work this out economically?
Because every single person in our firm can can work remote some of the time or all the time, and has KPIs, key performance indicators, because we're not watching them work from home. And those key performance indicators are revenue goals. And so one of the things that we had to figure out is, can we give this person a revenue goal?
How do we do that? And so what's the way that you and I work together to come up with that?
[00:15:41] Kiley Bigelow: Right. So I have a number that I'm supposed to hit, you know, every quarter. And essentially this person's revenue goal would be combined with mine. So if I'm having to utilize this person a lot more for childcare, then I'm gonna make up, you know, and the idea is that I don't have to care for my kids.
And lose time that I would be able to make up whatever they're losing [00:16:00] for their revenue goal. So they're not going to be held accountable to that goal necessarily if they're having these other responsibilities. That's my job to make sure they're doing and getting to where they need to be, whether it's by me making it up.
[00:16:13] Billie Tarascio: and when we looked at you all as a combined unit, that's the concept. The idea here is that if you have the ability to get work done, you couldn't otherwise get done. That's a benefit to the firm. It's a benefit to your clients. It's a benefit to the lawyers that you're supervising or training, and it just gives us all more flexibility.
Now, there was an article that dropped yesterday. And there were two versions of this article. Thankfully it was amended after I gave comments. The first version was brutal, but the headline here is Arizona Law Firm slammed over legal assistant slash childcare job. And there are some comments in here that I want to address.
There is [00:17:00] this one. Why not just pay your employees more so she can afford childcare in unexpected situations? Let's address that first. .
[00:17:08] Kiley Bigelow: So again, my kids are in preschool five days a week full-time, and so I, I do get paid enough to be able to put them in a very nice preschool. The problem is, is these unexpected events that happen.
I don't know where you can just. On demand call for somebody. I mean, I don't think they make an Uber for on-demand nannies. It just doesn't exist. I, I, you and I don't wanna ha have some stranger that I go on hit, you know, pick up my kids to go pick up my kids. It just, I, I don't know how that would work. I don't see how that's even possible.
[00:17:45] Billie Tarascio: It's a little outta touch ,
[00:17:47] Kiley Bigelow: right?
[00:17:48] Billie Tarascio: Right. I mean, you can't afford childcare and you do afford childcare. That's not the problem. Or recognize that she may not always be available with sick kids.
[00:17:57] Kiley Bigelow: I, I get that, but at the same [00:18:00] time, sometimes it's not even up to you. It's, you know, I could have a court hearing, right?
Or, you know, a client's depending on me, right? And so if Court says I have to be there and I call and say, oh, my kid has the sniffles. I have to stay home. They're not gonna care at all. I have to be there.
[00:18:17] Billie Tarascio: Right? Right. You have to be there. We have obligations as lawyers that are crazy and, and I wanna talk about Jim Wilbur.
So Jim Wilbur is the principal of legal consulting at Altman Weil. We, and he found the job posting rather baffling. He said, it's a bad look for the firm for a number of different angles. To say upfront that the legal assistant will drop everything, including, presumably client matters when childcare requirements or needs come up.
Yeah. I can see why some lawyers would be very bothered because it, it at least implies the client is secondary, not primary. How can we address that?
[00:18:56] Kiley Bigelow: Well, I mean, the, the fact is that I'm there. That I [00:19:00] can be the one that's going to be taking care of those clients in that situation. And I think most clients would, you know, most of the time like that, I'm the one primarily taking care of them versus a, a legal assistant.
[00:19:12] Billie Tarascio: Right. The ethical obligations are to the firm and to the lawyer, right. Not to support. And this is literally a support role. How does this person support the lawyer so that the lawyer can do his or her job better and more effectively? Exactly. He went on to say he's watched clients. Work to navigate the work-life balance for lawyers who have young children, and there are ways to help parents without blending childcare and legal work.
Find somebody who wants to do the childcare and leave the paralegal part of out completely, because you are more likely to get somebody that would want to do it and be good at it. What do you think about that
[00:19:55] Kiley Bigelow: again then? Then you're essentially saying to find somebody to do childcare full-time [00:20:00] and I don't need that.
My kids are in childcare full-time
[00:20:03] Billie Tarascio: and it's so judgmental. Right. It's like, it's like keep this woman's shit out of the workforce. I don't wanna hear about your childcare problems. Right.
[00:20:18] Kiley Bigelow: It's very traditional mentality. I was,
[00:20:20] Billie Tarascio: it's a very traditional mentality and I really was caught off guard completely. The other interesting thing is at this point, so many people have weighed in and it's really interesting because lawyers seem to be split. There's traditional lawyers who are offended by the concept and then, Mm.
There's a mother's Esquire Facebook group that has another, you know, 120 comments that are mostly like confused. Why is this a problem? The job description's very forthright about what the job is. If you don't like [00:21:00] it, don't apply. So there's that. And then the other group that really, really didn't like it was paralegals.
They felt very offended by the job. What do you think about that?
[00:21:11] Kiley Bigelow: I think one thing to clarify too is that this isn't a paralegal role, right? You're gonna be doing legal work, but they are not a full-time paralegal. I mean, this is an opportunity for them to get to that position eventually, which then at that point, we're not gonna ask them to balance, you know, childcare and that.
But it's interesting to me that they're offended. Right. You know, again, knowing that it's, it's two separate jobs. We're not asking them to do both at the same time. A lot of 'em seem like they were insulted almost that it was insulting their role. Right. Which, again, what we're doing is, this is more of an entry level position, is giving somebody an opportunity to get into the legal field and work their way up if they want to.
And you know, balancing that a little bit, very little bit with helping out with some [00:22:00] other, you know, roles such as childcare.
[00:22:01] Billie Tarascio: It's just crazy because it means it to me, it shows. The amount of devaluing of, of parenthood and of childcare responsibilities to think, because we know that parents have responsibilities, but it's so demeaned that that the idea that we would ask anyone to help with those duties that isn't simply dedicated to being a full-time child work care worker is just so interesting to me.
[00:22:32] Kiley Bigelow: Right. Why can't you do.
[00:22:36] Billie Tarascio: Every day. Do you feel like less of a professional because you're a mom? No, I do not feel like less of a professional because I'm a mom. I, I feel like it has made me a better lawyer. It's made me a better mentor, a better boss, like it's part of our life and I just don't think we should have to hide it.
[00:22:57] Kiley Bigelow: And I think it'd be interesting too, is if these [00:23:00] people were offered the same opportunity, would they turn it down? To be able to have somebody to come in and help them with their kids.
[00:23:08] Billie Tarascio: I know, right? There was just so much read into this. It was like they had to read into this, that I was somehow forcing you to do this so that I could exploit you.
Yeah. it's been, it's been bizarre. It's been bizarre. The other thing I wanna talk about for a minute is video cover letters. So we invite candidates to submit video cover letters. We've done it for several years. We really like it. Usually it's. Optional. So for instance, if somebody responds to our application, they send in a great resume and they send in a great cover letter and they don't send in a video cover letter.
It's not like we're going to refrain from talking to them, but I wanna talk about it because we are Modern Law. We're constantly running experiments. We're constantly sort of pushing the envelope and looking at things in a different way. And there were a lot of comments that video [00:24:00] cover letters are inherently racist or.
Ableist and what do you think about that?
[00:24:06] Kiley Bigelow: I, I disagree. I think it just gives you a chance to get to know somebody's personality, you know, how they're gonna work. I mean, you're gonna meet them anyways in an interview in person. So I don't know how it's really different.
[00:24:17] Billie Tarascio: That's, that's the part that I don't understand.
[00:24:20] Kiley Bigelow: I mean, you could say the same thing about an in-person interview. I mean, so should we just do blind interviews where you don't ever see the person and you make a decision, you know? That doesn't make sense,
[00:24:30] Billie Tarascio: right? I mean, one of the reasons we like to do it is first of all, we get to see their personality.
We get to hear them, we get to see them. We get to know if they can use technology because we work remote. You have to be able to do this and be successful at Modern, Law it. It wouldn't be a good culture fit if you did not know how to engage with this type of technology. But also hearing somebody's voice and seeing them is just so valuable.
I don't understand the difference, like what you said between somebody who's [00:25:00] racist in an interview versus in a cover letter. I don't understand that, but I mean, it could be that there is evidence of that. I can tell you our firm, we have a DEI I committee, diversity, equity, inclusion, and go out of our way to recruit for diversity.
We're, you know, we do our very, very best to recruit. We're trying to recruit males, cuz right now we're all female and that's our diversity issue at the moment. But it was, it was, it was interesting. It was just interesting to hear people look at a job description and feel so much anger towards it that they would want to bash us online.
And then you have to realize this becomes news, There's an, there's an article about us now, and thankfully we were able to present an alternative opinion on TikTok because we have an audience. Modern Law has an audience. We know how to talk about how we're different and [00:26:00] why we're different, and we're not afraid of that.
But I would feel so badly for another firm that tried to do something different that got slammed and ended up with an article about how archaic they are.
[00:26:12] Kiley Bigelow: Yeah. No, I, I totally agree. It's just, it, it surprises me that people actually have the time to Care this much , I never would've thought, you know, that this would've come up ever.
[00:26:25] Billie Tarascio: Right. I am grateful that we've gotten all these applications and that we, and I'm really grateful mostly for the ability to start having this conversation in a different way, to think critically about our roles as professionals and how we're integrating. Our life and how we're supporting our employees.
So I'm very, very grateful for that. And Kylie, you've been a trooper this week with all the attention and everything going on, so I as always really appreciate you.
[00:26:56] Kiley Bigelow: I appreciate you.
[00:26:57] Billie Tarascio: Thank you. That is it for this [00:27:00] episode of the Modern Divorce Podcast. Thank you so much for joining us. If you have enjoyed this episode, make sure to rank it and leave a review, and we appreciate you very much.
We'll see you next time.