Tick Tock: A Glimpse Into a Day in the Life of a Family Law Attorney

By John Murph

February 28, 2019

 Lin Delaney SmallerLinda Delaney no longer uses the term “work–life balance” when talking about her personal life and her role as a family law attorney and founding partner of Delaney McKinney, LLP. The line separating her passion for family law from her strong commitment to her own family is indistinguishable. “Despite all the lawyer jokes out there, there are still a lot of us who want to help people,” says 60-year-old Delaney, who’s married and has five adult kids.

Her work days often begin around 3:30 a.m. and end around 8 p.m. During that time, she’s working out or doing yoga in the morning, commuting from her Brookeville, Maryland, home to her Bethesda office, juggling numerous phone conversations and meetings with clients, supervising approximately five associate lawyers, attending weekly meetings and staff training sessions, reading the latest studies about child development, writing legal pleadings and articles, and preparing for court trials and conferences. “I really mean it when I say I don’t operate in days; I operate in chunks of time,” she says. “Sometimes I’m in the office at 4 a.m. because I work best in the quiet, [which is usually] in the morning.”

In her practice, Delaney says dealing with such emotionally taxing issues as divorce and child custody is akin to working in a hospital emergency room. “I talk to clients on holidays. Some know that I’m up at six in the morning, so they will call me, even when I’m driving. I’m always on the phone with someone who’s trying to figure out how to navigate the dissolution of their marriage,” she explains. “Right now, I’m probably working on a dozen cases that involve domestic violence.”

Then there are her other work-related activities such as serving as president of the Maryland chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, working with the Battered Women’s Justice Project, serving on the Georgetown Child Mental Health Advisory Council, and attending various fundraisers and professional development events.

Delaney says her work schedule is not a blueprint for all aspiring lawyers. “I don’t want people to think that this is what it takes to make it. I’m a founder type. You don’t have to be like the founder. Being lucky or cursed enough to be a change agent is a 24-hour job. If you have a passion for it, it’s going to take a lot of time. But the world needs lots more than the occasional change agent or visionary,” she explains.

A lot of assumptions are made about professional women having to do it all, Delaney says, while men have someone at their side to focus on family and the household. “It’s important to talk about the stereotypical division of labor that unfairly burdens women in terms of caregiving. But [that division] may unfairly [and stereotypically] burden men with having to be the primary breadwinner,” she adds. “I’m the primary breadwinner mainly because I make more money. I understand that pressure, but I also understand [that] having a true partner means, at home, we all do it all.”

Delaney says her husband, a physician, takes on about 70 percent of the duties at home. “We decided long ago that we wanted someone to be with the kids after school. So he worked at his medical practice from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. He was with the kids so that I was able to go to evening professional events.”

“The work–life balance focus on women? I don’t want it to matter that much [about] how I did it,” Delaney says. “I want how I think about the law to matter; I want my work to matter.”