Few would argue that working as an attorney is a stressful, demanding and time-consuming career.
It can be especially so for two Allentown lawyers, Sarah Hart Charette and Kenneth Charette.
The married couple are both enjoying dynamic careers. Sarah Charette, 35, and Kenneth Charette ,34, both made partner at their firms at a relatively young age, Sarah at Gross McGinley, LLC in Allentown and Kenneth at Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba across the street.
Sarah is a litigator. Kenneth is in his firm’s mergers & acquisitions practice. Both have been named Super Lawyers for the past three years and Sarah was recently named a “Woman to Watch” by Lehigh Valley Business.
With all of the boards they serve on and the work they do outside of the office, the couple would be busy enough, but throw in their 3-year-old daughter, Grace, and one might wonder how the couple manages their work-life balance.
“Spoiler alert, we don’t,” quipped Sarah Charette while speaking of the family’s busy schedule.
But the work they do to make sure they have as much success in their home life as they do in their careers is a balancing act they pull off more than they fail, and they’ve developed a system, with a lot of help from family and friends, to keep the gears of family life working.
The Charettes said it helps that they work in different offices and in very different types of law.
Sometimes Sarah will have a court date she can’t miss and Kenneth will have have to rearrange his schedule to help with some home responsibilities, such as picking up their daughter from day care.
Normally, one takes her to day care in the morning and one picks her up, but a trial doesn’t always work around a school schedule.
Kenneth’s work often comes to him at unusual times. It’s common for him to get a call on a Saturday about a business deal and he has to address the issue right away.
Sarah knows he needs to work, so she’ll take Grace out for a walk, so that he can have the quiet he needs to concentrate on business.
“In some ways it’s actually better that we’re both lawyers because we can sympathize,” said Kenneth.
They also give a lot of credit to the law firms they work for.
“While we have demanding jobs. They support our work life balance,” said Sarah. “They make sure we get home at a decent hour.”
She said most days she’ll spend about two hours going through her email on her laptop to make sure she didn’t miss something.
“We’re still together and talking while we do this,” she said.
Kenneth said the ability to find that personal time was one of the reasons both of them chose to work for the Allentown law firms.
“We both found out that’s not always the case at some larger firms that expect more hours,” he said.
Both said that doesn’t mean they don’t work hard at their careers and fully understand the demands of the job.
“Doing legal work is difficult and we were both named partners at a fairly young age, that was its own level of responsibility, but we knew what we were getting into when we decided to become lawyers,” Sarah said.
Another level is their volunteer work, which Sarah said is also important to them.
“I’m on about four boards and each one has at least one meeting a month,” she said. “We try to be selective with what we get involved in. We want to work on things we can actually contribute to.”
So, how do they do it?
“We’ve both learned over the years how to be more productive with the hours we do have,” said Kenneth.
Teamwork and scheduling help.
“The pandemic was our biggest challenge,” said Kenneth. “We were actually busier than ever in my work, and we had to develop a schedule to watch our daughter while we worked. We were a tag team, and we did that for months not knowing when it would end.”
But they don’t do it alone.
“We have a good support network of family that can bail us out when we need them,” said Sarah.
She said recently there was a small health scare with their daughter at day care. While it turned out everything was fine, she was happy her mother was able to make it into the day care before either she or her husband could, to make sure everything was OK.
It also helps to know they’re not alone.
“A lot of our friends are lawyers,” said Sarah. She said they’re surrounded by people with many of the same challenges, which keeps things in perspective when things get tough.