Partner Susannah Chester-Schindler discusses work/life balance and the effects of the Me Too Movement explaining that everyone must re-analyze their actions and inaction in the pursuit of equality and fair treatment.
As we near the end of Women’s History Month, Waters & Kraus, LLP continues to celebrate with our next female attorney spotlight focusing on Susannah Chester-Schindler. Ms. Chester-Schindler is a trial lawyer and partner in the firm’s Dallas office. She has been practicing law for over 10 years and has been a partner for two years. She has graciously taken time out of her busy schedule to sit down with us and answer a few questions.
Our own Brandy Dietz caught up with Susannah for details.
BD: You seem to have a good handle on work/life balance. How do you manage it all – maintaining a successful career and raising a young family?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: Well, first I laugh at the question because most days I don’t manage this! And hats off to all mothers, whether they work in the home or outside the home, who do manage it!
In all seriousness, managing work/life balance is a constant effort. I am fortunate to have grown up with two women who set a high bar for me when it comes to maintaining a successful career and raising a family. My mother was a former R.N, who then went to law school and has worked as an attorney since I was born. She is the ultimate example of a woman who devoted the utmost focus and commitment to her profession, while also showing constant love to her family. To do this, however, she needed help. When I was three months old, she hired Dottie who became my nanny, the housekeeper, and who is truly part of our family. Dottie was a mother of three children herself (although they were grown when she joined us). She had worked as a young mother as well, at every job from Russell Stover Candies to operating her own janitorial business. My mother and Dottie taught me that hard work, smart thinking, and love will get you through just about everything.
To manage work/life balance, I’ve tried to take the best of each of their lessons and blend them into my own balancing act. I am extremely fortunate because I have a father who is gender-blind – in his mind, there is nothing a man can do that a woman cannot. And in that way, I was able to draw on his lessons as well. Candidly, it rarely occurred to me that I could not do everything – work and family. Perhaps most importantly, I am able to maintain a work/life balance because I have a husband who is a full partner – he can work an 80 hour week and then spend the day changing diapers and reviewing homework without blinking.
BD: How has the firm responded to your obligations beyond work?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: My experience at Waters & Kraus was unique because I had phenomenal, female attorneys who came before me and ensured that the firm responded respectfully to any obligations I had outside the firm. Hard-nosed litigators, cerebral appellate lawyers, clever intake lawyers, and miracle managers – there was one of each at the firm when I started. They ensured that the firm fulfilled its legal obligations to our clients in an exemplary manner while also ensuring that the firm was flexible in allowing attorneys to handle obligations beyond the firm (the most obvious in my case being two pregnancies).
The fundamental fact of the matter is that litigation does not stop when an attorney faces an important obligation outside of work. My cases sure did not pause when I got married, pregnant, or had deaths in the family. The women of Waters & Kraus recognized this, spoke up, and their male counter-parts listened. In doing so, the firm helped me meet my professional obligations and my personal obligations.
BD: As a female attorney, are there any particular challenges that you have had to endure that maybe your male colleagues have not had to face?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: All attorneys, female or male, face challenges. To choose to be an attorney is to choose a life of service. Whether you represent individuals such as myself or big banks (such as my husband), you are expected to step in day or night to serve your clients. That’s both a privilege and a tremendous hardship. As attorneys, we understand this dynamic and accept the demands of our profession. The challenge arises when our chosen profession places demands on those we love, who did not necessarily choose this lifestyle. Ensuring that my profession is not too demanding on those individuals is the biggest challenge.
BD: What, if any, effects have you seen on the legal field as a result of the Me Too Movement?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: Awareness. There is a hyper-awareness within the legal community that I operate in of the Me Too Movement. The undercurrents are everywhere, which is important. It forced everyone, myself included, to re-analyze our statements, our action, and our inaction to ensure that women receive equal treatment to men. I grew up playing soccer, primarily with men when I was older, and I view it like this: I may not make the team, I may not score a goal, and indeed I may lose miserably. But I have the right to try out, under the same rules, and if I’m good enough you better put me on that team. Period.
BD: Why did you want to become a lawyer?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: I watched The Rainmaker with Matt Damon. I never wanted to be an attorney, figured I’d be a veterinarian. Then I watched that movie and the seed was planted.
BD: What do you like about being a lawyer now?
Ms. Chester-SchindlerBeing a champion for someone in need. Lame? Maybe. True? Yes.
BD: Do you have a favorite client or most memorable case you can share?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: No . . . my husband rolls his eyes because I have “a new favorite client” just about every time a new client walks across my desk. Candidly, we represent hard-working Americans who are sick through no fault of their own. What’s not to like? They’re all favorites in their own way for their own reasons.
BD: Is there a funny, sad, or most memorable moment that you can share?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: Yes, but half the defense bar would laugh and one member would go apoplectic. Let’s leave it at that.
BD: Fair enough, is there anything else you want to share as we close out?
Ms. Chester-Schindler: Yes. Thank you to all the hard working women and men of Waters & Kraus.
Susannah Chester-Schindler is a native of Arizona. She earned both her bachelor’s and Juris Doctor at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. Ms. Chester-Schindler was admitted to the State Bar of Texas in 2007 and joined Waters & Kraus directly out of law school. She was admitted to the State Bar of Louisiana in 2011. Ms. Chester-Schindler’s practice is devoted to litigating product liability actions from “stem to stern” focusing on cases arising from asbestos and benzene related injuries. She is a member of the American Association for Justice. In addition to her professional activities, Ms. Chester-Schindler is a member of Annie’s List and she serves as a member of the Temple Emanu-el ECEC Parent Teachers Association, as well as the White Rock Elementary School Parent Teachers Association.
About Waters & Kraus, LLP
Waters & Kraus is a mid-sized plaintiffs’ firm experienced in a variety of practice areas, including asbestos litigation, benzene, medical device injuries, birth defects linked to toxic exposures, and qui tam whistleblowers. The attorneys at Waters & Kraus are fighting to hold corporations responsible for their negligent actions and are prepared to take each and every case to trial to ensure justice for their clients. Email us or call at 800.226.9880 to discuss your potential lawsuit.
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