Lean in or step back: How to choose what works for you

Sponsored by Kean Miller LLP

Each day, women make tough choices for their families and in their careers. The convenience of email and texts reaching us anywhere and at all hours blurs the line between work and home. Building work-life balance requires us to decide what’s really important and where we choose to devote our time and energy.

Kean Miller law firm is known for its strong female representation. Law partners, philanthropists and moms, these local women are inspiring. Kean Miller Partner Katie Bell has spent the last 15-years with the firm. That’s 15-years of growing her career and her family. Katie shares how she weighed some of the big decisions to find success and balance in her career and life.


With two young boys at home, Katie was given the opportunity to join a trial team for a multi-million dollar case. What began as helping manage the case quickly shifted to Katie taking witnesses at the trial, as well as preparing and delivering the opening statement and closing argument. Delighted with her performance, the client asked Katie to handle another large matter and subsequent trial. “I didn’t know saying yes seven years ago would take me here,” Bell says, “but I am so glad I said yes.”

Katie recognizes that she has been fortunate to have many mentors. “Each of my mentors, in their own way, reassured me that I could do it and that they believed in me,” Katie says. “As my biggest cheerleader would say, ‘Show them who Katie Bell is!’”

—Kean Miller LLP Partner Katie Bell


“If the opportunity feels right and makes you equally excited and nauseous, then do it. Say yes to help—more people helping, means more people are there to love your kids.”



Ultimately, Katie leaned in and ran with the opportunity. “I was not the only one who leaned in—my husband, boys, mom and friends leaned in as well,” she says, noting they all grew through the experience. When work got particularly busy, her mother would come once a week to help with homework and after-school activities. Katie really looked forward to those days, because she would come home to a hot meal, happy kids, a clean house and an extra cheerleader on the sidelines of her own personal football game.


Learn to say no. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. It’s important to make sure that you prioritize your time remaining mindful of what’s most important to you. Choose your focus and decide what you’ll say yes to and what you’ll decline.

Perfection is relative. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect and worrying too much about everything being just right can lead to increased anxiety, depression and a total lack of work-life balance. Instead of worrying about being perfect, try to reframe your thinking around contentment and being enough and those imperfections won’t seem so big.

Schedule some down timeYour schedule is filled to capacity and if you want to be able to keep up without burning out, it is imperative that you schedule down time to reboot your system. Even punctuating your day with 20 minutes in the afternoon to unplug and just be still can have a positive impact and free you to think more clearly through your strategies.

Stop apologizing. There is a difference between being accountable and being over apologetic. If you make a mistake at work or at home, which you will, be accountable. Simply acknowledge what you’ve done, take responsibility, and make it clear that you’re going to fix the situation—then move on. Stop the inner dialogue and guilt.

Click here for more information about Katie Bell and the Kean Miller firm.