“Don’t doubt yourself. You can make your business work for you, and work the way you need it to,” offers Glencoe resident and attorney mama of twin girls, Carrie Herschman. In this Meet a Mom feature, Carrie shares her career path from CIA applicant to employment lawyer! You’ll love following along with this journey, complete with really strong advice for how to be a powerful business woman with a take-charge attitude. Welcome, Carrie!
Where are you from originally and how long have you lived in town? What brought you to your current town?
I hail from Baltimore – I moved to Evanston to study journalism at Northwestern and besides a brief stint in New York City I have spent the past twenty plus years of my life here.
Where did you meet your husband?
We met at a bar while attending University of Illinois Law School in 2001.
You’re a mama! How many kiddos do you have and how old are they?
I’m a girl mama with 5 year old twins.
What’s your favorite thing about being a mom? Any mom hacks?
My favorite thing about being a mom is experiencing the world through my girls. Their excitement about everything is contagious.
Packing lunches that the girls will actually eat is always a struggle. I’ve had some success with having them “help” me pack the lunches. If they have some say in what I pack for them they are more likely to actually eat it. So I give them certain choices, so they believe they are in control. The coup de gras is that they get to pick their dessert!
What is your least favorite mom job?
Bedtime, hands down. I’m really lucky because my husband is a fantastic hands-on dad. He puts them to bed while I clean up the kitchen. I definitely have the better end of the deal. That’s the time of day when all of us are at the end of our rope, the cup is running out. It’s wonderful to have him to help with that.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you…
I studied Russian in college and lived in St. Petersburg for a summer. By the time I graduated college, I was fluent. Unfortunately, if you don’t use it you lose it, so I cannot claim fluency anymore.
Fascinating! Why Russia and the language?
I studied Russian because I wanted to be a spy. I thought Russian was a good way to become a spy and I was correct. The CIA did, oddly enough, invite me to apply. During my time at Northwestern, I attended a job fair at which the CIA was present. Essentially I dropped off my resume happy to collect a prize – an official CIA pen! I didn’t think they’d take me seriously. I received a phone call a month later and started going through the interview process. Ultimately I made it through the second round and was invited to an all-day interview with about a dozen other people. This was 1999, I was all of 22 years old.
For our out of town guests, what are your favorite local places to spend with the family?
Pinstripes! We love going there for dinner and bowling. We are also big museum goers. There are so many wonderful museums in Chicago. Our current favorite is the Field Museum.
You are a mompreneur! Tell us about your business!
Yes! I am the founder and a partner at the law firm of Hershman Levison Hobfoll, PLLC, an employment law and litigation firm. I opened my first firm two weeks after I had my girls. When I became pregnant with the twins I realized I couldn’t be both a mom and a lawyer the way I wanted to be so I changed the paradigm. Literally two weeks after my girls were born I left my firm and started an employment law boutique with a new partner. Five years later I still credit my girls with giving me the courage to make that change. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do so but for my twins.
So many of our Meet a Mom features have that moment in their timeline when they completely take a chance and start a new path. Tell us more about that a-ha moment when you decided to start fresh.
I worked so hard for that pregnancy. Although it took two years to successfully become pregnant, we were really lucky with one round of IVF. While I was pregnant with not one but two children, I realized that I needed flexibility in order to be there for my girls. Starting my own firm made that possible – I could make business choices based on my priorities. Plus, everything now is done in the “cloud” so I can work from home when necessary!
What was/is the inspiration behind your business?
My girls are my inspiration. I never would have left where I was to start my own firm if I did not have them. But were it not for my mentors I don’t think I’d be where I am today. Throughout my career both before and after I became a lawyer I had mentors who really took an interest in me and my career. I was fortunate enough to have worked for one woman who was extremely successful as a lawyer. She taught me how not to just be a lawyer, but also how to run a business. I am a big believer in paying it forward and giving other women the same support and advice I received over the years.
What are some of your proudest moments with your business where you said “wow, I did that”?
First one was when I earned the down payment for our home in Glencoe. The mortgage company didn’t understand where I’d got all the money. Years before I had taken on a large case that finally had come to a resolution. The second, and the one I am most proud of, was when my husband joined my firm and became my partner. We had always talked about working together, but we were always worried about it – what if we didn’t make enough money, could we actually work together, all those concerns.etc. We bet on ourselves and I am so proud to say it worked.
Wow! What’s it like to work with your husband as a partner in your firm?
On balance, it’s great! When it comes to knowing who’s going to be responsible for children, we can volley with each other. It’s a bonus that you’re always thinking about your cases and strategizing together. This helps us come up with solid ideas. This is also a down side because it’s hard to decompress. We also don’t tend to work together on cases because it can certainly be a lot. 100% I’m a lot harder on him than any other partner.
What’s the most challenging thing about working with your husband.
With small children there isn’t much quiet. But you need some down time, we all do. We are together all of the time! We even commute in together. Not having the time that we cherish when you’re quietly on your way to work, reading or in the car listening to a book on tape or music can sometimes be overwhelming.
It’s so important that we occasionally place ourselves first! What nice things do you do for yourself?
I get out with my girlfriends for dinner and drinks, I love to read. Right now I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s new novel, Quichotte.
What are your professional accomplishments?
I am consistently recognized as a top lawyer in my field by my peers. I have been named a “Super Lawyer” in my field for years, and was again in 2020. I’m the immediate past president of the National Employment Lawyers Association, Illinois ( www.nela-illinois.org ). I primarily represent individual employees but I also serve as general counsel for some of my long standing business clients. I particularly enjoy counseling executives on how to negotiate for themselves – I call it executive advocacy. I am most proud, though, of the referrals I receive from former clients and opposing counsel. That’s the best compliment I can receive.
What business advice can you pass forward to our female readers?
I was lucky enough to have had a business mentor. I worked for a woman who had her own boutique firm. She was very well known and she was very good at negotiating on behalf of her clients and on behalf of herself. I think it’s really important that we pass that on to other junior women in the workplace because, women especially have a hard time. Having said that I have a few golden rules for us women when it comes to business:
- Don’t doubt yourself. You can make your business work for you, and work the way you need it to. The biggest obstacle is overcoming your own doubts.
- Accept help with the kids whenever it is offered. You cannot have too much help. It’s impossible to focus on your work if you are worried about your children, so you need to love and trust the people who take care of them in your absence.
- Do not apologize for your worth.
- Be firm. Don’t waffle with your explanations and answers. If you know the answer, say it with confidence and avoid using words like, “I think” or “perhaps.” If you don’t know an answer, say you’ll check it out and research it.
- Say it and believe it. Believe it and say it.
- You are your own best advocate.
- Take a risk. You can change the status quo if you try.
Is there anything you’re doing to groom your girls with this type of confidence?
I will always tell them, they can do it, whatever it is. I teach them to speak up and to ask questions and stand up for themselves. Knowledge is power.
How important is it for you to have a passion outside of being a mother?
I am an animal-lover. We have two dogs and a cat. My dogs give me such joy. They just love. Also they never roll their eyes at you the way your kids do. I also make a point to go out for some adult time at least once a month – either a date night with my husband or a girls night out.
When parenting gets hard, what’s something you tell yourself that gets you through?
It’s the age, it’s a stage. This will change.
What’s on the horizon for your business?
I’m really excited about some of the cutting edge class complex litigation we are doing at Hershman Levison and Hobfoll, PLLC. You’ll see more of HLH in that realm in the coming months.
Questions about employment law? Reach out to Carrie by calling 312-870-5800.