Being aware of developments in your organisation, the industry/industries you work in and changes in your area of practice all help you feel like an insider again. Being up to date in your legal area is a prerequisite for being fit to practise and knowledge breeds self-assuredness and confidence. Getting clued up through reading, conversations with colleagues or attending relevant course are all good steps and could be undertaken as part of a Keep In Touch day.
"I read my Journal and often colleagues would send me information about recently decided cases."
"I started back to work in a seconded role and tried to do a little research into the entirely new area of work that I was to be undertaking but I was very fortunate to be seconded into a very encouraging environment where I was given a lot of support to get up to speed."
"My first period of leave was reasonably short so my return was easier. My second period of leave was far longer and I kept up my CPD during my time off and tried to keep up to speed with any developments. Keeping in touch with friends and colleagues in the profession while you are off is also invaluable in keeping you up to date with practice."
"I was doing a course related to the type of law I do whilst I was off on maternity leave, which included examinations, so I didn't feel as though I truly switched right off. I didn't do anything specific though to get back up to speed before returning."
"I redirected update emails to my personal email address and tried to keep abreast of the current issues in my practice area."
"I planned to use the firm's website as a resource to read articles etc that my team had produced on developments in my area of the law. As it turns out, I didn't get round to doing that. I did meet a colleague for lunch shortly before returning and she updated me on key legal developments in our specialist area but I found that far more came flooding back on my return than I expected."
You've undoubtedly amassed a string of successes in the years running up to maternity leave. Now's the time to reflect and revel in them as a way to build your sense of purpose, value and gee yourself up to want to do it again. Updating your CV and refreshing your LinkedIn profile (or creating one) are practical tasks that will help trigger these reflections. Alternatively, or as well as, mentally reviewing positive feedback about what and how you've delivered for your clients is a good confidence booster.
"I didn't think about it. I knew I could do the job as well as I had done before."
"Having confidence in yourself, what you have been through and understanding that it takes time to get back into the swing of work is important. Hopefully the manager understands this and is supportive. Often they are not though, so having courage of your convictions is important and I wish I had been thinking ahead in terms of what my personal plan was at work. Having a CV prepared too is useful, as it gets you thinking about your own career instead of festering sometimes in a job which is unsuitable for what you now want in terms of work/life balance and work challenges."
The mere act of stepping out of your organisation for an extended period gives you something that should be valuable to your employer: a fresh perspective. You have the ability to look at projects and client challenges in a new way and if your employer isn't actively soliciting your views because of this, do see and sell yourself this way from the outset.
"Women can really turn motherhood to their advantage and use it as a basis for being more confident in the workplace. We should draw strength from having been through a life-changing experience that none of our male colleagues have."
You've been through a huge life event and acquired and developed skills that are valuable to your employer. You genuinely have developed greater empathy, patience, tolerance, efficiency and perspective through raising a child whether you see it in yourself or not. These skills, and probably more, are relevant and necessary in a team environment. Valuing yourself for these builds a sense of pride about who you are and what you have to offer.
"However clichéd, having children really does makes you more efficient; when you don’t have five minutes to yourself for months, you get really creative with time and budgeting and staying calm in a crisis – a long list."
It's good to know that what you're thinking and feeling is the same as pretty much everyone who's been in the position you are now - so talk it out with colleagues in the know. This could be a prime opportunity to build links with different colleagues or cement an existing work relationship: research shows self-disclosure breeds disclosure in others, which in turn increases liking. Women in Law Scotland (more details under Further Resources below) could be a useful resource too.