Every month we feature an inspiring woman from our Access79 community who is making waves in her community and the world at large. In an intimate Q&A, we uncover the many sides of these multifaceted women and learn about their wins and loses, and how they are navigating and leaving their mark in this ever changing world. Chuckle, sob, and be motivated by stories that make us realize we’re not alone in our challenges and our successes.
We all think we have what it takes to be an attorney: I mean, between Elle Woods and Analise Keating we’ve easily streamlined the law school process, right? Practicing law is much more than meets the eye, though. Between long hours, intensive work, and family balance, lawyers often rely on the strength of their coffee to keep them going, not to mention the added stress of, say, arguing for the right to deliver your child without being penalized professionally. Yes, seriously. Google “pregnant attorney” and you’ll find a story just like that, a story where a pregnant litigator from Jacksonville, Florida had to fight opposing male counsel just to have time to deliver her child, a story that ends in triumph but makes you question why it was even necessary in the first place. This story made national news, and it happened in our backyard to one of our very own clients.
Meet Christen Luikart, a litigator out of Jacksonville, and this month’s Access79 Wonder Woman. A mother, wife, and hard-working attorney, Christen didn’t miss a beat when faced with discrimination in her job. Pregnant with her second child and in the middle of a case, she had to battle with male opposing counsel to move deadlines for her trial due to the impending delivery of her baby, a motion anybody in their right mind would grant, but something she had to fight for nonetheless. She won and was granted a continuance, but her engagement sparked a national outpouring of support and resulted in a large scale rule change that allowed future parents continuances without dissent. Christen’s resilience, hard-work, determination, and dedication to her family are exactly why she's this month’s Wonder Woman.
We dove a little deeper into Christen’s life with an intimate Q&A. Here are some of her answers:
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in law?
I’ve always struggled with explaining this answer since there was no one event that inspired me. It is more that I have always possessed certain innate personality traits that made it a foregone conclusion that I would pursue a career in law – if that makes any sense.
Q: What kind of law do you practice?
I am a litigator (trial attorney) who practices complex commercial litigation, with a specialization in product liability defense.
Q: What is your favorite part of being an attorney?
Advocating. My least favorite part is being involved in discovery disputes (if you know, you know).
Q: Can you tell me about any obstacle you overcame in your legal career?
Several. One noteworthy obstacle can easily be found if you Google “pregnant attorney,” which I believe is the first and only time that I’ve ever made national news. This obstacle involved an attorney opposing a continuance of a trial I sought based on the impending birth of my second child. The continuance was granted.
Q: How did you manage this?
I stood my ground with opposing counsel. Ultimately, I attended a hearing and argued my Motion for Continuance and against opposing counsel’s opposition to it. I shared the details of the situation with certain members of our legal community who lended support, which then resulted in an outpouring of support on a much larger scale, which then helped lead to change on a larger scale with a rule change to account for continuances based on parental leave (although much more work went into this than my very small contribution to it).
Q: How do you think we can mitigate and eventually eradicate such discrimination?
If we, as a profession or a society, say that these things matter then when violations occur, they should matter too. Realistically, I do not think imperfections in professions can fully be eradicated because people make up professions and people are imperfect.
On to more fun things…
Q: You have two kids, tell us a bit about them:
We are blessed with two girls: Cassidy (5yo) and Joleigh (2yo). Cassidy is sugar and Joleigh is spice. They are the best parts of my husband and me and a joy to watch grow up.
Q: What do you love most about motherhood?
Becoming a mother was and is the most empowering experience of my life.
Q: What’s your least favorite part?
Currently, lack of sleep (due to my two-year-old escaping from her crib at all hours of the evening) followed by deeply existential questions (without prior warning) from my five-year-old in the mornings on the way to kindergarten drop off.
Q: Do you think women can have it all?
So long as you are realistic, malleable, and fully aware that your definition of “all” is ever-changing, absolutely.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 5:30 and work out, get myself ready, tag-team getting the kids ready, drop off Cassidy at kindergarten, off to work, alternate picking up the kids, make dinner, baths, story time, (unless I have to run to a board meeting after work), etc.
Q: How do you find time to relax after a long day at work?
Depends on the day. Either reading a book, date night with my husband or happy hour with friends.
Q: What’s your definition of balance?
Not dropping any of the balls I juggle and making sure that my family feels seen, appreciated, and loved on a daily basis. Still working on the self-care portion of that equation…
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
Fun, unique, and age appropriate (at least that what I strive for).
Q: It has been such a pleasure to style you, do you have a favorite piece from Access79?
I tend to buy a piece of jewelry to signify a momentous occasion in my life, whether personal or professional, so they are each a “favorite” for a different reason (trial victory, moral victory, etc.). Thanks to your uncanny ability to pick out pieces for me, I have built up quite the collection and I am not mad about it!
Q: Rings or necklaces?