Q&A with Sheryl Jaffee Halpern

Sheryl Jaffee Halpern, a principal at Much Shelist, counsels clients on a wide range of employment matters, providing clear, direct guidance designed to promote compliance with the law, while remaining cognizant of the practical workplace realities her clients face. She regularly conducts employment practices audits; oversees personnel management (including hiring, firing and reductions in force); conducts compliance training of management and rank-and-file personnel; creates employment policies and handbooks; prepares offer letters, employment agreements, restrictive covenants and separation agreements; implements performance management, discipline and discharge protocols; and investigates employee complaints and disciplinary matters.

How has the practice of law changed from when you first got into it?

Technology has made the practice of law significantly more fast-paced than it was back in 1993.  When I began my career, lawyers were not yet using e-mail, and faxes were considered high-tech.  The nearly universal use of e-mail and text messaging today has shortened my turn-around time and has enhanced my ability to respond to my clients’ needs quickly and efficiently.  This is particularly critical in my employment law practice, where my corporate clients often want to take immediate action that affects their relationship with their employees.  Providing prompt guidance that allows them to make quick, but educated, decisions helps them prevent disputes with employees and reduce exposure down the road.  The downside to technology is that it has diminished the amount of direct client contact attorneys have with their clients. In fact, at Much Shelist, attorneys are strongly encouraged to visit face-to-face with clients in order to mitigate the de-personalizing effects of technology.  In a relationship-driven business, it is important to make sure to stay in touch with clients in ways that don’t just involve a computer screen or a smartphone.

What advice do you have for law students?

Work on developing relationships – building strong, enduring relationships is what leads to success and satisfaction, both personally and professionally.  Recognize the potential in your peers – they may be your partners or your clients some day.  Be a giver – when you help someone succeed, it feels good, and they just may reciprocate.  Be accountable – do what you say you’re going to do, and do it to the best of your ability, and others will respect you and feel comfortable relying on you.

What are the challenges of maintaining a work-life balance?

Finding time to sleep!  In my best attempt to achieve work-life balance, I have developed the habit of waking up at around 5 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday so I can get work done before my kids wake up.  That way, I can feel that I’ve tackled what I need to get done and can give them my undivided attention without worrying about what may be in my briefcase.

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