Careers

From Big Law to Full-time Freelancer: How Pivoting to Freelance Work Helped Me Find Balance as a Military Spouse and Mom

By Michelle Camp, Esq.
November 11, 2021

In the fall of 2012, I made a decision that would forever alter my career trajectory:  I married an active-duty service member.  At the time, I was a young associate in a large, prestigious law firm with no idea what the future would hold.  My husband was very supportive of my career, and even passed on certain opportunities to ensure we could stay in California so I could continue working for my firm.  This is not always possible for military families, but we were lucky because we lived in San Diego where plenty of jobs were available to enable us to stay.

Fast forward to 2016, and I was a seventh-year associate at the same law firm, but now with two very young children at home.  As if the demands of billable hours and two young children weren’t enough, that year became even more challenging when my husband left on a seven-month overseas deployment when our girls were just 18 months and 5 months old.  

And as is common with military life, I didn’t have any family members close by to help pitch in from time to time, which left me solo parenting every single night and weekend.  Most days, I would come home from work, relieve our nanny, put the girls to bed, and then get back online and work until the wee hours of the morning.  

Somewhere during that time, I came to the realization that working full time at a traditional law firm just wasn’t compatible with my life as a military spouse and mom, holding down the fort alone, so far away from family.  At the same time, I wasn’t ready to completely give up my career, so I started looking into the possibility of part time freelance work.  Then, in May 2016, I turned in my notice at the law firm that had been my “home” for my entire career and took a big leap into the unknown.  

I had no idea way back then how life changing freelance work would be for me and my family.  It has afforded me complete control over my schedule which has been invaluable with a deployable spouse and young children.  It afforded me great flexibility and peace of mind when, less than a year later, I became pregnant with very high-risk twins, requiring endless doctor appointments and several hospital stays.  Working as a freelancer also proved invaluable when, a few years later, the Covid-19 pandemic hit, causing immense uncertainty and closing offices, daycares, and schools.  Flexible, freelance work has been a life saver during these difficult and unprecedented times, and in general as a mom of four young, very energetic girls. 

Further, as I’m no longer tied to California for my job (since I can do freelance work from anywhere), my husband was able to take on opportunities that required moves elsewhere, leading us to Alabama for a year for his master’s program, and then to Nebraska.  It has been amazing to be able to move with the military without the concerns of what I will do for work that many military spouses face.  

Freelance work has enabled me to balance continuing to do what I love (legal writing) with the demands of motherhood and military life.  Charting my own freelance career was the best career decision I could have made.  It has been such a great decision that I regularly recommend freelance work to military spouses and parents who are looking for portable, flexible careers, and recommend LAWCLERK as a great source for freelancers and firms looking to hire freelance help. 

Michelle Camp is a freelance attorney licensed to practice in California and Nebraska.  Since 2016, Michelle has been assisting solo practitioners, boutique firms, and in-house counsel with a variety of business litigation, arbitration, appeals, and labor & employment projects on a freelance basis.  She lives with her husband and four children in Omaha, Nebraska.  She can be reached at mcamp@kaycamp.com.  

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