A Chapter of the Women's Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY)
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Interview of the Month

An Interview with Allyson J. Lanahan

Susan L. Pollet
Chair of the Archive and Historian Committee

Q: When and why did you become involved in the WWBA?

A: The Westchester Women’s Bar Association offered a natural starting point for reinventing myself as a working mother when I was ready to pick up my legal career after taking time off to start a family.  At that point in my life it was important to connect with other women who had successfully navigated professional and family responsibilities.  As our culture is slowly starting to acknowledge, this careful balancing act is largely the province of women, and I found the support and guidance of the women I met at the WWBA to be a vital part of my successful re-entry.

      Some of the women I met through the WWBA during those early re-entry days ultimately became my colleagues and mentors.  A neighbor of mine suggested I reach out to Stephanie Melowsky who graciously responded to my out-of-the-blue email inquiry and invited me to an inspiring diversity lecture organized by the WWBA Diversity Committee. 

      Through Stephanie, I connected with then-president, Susan Edwards Colson.  Susan invited me to Law Day where I was inspired to see the WWBA reaching out to engage the next generation of lawyers.  Susan and I later went on to found and co-chair the Women in Professional Transition Project in order to support WWBA Members making changes in their legal careers, as I was doing.  This turned out to be a great way to meet and help other members.

      Around that same time, the WWBA hosted its annual Cocktails and Conversation event on the rooftop at the Red Hat.  I was introduced to then incoming president Lisa Denig who was her usual charming and energetic self.   She introduced me to anyone and everyone she thought I should know, including my future co-chair of the real property committee, and now trusted mentor, Michele A. Luzio.  After being introduced that night, Michele and I ended up co-chairing the Real Property Committee together for the next three years! 

      It’s remarkable to look back now and recognize how these inspiring and dedicated women supported me personally, and professionally, as I navigated my re-entry into the legal field.

Q: Which WWBA activities have you participated in?

A: While part of the WWBA, I’ve cochaired the Real Property Committee, and the Women in Professional Transition Project. Each of these roles has offered me the valuable opportunity of connecting with other women in the WWBA and Westchester’s broader legal community.

      This network is especially valuable to me as a solo practitioner. In particular, the community of members in the real property committee, has become a valuable collaboration among knowledgeable practitioners in the field.  Our bi-monthly meetings provide an opportunity to identify and discuss common practice issues.  During my time as Co-Chair, it has been a goal of the Committee to offer its members a space to learn and sharpen skills by harnessing the collective experience and legal expertise of the larger group.  Frequently the members make client and resource referrals to support one another.  Furthermore, on a personal level, it’s been very rewarding getting to know that group of women.

      Susan Edwards Colson and I founded the Women in Professional Transition Project to support WWBA Members making changes in their legal careers.  We recognized there was value to be offered to Members by providing a place to connect, and to exchange ideas and resources. Among the group there was always something to learn, a referral to be made or a way to expand our networks.  This project was doubly rewarding because supporting other women in professional transition helped me with my own.

Q: Tell us about your practice, including what you like most about it and what are you find most challenging.

A: I am a solo-practitioner specializing in residential real estate and estate planning. 

      On the real estate side of things, I really enjoy working with first-time buyers, and helping them transition to the next chapter in their lives.  They usually have a lot of questions and it is rewarding to be able to offer them guidance and peace of mind.  I also enjoy getting to know the group of real estate agents, title agents, mortgage brokers and the other lawyers making up Westchester’s residential real estate community.

      On the estate planning side of things, I’ve come to understand that estate plans are about more than how much money you have.  Ultimately, they reflect a given client’s personal goals and values. I enjoy helping my clients identify those goals and envision their legacy, and then translate those goals into a comprehensive plan.

      On the practice management side of things, being a solo practitioner definitely has its rewards – and challenges. First and foremost, I appreciate the autonomy and flexibility that being your own boss provides.  As mother to two young children, it is especially important to me to be able to work remotely and navigate my work responsibilities around my parenting responsibilities.  As the boss, I never have to make excuses or seek permission to attend that school concert or parent teacher conference.   On the other hand, the buck stops with me. If there’s a problem, I am the only one to solve it, and I need to wear every hat: bookkeeper, IT department, billing department, paralegal, file clerk.  You name it, I do it!  It can be challenging to be and do All The Things, All The Time, but for me the trade-off has been worth it.

Q: How do you think the legal profession will change in this time of the pandemic, and how do you believe it’ll impact women in the profession in the community?

A: I imagine that some of the changes we have made to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic will last long after the pandemic has passed.  For example, remote work is likely here to stay and to be extended to more people, including working from home, and, for better or worse, virtual meetings. 

      In particular, I am curious to see what impact this time in our culture has on women’s professional lives.  At this particular moment, I think women especially are struggling to balance family and household demands with professional responsibilities, because there’s no longer a clear division between the two.  This universal “work from home” moment is revealing just how deep the inequities of caretaking and household management have traditionally been between men and women, even when both are working full-time jobs.  What will we do with that information?  Will we decide that affordable quality childcare is something we want to make accessible to everyone so that women, and all parents, are free to pursue their careers?  I hope so, and I hope we use this moment as an opportunity to reexamine how corporate culture can do better by women and families. 

Q: When you are not practicing law, what are your activities in the community pre-and postcoronavirus pandemic?

A: When I’m not working, I am active in my local community association, where I am a member of the executive board.   We monitor and address civic issues in our town, connect neighbors and build community.  We’ve been able to meet virtually during the health crisis and, in a way, our role is even more vital now as we strive to make sure our most vulnerable and affected neighbors have the support they need. I’m also part of the parent’s committee of my son’s preschool.  Taking leadership roles in both these groups is rewarding, not only because of the opportunities these roles provide to engage with and support my immediate community, but because of the neighbors and friends I’ve met along the way.  

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