Angela Agrusa is a partner in Los Angeles law firm Liner’s litigation department. Her practice focuses on consumer false-labeling claims and competitor false-advertising challenges, as well as deceptive trade practices and class-action litigation. She is the chair of Liner’s consumer marketing and product labeling practice. Agrusa joined Liner after spending 16 years at Baker & Hostetler. She’s the mother of two teenagers. We spoke with Agrusa about “powering through” the workday as a mother with places to be.
Question: Describe your morning routine.
Answer: I’m an early riser: up between 5 a.m. and 5:30. I always have coffee and write a to-do list. I like to be fully dressed with my hair and makeup done before the boys – who are 15 and 13 – get out of bed. That’s 50 percent of the time. The other half of the time, I work out and then take them to school, and change afterwards. I drop them off, and drive to work. On the drive, I call my mother or my 91-year-old grandmother. And then by the time I walk in the door, I know that everything is at peace. I don’t like to take personal calls during the day. I like to power through. So I use the mornings to create harmony in my personal life.
How do you ‘power through’ the work day?
I don’t do my meetings over lunch, because there is usually a more efficient way. For a working mom, the middle of the day is a critical time to get things done. I’ve always managed a heavy docket of work and part of my strategy is being selective about the team I work with. I really appreciate them as human beings.
How do you achieve work/life balance?
I waited to have kids until I was in my mid-30s. It was important to me to be a part of their childhood, but I wasn’t ready to give up my work life. I tried to keep each compartment of my life very separate. I didn’t talk a lot about my babies and put pictures on my desk. It worked for me. When I was in each in experience – at home or in the office – I was fully present. Philosophically, I’m always struck by how educated and confident women at some point give it up, and feel they can’t do both. I understand why, but it’s disappointing. I think part of it is that the workplace is not accommodating to people who want to maintain a competitive work life and a functional home life. When you get pregnant, the first thing people ask is, “Will you keep working?” Why is that a question in this day and age? There is also prejudice against women who work that they aren’t as good mothers. And I think if people’s mindsets were less critical and archaic, women would feel more confident about the ability to do both.
How do you make time for your family?
Mornings are super important. We’re all sort of morning people. It’s only a 15 minute drive to take my kids to school, but I love that drive. We have interesting conversations. I love to cook and my kids love to eat, so we spend a lot of time together around meals. They’re teenagers now, so they are independent and appreciate their time away from mom. But they still want to watch our shows and spend time together.
How has your work/life balance changed, now that your kids are teenagers?
I think since I’ve historically been able to balance the two, the kids trust that I will be there for them and the clients trust that I will get the work done. It’s built up from consistency. Last summer, my son played in Omaha, Neb., in a baseball tournament and I didn’t want to miss it. So, I was on the phone the whole time – but I got to see him hit a grand slam. It was one of those moments when I said, “I’m not screwing everything up.”