Kalpana Srinivasan is a litigation partner at Susman Godfrey in Los Angeles and a member of the firm’s executive committee. So as the mother of a 3-year-old, she has to make every second count. When she’s not working on cases for clients such as Flo & Eddie (the founding members of the Turtles) or singer/songwriter Melissa Ferrick, she and her husband, engineer Rory Duignan, are tending to their son, Ciaran.
Here’s how Srinivasan, 42, manages it all on a typical workday. (Her comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.)
Sleep or Quiet Work I’m usually up at 6:30, unless I’m editing a brief or doing something else that demands quiet attention. I like to get up early if it’s something really important and I need quiet time. If I don’t have to get up early, I’ll wake up naturally around 6:30. My husband is up by 5, and he leaves the house at 6. He makes me Irish steel-cut oatmeal every morning, which is super healthy. He always does that.
Coffee for Two My son usually gets up 7:30, so I have this window. I try to get through Round 1 of emails that come in overnight so that when he does wake up, that’s our time together. I have a home office. It’s got glass all around and it gets great light. I think of it as this inviolate domain, but then I’ll see Thomas the Train on my desk. I’ll have my coffee, of course. I’m a big coffee drinker. When he gets up, he wants his coffee, so I make him a fake Americano.
Dressed and Out the Door My clothes are individualistic. I like color. I do like to have suits made. I have the benefit of making sure it fits comfortably. My son’s now in preschool, so I’m usually getting him ready and packed up. I have child care who comes in in the morning and will take him to school. If I drop him off, I need to leave at 8:30. I take him about two days a week. I do not live terribly far from the office. It’s about four miles, but in L.A. time, that’s about 25 minutes. After the first run of work [at home], I’m not available again until about 9:30, but I’ve been advancing my technology. We all spend some time in the car, so you’ve got to make sure you have the car set up make calls and take calls.
Morning Calls One-third of the day or up to half I spend on trial team work and client calls. They’ll be team calls discussing the status of a case or calls with clients, calls with experts, calls with opposing counsel. I might be working on a motion. I’m usually editing and revising or preparing for a hearing or for major depositions. I will close my door primarily for calls, but I want people to feel like I’m available. I do think it’s important to be available and be a resource. If I want quiet time to work, I’ll do it on a weekend, maybe Sunday morning or Saturday morning.
Grazing, then Lunch I am not a huge go-out-for-lunch person. If it’s networking or clients, I much prefer to do that over a drink or to meet for coffee. I tend to get something for lunch usually pretty late, around 2. I do some grazing in the morning. I’ll have a power bar. I’m a vegetarian. For lunch I like soup, I’ll have some dips, maybe a sandwich or salad.
Face Time, Spinning, Dinner A lot of times in the afternoon, I’ll check in with people I’m working on cases with. I might stop by and talk to them, I might have a little more in-person time. It’s something I like doing. It breaks up the afternoon. I might go run an errand, go to the bank.
If I’m working out after work, I leave the office at 6-ish. I often go to a spin class at Cycle House. I’ve been going there forever. I try to get home in time to see my son before he goes to bed, but I try not to come in when it’s midway in the process. That’s why my morning is more about him. For dinner, we will do something light. We don’t do a big heavy dinner at night, maybe a salad. Sometimes my mom will drop off Indian food, which is awesome if I find it’s waiting for me.
Logging In and Out I’ll answer some emails or edit briefs, it varies, from around 9 to 10. At 10 I might watch a show. I’m watching “This Is Us” and “Atlanta” on Hulu. I go to sleep around 11. My spouse goes to bed earlier.
Biggest Time Savers
Handling and dealing with email can be hugely time-consuming. I really try to handle things by case, rather than by each email coming in the door. It helps greatly. It keeps me much more in the zone. Otherwise, mentally you can spend a lot of time shifting gears, shifting facts.
I find it really helpful and highly valuable to take a little time during the weekend to organize what the week’s going to look like. I find even spending an hour on Sunday looking ahead at the week and getting organized saves me a lot of stress and worry.
Breaking down the things you want to fit into each day is not a precise science. You may not get all the time you want with your family and friends or a chance to make it to the gym or other-nonwork stuff on a day-by-day basis. So I try to evaluate that over a two- or three-week period to see if I need to make adjustments. I might have a stretch where I am on the road for days in hearings or meetings. The next week I try to squeeze in extra activities with my son or a few more workouts to balance it out.