As we continue to celebrate wellness this summer, we’re introducing NCBA members who excel at living healthy lives. Kate Deiter-Maradei sets an example as a highly effective person who doesn’t let work rule her life.
The first thing you notice about Kate Deiter-Maradei is her smile. It’s wide. It’s bright. And more often than not, it’s spread across her face.
Hers is the kind of smile you wear when you’ve figured something out, something important. For Deiter-Maradei that something is work. She’s figured out how to make a living practicing the kind of law that gives her a sense of meaning and helps others. More than that, she’s figured out how to keep her livelihood from crowding out her life.
In 2013, she founded Deiter Mediation, her own alternative dispute resolution practice, but she didn’t let going solo turn her days into an endless slog. She dedicates about three days a week to her practice and devotes her remaining time to pro bono work, public service and her family. Deiter-Maradei is an NCDRC Certified Superior Court Mediator and widely recognized for her community involvement. Among the many projects she supports is an ongoing facilitated dialogue between Triangle-area law enforcement officers and African American residents that helps the communities address topics of contention.
Kate’s Tips For Living Your Best Life
Segment your time precisely so you can focus 100 percent on what you’re doing.
Outsource any administrative tasks you can.
Maintain perspective: What’s the worst that can happen?
Her accolades include making the Triangle Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list, being featured as The News and Observer’s Tar Heel of the Week and receiving an NCBA Citizen Lawyer Award in 2014. Deiter-Maradei is also a mother to three children — one biological son, age 11, and two adopted daughters, ages 3 and 7 — with whom she takes fabulous family vacations, spending weeks at a time in Portugal, Italy and Ireland with quick trips to Montreal and Los Angeles tucked in between.
“My son is 11, and he’s on his third passport,” she says. Before she began practicing law, Deiter-Maradei gained a powerful perspective on living life to the fullest when lung cancer claimed her father, a nonsmoker. His death at 56 years old left her, her mother and her brother stunned.
“My dad died right before I took the bar exam, right after I finished law school,” she says. “He was relatively young, so my brother and I really have a true commitment to carpe diem. I really strive every single day to commit myself to things I really enjoy and say no to things that are a drain and waste of my time. I really focus my energies on those activities that are going to be enjoyable to me and that are going to do the most good.”
Before going solo, Deiter-Maradei was a litigator for almost 10 years at Teague, Campbell, Dennis & Gorham, LLP. She was a senior associate when she approached the firm about negotiating a reduced billable hours schedule.
“I spent a lot of time researching, talking to people and also reading about those types of schedules,” she says. “There are a lot of nuances to doing it properly.”
Deiter-Maradei reduced her billable hours by one third, setting aside Tuesdays and Fridays as work free — and email free.
“Staff would alert me if there was an emergency, and I was happy to be available to address it,” she says. “But I wasn’t checking emails, and I wasn’t having things flowing through on those days when I actually wasn’t working. For me that was a key comonent. That was one of the most important things that made it effective.”
Deiter-Maradei describes her marriage as a true partnership, and her husband, Nick Maradei, wholeheartedly supported the alternative arrangement.
“Having that reduced schedule allowed me to be the room parent in all of our kids’ classes and to be a member of the racial equity committee at my kids’ elementary school,” she says. “It allowed me wiggle room to do those kinds of things. It was a tangible benefit in terms of our parenting and our involvement in our school community. It was one of the perks, for sure.”
Outsourcing administrative tasks is also key. Deiter-Maradei employs nannies and freelance administrative assistants who take on some of the boring-but-necessary work that a crowded itinerary demands. Summer camp schedules for three kids with varied interests? An assistant created a spreadsheet that helps her keep track. During the holidays, she gets similar help with gift-giving from an assistant who tracks which presents have been chosen, bought and sent.
“That sort of assistance helps me feel less overwhelmed and able to take on other projects,” she says.
Deiter-Maradei’s approach to work-life balance won’t work for every attorney in every practice area, but she believes more balanced lives are within reach for most.
“I think it’s attainable for most practices, and I think younger millennial candidates are recognizing the value of firms that allow these types of arrangements,” she says. “I think to attract the best candidates firms ought to be looking at the data and the research around alternative work arrangements. It’s been going on for a really long time, and studies indicate happy employees are more productive and loyal, which creates a win-win scenario for everyone involved.”
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