NEW YORK, Oct. 3, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- iRelaunch announced today that Ruth Reardon O'Brien, Retired Partner, Ropes & Gray, will be the second recipient of the iRelaunch Pioneering Relauncher Award. The award was announced on October 3rd at the iRelaunch Return-to-Work Conference at Columbia University in New York City.
As one of four women in the Yale Law School class of 1956, Ms. O'Brien secured a coveted spot at the prominent Boston law firm of Ropes & Gray after completing a judicial clerkship. She worked at the firm until 1960, when she became pregnant with her first child. After ten years at home raising five children, Ms. O'Brien ran into a partner from Ropes and two weeks later he invited her to return to the firm. "I was flattered. It was unexpected," she commented. "I would never have dreamed of asking for it because I was too rusty."
When Ms. O'Brien met with Ropes & Gray to discuss her return, she was upfront about her needs. Her family was her first priority. "I couldn't come back unless it could be less than full-time… I couldn't be out of town and away overnight. I would have understood if they didn't [want me]." She returned to the firm in 1971 with a part time schedule.
A year and a half after her relaunch, Ms. O'Brien's sixth child was born. During her maternity leave, the firm asked her back early to fill a void left by a departing attorney. Ms. O'Brien's credo was to "always be totally reliable and dependable. Do not ever disappoint your clients, co-workers, or anybody with whom you have a working relationship." In 1978, Ms. O'Brien became the second female partner at the firm. She stayed until retiring in 1996, 25 years after she relaunched.
The Pioneering Relauncher Award is given to a relauncher whose leadership has inspired others and fostered a culture of support for professionals choosing to take a career break. Last year's recipient was Brenda Barnes, Former CEO of Pepsi-Cola North America who left the workforce in 1997 to spend time with her family and later returned in 2004 as COO, then CEO of Sara Lee Corporation.