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Maria M. Barlow: “Time with family and friends”

One must remember that things like this will end. Stop and look and see what good things have come from the pandemic (ie: exercise, eating healthier, reconnecting with friends). Saving money by not going out. (With so many things closed, we have not been able to spend money on unnecessary things, food, impulse buys) The Covid-19 […]

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One must remember that things like this will end. Stop and look and see what good things have come from the pandemic (ie: exercise, eating healthier, reconnecting with friends).

Saving money by not going out. (With so many things closed, we have not been able to spend money on unnecessary things, food, impulse buys)


The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.

As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria M. Barlow. She is a lawyer, a mother and an entrepreneur. Attorney Barlow is licensed by the Supreme Court of Illinois as well as the U.S District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Ms. Barlow is known in her profession for her compassion for her clients and her aggressive litigation.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I grew up in a very large family. There were 11 of us to be exact. I was the youngest (2 girls, 8 boys and voila, ME, Greatness herself!) I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. Growing up my family experienced a lot of interaction with the police. In one incident one of my brothers was accused of a crime (murder). The police claimed to have witnesses to the crime and someone to id him and our family’s car. The good thing and saving grace was my family happened to be out of town at the time of the crime. Another night, my brothers were on the porch and the police came by at a high speed and were chasing a car. My brothers were on our porch with shorts, no shirt and no shoes on. Being nosy they went down the block to see what was going on. The police placed them all in cuffs and required them to lay on the ground while they “investigate” as they fit the “description of suspects.” Unfortunately, there were not the only interactions. In addition to those incidents, my brothers were often stopped for “mob action,” questioned, by the police, and generally harassed for being a group of young black boys outside together. With all of the interactions with the police chances were someone would end up in jail. There was no way my family could afford a lawyer, if my brothers were ever charged with a crime they didn’t commit. Constantly watching my brothers being mistreated inspired me to want to become a lawyer. I knew these issues were not only happening to my brothers but many other young black men. I wanted to be the voice for those who could not speak for themselves. I wanted people to know that I was someone just like them, I would fight for them and I would be someone they can count on.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?

One of the most interesting things that happened to me is my change in my practice area. When I finished law school I intended to practice criminal law. I knew for sure that I wanted to help the wrongly accused fight for their freedom. One day I got a call and I was retained for a criminal case. While preparing for my hearing the client’s mom and I got into a heated disagreement (words exchanged). I got the client’s case dismissed. The mom liked me so much that she retained me to do the client’s divorce. Since then my family law practice has took off and most of my clients are via word of mouth. I am overwhelmed by the amount of love and support I receive from my clients.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I recently started a nonprofit to aid people in legal education which will help them navigate the legal system. We also aim to help them prepare their paperwork for court and client coaching. I have been helping with protests and marching to help for the rights of black people. I am also going to start a non-profit that aids minorities on rebuilding and buying up their own communities.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My biggest supporter has always been my mother. No matter what I have had going on in my life she is and has always been my biggest supporter. It didn’t matter what goal I wanted to achieve she was always there willing and able to help.

Can you share a story about that?

I ran for public office in 2018. My mom and my aunt (her sister) helped me collect signatures almost every day to ensure I was on the ballot. When it was time to host my events my mother and aunt were both at the door hosting and helping raise funds. When it came time for election my mother stayed out for hours in the freezing cold asking people to vote for me. There has not been a time in my life that she has not been my biggest supporter. My son is also a big support. He is much of why I always keep pushing forward. I want him to know we can do ANYTHING we put our minds to.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?

I am a single mother so all of the bills and responsibilities fall on me. In addition, I work for myself so I have all the expenses of my office and staff to pay. Because I have no guaranteed income I always have to work and save to make all my financial obligations. Since Covid-19 and school closures I had to convert my dining room table to a work table and school desk. My son is in school so during the hours he had school (online) I also had work. We also had to totally redo our business model to meet the needs of the staff and clients. Clients have been out of work so we have to work with them on the bills and still help them with their legal issues.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

We take turns working at the dining room table depending on what things I have due or what class he is taking. I also had to now prepare a breakfast and lunch in addition to my normal dinner. I started to create new recipes for us to try (either quick and easy or in bulk to last a few days). I usually try to make meals a day in advance to ensure we have nice meals, just in case my day runs longer than I estimate.

Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?

The biggest challenge is being able to still manage my home while working. Now there are more dishes, more cooking, more expensive grocery and utility bills. In addition to the increased bills at home I still had to pay 100% of the bills at my office. This is particularly difficult when the clients you rely on for money are unable to pay.

Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?

Home: I started to make my meals at home a day or two in advance also new recipes. Laundry I do one day per week. Clients, I have worked with them on payment plans and some just cannot pay until they become employed again.

Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?

Prepare as many meals in advance as you can. Meal Prep for the week, especially breakfast and lunch. Use your crockpot, the crockpot is your friend. Dinner, you can create do it yourself nights (pizza, taco bar, mashed potato bar, salad bars, sundae bars make your own pizza). Try to do as much of your work as you can before or after school.

Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?

We walk every morning to the park just to get a bit of fresh air. Evening we plan an activity. We do anything from movie night, board games and puzzles. You can also do a bonfire and do homemade s’mores.

Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”?

One must remember that things like this will end. Stop and look and see what good things have come from the pandemic (ie: exercise, eating healthier, reconnecting with friends).

Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Time with family and friends. (I have been able to be home more with my son and my puppy. I have also spent this time reconnecting with friends just to chat and check in on them).
  2. More time at home to eat and cook.( So much time spent at home we started to create new meals and recipes)
  3. Saving money by not going out. (With so many things closed, we have not been able to spend money on unnecessary things, food, impulse buys)
  4. Learning a new skill (I have been practicing my Spanish and also working on some new projects (can’t disclose those but stay on the lookout for me).
  5. Put yourself in position to start a new business. (I have begin to work on business plans for 3 new businesses. One includes the new recipes ☺)

From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Schedule a video family get together. You can connect with family close and far. Plan something, chat, listen to music or play games.

Find out what an individual family member needs. Perhaps schedule a socially distanced get together for you and them. Cook them a meal and drop it off, or maybe have a surprise delivered.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Shoot for the moon and even if you miss you will be among the stars. I love this quote. I have always strived to be the best I can be at every endeavor I undertake. For me even if I do not meet my dreams (reached the moon) I have still accomplished something great (landed among the stars).

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.attorneymariabarlow.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MariaBarlowLaw
https://www.facebook.com/The-Barlow-Law-Firm-LLC-103193521381517
https://www.instagram.com/mariabarlow_blackchicagolawyer/?hl=en

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


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