Whether in a cockpit at 3,000 feet or on stage with the Boston Pops, Alison Reif stays in control
Published in 2005 Massachusetts Rising Stars magazine
on April 26, 2005
Updated on August 14, 2015
To say Alison Reif keeps herself busy would be the understatement of the century.
A partner in the Boston office of Choate Hall & Stewart, Reif, 34, puts in long hours in the firm’s Labor, Employment and Benefits group. But she also finds time for running (she has completed 13 marathons), flying lessons, singing in the Boston Pops Holiday Chorus, and, of course, for her husband and 4-year-old son. A schedule half as crazy would be enough to make even the most organized person tear her hair out, but Reif thrives on the constant activity. “I think this is going to be the decade of multitasking,” she laughs.
A self-described “type-A first child,” Reif decided at a young age that she wanted to sing professionally. She went on her first audition at age 7; more soon followed. “My mother,” Reif explains, “was a single working mom. She needed something to keep me busy.”
Reif attended the Commonwealth School, a private school in Boston, and took full advantage of the rich arts curriculum. But when it came time to choose a college, her practical side surfaced. She selected Oberlin, based in part on the school’s renowned Conservatory of Music, but also because of its strong reputation as a liberal arts school.
“Someone once said to me, ‘Music is nice but eating is good, too,’” Reif recalls. “I made a decision at some point that music would always be part of my life, but it would not be where I’d make my living.”
By her senior year in college, Reif had applied to and was accepted at several law schools. She chose Stanford. During the summer before her third year, Reif returned to Boston to intern at Choate and immediately felt a connection. “I’m a homegrown,” she says, “and I found the personalities in the firm so appealing that I knew I wanted to work here.” She got that chance after graduating in 1997.
At Choate she focuses on labor, employment and benefits law. Her practice is split between employment counseling and employment litigation.
Though Reif makes her living as a lawyer, not a singer, she says she still feels that her life would be incomplete if she didn’t perform in a choir. So she convinced her father to join her in auditioning for spots in the Boston Pops Holiday Chorus; they’ve been singing with the popular group ever since.
“It’s pure fun,” Reif says. “The whole purpose is to bring holiday cheer to the audience. The concerts are filled with a lot of goofing off and silliness, and I just love that.”
When she’s not singing, she can often be found in her running shoes. Reif picked up the running bug from her husband, Tim. “I couldn’t keep up with him at first,” she remembers. “I’d Rollerblade while he ran.”
Reif soon had no problem keeping up. She and her husband began entering marathons all around the country, often using them as an excuse to travel. But after running her 13th in 2001 she decided she no longer wanted to run with a competitive goal in mind. “One thing I’ve learned is that being a parent is an endless balancing act,” Reif says. “You have to gauge day by day where all the pieces of your life are at. Running is still important to me, but running marathons isn’t.”
And what about those flying lessons? They were a 10th anniversary gift from Reif ’s husband, who knew she had always dreamed about piloting a plane. He told her, “We’re not getting any younger. You should try it now.”
“It’s been a great experience,” Reif says, and then she jokes, “but sometimes I wonder if getting me behind the controls of an airplane was an indiscreet effort to bump me off.”
If anybody seems capable of safely flying an airplane it’s Reif. Compared with juggling everything else in her life, keeping a plane in the air must feel like a piece of cake.
“Flying is a great hobby for a person like me,” Reif explains. “It gives me a sense of perspective, but it also forces me to stop multitasking for a moment and focus exclusively on the task at hand. That’s both the challenge and the blessing of it. When you go up in an airplane, you cannot think about anything else, and that’s a good thing.”