Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Lawyer

- Richard Brock

To say that lawyers lead busy lives is an understatement. Indeed, attorneys work long hours and must devote absolute focus to their work. However, if you’re an attorney with a family, with other responsibilities balancing your career and personal goals can at times feel impossible.

There are many issues outside of work that require your attention. Some small and others not so much. However, one thing that they all have in common is that you must carve out time for them. For instance, the time that you spend with your children is precious, and once it’s gone, it cannot be recaptured.

On the other hand, the specter of missing his first faltering step or hearing her utter her first word pales in comparison to not being able to provide for them if you allow your career to flounder. Hence, the need for balance between one’s professional and personal endeavors is greater than ever.

Alternative Work Schedules

One trend that seems to be growing in the legal profession is that of law firms offering alternative work schedules to help bring professional time and leisure hours back into a harmonious balance.

A great example is a solution referred to as “full-time flex.”  This arrangement incorporates a 40-hour week, but the hours can be modified so you can carve out time for family and other obligations. Another scheduling option is a short, 10 to 20-hour week for attorneys who want to delay the progress of their law career temporarily, and focus on other aspects of their lives. The third type of arrangement is working remotely from home 2-3 days each week and returning to the office for the remaining 2-3 days a week.

These alternatives are not for everyone. Attorneys must often forfeit a portion of their salary, and the requisite reduction in pay can be a deal-breaker. Another drawback is that these flexible schedules often come with an inconsistent or unpredictable workflows.

Hence, traditional law firms remain the top choice for many of the newest law graduates, but nonetheless, a new awareness of these developments is gradually taking hold of the law profession.

Achieving Balance

So, how do you juggle work, home, family, and other aspects of your life without burning yourself out? Beyond alternative work schedules, advice for attorneys is to do the following:

  • Set limits
  • communicate clearly
  • get organized

Establishing Boundaries

Set your boundaries now. For example, if you watch your son play soccer every weekend, make this clear at the outset. However, you should let your secretary know how to reach you, in the event of an emergency.  Be sure to finish all of your tasks and meet any critical deadlines before you leave the office.

Communication and Organization

Communicate your needs. Let others know how important it is that you be able to spend time with loved ones and engage in leisure and social activities outside of the office.

Organizing your life will take effort, but it will be rewarding in the long run because it can save time and stress. Make notations on your calendar and plan out each week so you don’t miss any critical obligations. Let your secretary know if any personal plans that might conflict with your work hours. If necessary, you can schedule extra hours to make up for the time you missed.

In spite of the need to enjoy a balanced life, most lawyers are aware that their work lives and their private lives will never carry equal weight. However, it is possible to develop a work pattern that works for you and allows you the freedom to reach your full potential as an attorney and as a person.

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