For Communication & Writing class, by L. Appleton
There is a common theme amongst lawyers and professionals trying to find a work-life balance for those in the legal profession, and that theme is you. You are responsible for creating your own work-life balance. It is your responsibility to create time for your family, friends, hobbies, mentoring, volunteer work, and regular old work. Then it is your responsibility to determine which of these are most important to you in order to allocate your time efficiently.
Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill’s “Cases and Chaos: Work-Life Balance Strategies for Busy Lawyers”sets out ways lawyers can decide what is most important to them and also find time for themselves to avoid burnout. However, it is still up to you to figure out what is important to you, and like most in a legal profession, one has to wonder if that time is really available or even existent. Trying to move up in any company? Sorry, no time off, you need to complete your allotted billable hours to get paid to even consider going on that vacation. You have kids? That’s great! But we need someone career driven that can work late into the evening. Hope you have an unpaid spouse at home to take care of those cute ankle-biters.
If you are a female lawyer with children, how often will you pick your career over your children? If you do pick your career specifically for your children to grow up in an affluent home in order to have all the best opportunities in life, how often will you be defending your position to do so? Similarly, single males with children and no caregiver at home will no doubt go through the same process of deciding what is most important to them.
These kinds of individual decisions are the basis for Stephen Mabey in his article “Work-life balance up to lawyers, not firms” that some firms are now allowing for:
- Alternative work weeks;
- Top-up of compensation during maternity and parental leaves;
- Technology to allowing telecommuting;
- Access to child-care facilities;
- Child-care at firm meetings of lawyers;
- Extrapolation of financial results caused by absences for family matters when considering rewards and admission to partnership; and
- Provision of mobile technology.
We keep returning to the need for law professionals to figure their own lives out. As Nicole Garton-Jones put it, “it will be up to individual lawyers themselves to decide what balance means to them and then make it happen.” If you are new to the legal profession and want to make that big salary, unless you have miraculous skills your employer can not find elsewhere, you’ll be spending a lot of time at the office.
Speaking realistically, a law firm’s main concern is the almighty dollar. It would therefore be difficult to discuss the paybacks of these benefits with a human resource specialist unless it was to retain a high-ranking or highly skilled/experienced/desirable staff member. Basically you would have to work your way up by spending a lot more time at your workplace than at home for quite some time before your superiors would consider putting in any effort to help you create a work-life balance.