Work – Life Balance:   Is It Attainable?

by Ann Barrow

Attainable:  Not really:

  • Distressing, frustrating, discouraging?
  • Stephen Mabey’s article brought those adjectives to my mind
  • Mabey’s rightly deems lawyers to have real choice in the matter of achieving balance in their lives, while leaving the firm with deciding to accommodate the choices or not
  • It’s the “or not” that raises serious questions
  • The reality is that just as firms are in it for the money, so too are lawyers.  Yes, other factors draw people to become lawyers, the search for justice etc., but everyone needs money to live
  • “Work-life balance, up to lawyers”

 Attainable:  Average chance: 

  • Nicole Garton-Jones views contemporary society as comprising a “post work life balance era”
  • Factors such as a desire for work-life balance and a repugnance for old school emphasis on long hours, being married to the job, and inflexibility has led to greater opportunities for more harmony to exist in one’s life
  • Similar to Mabey, Garton-Jones asserts the choice is with the lawyer, while recognizing the need to earn a decent living
  • I would argue that while more options exist today in how firms organize their financial and corporate structure, the necessity of earning a viable living still holds many in a straight-jacket
  • “The Myth of Work Life Balance in Law”

Attainable:  Yes

  • Alison Wolf asks an interesting question:  “Instead of work-life balance can we just talk about work-life enjoyment?”
  • I concur that the key to both is quality not quantity
  • The emphasis on performance and billable hours does not work in the long run and shortchanges the possibility of attaining a delicate or thin balance
  • Instead, Wolf suggests that since lawyers love to learn, work can be approached with a change in mindset
  • According to Wolf, three elements comprise a successful, balanced approach to life and work:  “performance, learning, enjoyment equation is a powerful step in the direction of getting the most out of work life”
  • Her article is in keeping with current mindfulness techniques that offer one possible avenue of transcendence, however, that only goes so far
  • Systemic change in the work culture is what is needed
  • “The Tyranny of Performance”


  • Each writer highlights important elements of framing ways to transcend the stressors within the law profession
  • Wolf’s reflection that lawyers (and paralegals) love to learn accurately denotes one way to infuse work life with joy
  • Below is my novice attempt to both learn new technology while informing the public–something that– in the spirit of this piece, “I enjoy doing”

About the Author

Paralegal Student
Communications Students.