By Ho Cheung Chan
The legal profession has a myth about work life balance, and the truth was that it did not exist in the large traditional law firm model. The choices and structure of the industry changed over the years with the introduction of technologies and innovative people.
In general, the industry houses legal professionals in large law firms, small law firms, corporations, government, and as sole practitioners. Legal professionals can find conveniences in different working environments and it had always been a strategy available for them. Part-time work has always been available in large traditional law firms. A more family atmosphere more suitable for lawyers to raise a family was available. A relatively more rigid adherence to the nine to five was present in corporations. The hustle of the sole practitioner could be hectic too. Anyhow, life in the large traditional law firm model stayed and lawyers continued to hustle for their quota of billable fees each year to remain afloat. This was not necessarily a bad thing because law firms must be profitable and the entire industry must thrive for the continued development of law in society.
I would like to argue the underlying substance of the problem had not changed because one of the most important factors remained as the freedom of personal choice. The freedom of personal choice was at the root of the work life balance myth because many people were driven to succeed, and to the best of their ability where it often meant the provision of more labour at the highest rate of pay.
If life at a large traditional law firm meant a higher rate of pay then it was only rational to provide as much of a person’s labour where opportunity arose. It followed that opportunity does not always knock on doors and often times, legal professionals have to establish their own reputations in outstanding court duties, social functions, and nowadays, in social media. And who said technology gave us more freedom? The continuous stream of social media bombardment has made people more connected but ever more burdened.
The situation may be compared to the owner of a Hummer’s complaints about gas consumption. It would not be a plausible statement for the owner unless she knew nothing of the consequences of such worldly possessions.
Some variables within the professional are fixed and advances in technology can mitigate factors such as stress, document management, and time drain. The cornerstones of project management, time management, anxiety management, effective delivery of a person’s work, and delivery of oneself through the daily commute never changed. Many tips and tricks found for the modern professional revolved around time management and planning. Even yoga lessons to calm your soul.
The modern professional must minimize the commute, and maximize productivity. Often times when the modern professional analyzed himself or herself, the result could simply be that life got in the way. Financial obligations, family, children, and social responsibilities formed much of an individual’s life. It must be inevitable that life got in the way unless the fabric of society was modified.