Can You Really Have it All? Balancing your legal career and your family life.
By: Rashida Forbes
In the 1950’s the structure of the family is what we call today a nuclear family. This is the traditional family structure that consists of two parents, a mother and a father and their children. The father’s responsibility was to assume the role of a bread winner, and the mother was the home maker. The struggles modern families face today are a result of both parents sharing the financial and child rearing responsibilities in the home.
Women wanted to indulge in professional careers while at the same time playing an active role in their child’s life. But can you really have it all? In many professional careers especially legal and medical careers, it is extremely difficult to balance your professional life and your family responsibilities.
According to the article written by Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill, lawyers are facing more stress-related illnesses because of their inabilities to balance work and play. Furthermore, their heightened stress levels affect their productivity at work and their attentiveness at home. For these reasons, many legal professionals often contemplate leaving the profession in order to dedicate more time to their family and personal needs.
The problem stems from the demanding careers lawyers acquire. Most lawyers and paralegals working in large, prestigious firms are required to work long hours to meet their targeted billable hours. An increasing number of law firms have put in place various policies and solutions to combat stress-related illnesses employees may encounter. However, though these solutions exist, law firms are driven by money. The aim of law firms, as Stephen Mabey proposes is to increase revenue and provide expeditious and outstanding legal services for clients. Therefore, even if policies are implemented in the workplace to deal with stress and create a balance lifestyle, legal professionals must keep in mind the firm’s mission. In such cases the challenge to maximize their billable hours and enjoy time with families is near impossible for legal professionals.
The question becomes. can you really have it all? Is it possible to have a successful career, and raise a happy family? Success is a word that must be defined by each individual. Legal professionals who “want is all” must set standards for themselves and discuss their standards with their employers who will then decide if such standards are in line with the firm’s mission and expectations.
The articles Cases and Chaos and Successfully Juggling Work and Family discusses a number of ways to balance work and family life. However I couldn’t agree more with Allison Wolf who makes the distinction between quality and quantity in the work-life balance conundrum. I too concur with her arguments that when establishing a balance between work and family, the individual should focus on the quality of their work and the quality of time spent with loved ones. It is not necessarily the amount of hours that produce valuable results, but the excellence of the work. Likewise, seeing your children every day doesn’t amount to building a good relationship if you never spend quality time bonding and doing things they enjoy.