Women, work life balance and the law

By: Vicky Sparks

The idea of work life balance is whispered about with the awe and mystery of the loch ness monster in most professions, but especially law. What is this mythical balance they speak of? For most, it is the idea that you can have it all, a work life that is challenging and fulfilling but leaves enough time in the day for a personal life and all the commitments that come with it.

The balance seems particularly difficult for women to achieve. Despite living in an age where parenting is considered not just women’s work, most large law firms tend to operate with old fashioned views on the subject. Women are harshly judged and their careers affected for taking time off to have children and requiring more flexible schedules after doing so.

A study done by Fiona Kay of Queen’s University has shown that in her study of 1600 lawyers over a 20 year period, showed that it wasn’t just the women of the law looking for change – men want a more balanced life as well.  Yet, while many firms offer parental leave “male lawyers may feel that taking a parental leave is out of the question” as it sends the message that they aren’t committed to their careers.  

I think that the idea of work life balance is often branded a women’s problem or an entitled Gen Y problem.  Yet I can’t help but wonder if in a field where employees are forced to bill a huge number of hours every month/year and as a result have brilliant minds burn out all of the time if a shift towards a more balanced lifestyle couldn’t be helpful to even the bottom line of large law firms.

Until such a time, experts have ideas on how to cope with the stress of work and life.

1.  Create appointments with yourself for relaxation – keep them like any other appointment

2.  Find a qualified therapist to talk to about the stresses of your life.

3.  Stop putting pressure on yourself to be perfect – you can’t bill 100 hours a week and be super mom!

4.  Foster a support system of friends, parents and paid professionals who can help pick up the slack when you           need it.

About the Author

Paralegal Student
Communications Students.