By: Iaroslavna Serenko
Working at a large law firm in Toronto, I sadly observed tens of files on every desk each day. With such enormous amount of work, feelings of accomplishment, happiness, and relief are so short lived. Long hours and working weekends, pressure and stress, tension and frustration – like best friends – are coming hand in hand.
Satisfying demands and expectations of clients and partners, and constant competition with other law firms puts a huge pressure on the employees, and an extra weight on the work side of the work-life scales. Thus, it becomes a question of how to achieve a balance in life and succeed in one’s career pursuit without sacrificing personal life.
With so many articles and books dedicated to this problem, it still seems like an unsolvable dilemma, a constant struggle, an impossible balancing act. But is it really?
Allison Wolf in her article “The Tyranny of Performance” defines a performance as a key component in evaluation of work at a law firm and at the same time its main evil. She suggests that the enjoyment of one’s work is the pillar for improving the work-life balance. According to Wolf, combining performance with learning and enjoyment can help to recover comfortable work atmosphere.
While some disagree with Wolf’s theory, there is a rational thought that the improvement of work-life balance should start from the feeling of happiness at work. This will restore the balance to the work-life scales by removing an extra weight associated with negative side of work.
Every person sees happiness in their own way. Happiness is a state of mind that differ from one individual to another. For some lawyers, work at a large law firm and becoming a partner is seen as a pursued for real happiness. Others on the contrary, view themselves as truly happy persons only beside their loved ones at home.
In his article “Work-life balance up to lawyers, not firms”, Stephen Mabey concludes that the decision about work life balance is resting solely on the individual. The law firms simply cannot dictate their associates how to live their lives. It is up to us – lawyers and paralegals – if we want to be sucked into this whirlpool of stress, or not.
Let’s face it, we voluntary put ourselves in a position when too much work is no longer possible to bear. In trying to succeed, we lock ourselves in a rat race chasing the better wellbeing. And what does happen to us then? We simply cannot relax and enjoy the achieved wellbeing. We are so much impacted by work, that we don’t have time or strength for anything else.
So is it really an objective struggle to manage the work life balance? Or is it more of a choice of a particular individual? “To be, or not to be” – the question that everyone answers differently. What to choose: large or small law firm; be your own boss or have a boss; be at work or with your family and friends; raise our expectations and needs or lower them down? There is no right or wrong answer. Everyone should decide for themselves.
Below is my video – my choice of what is right for me. Thank you for watching.