By Carlos Vera
Balancing the professional and personal life could be a difficult goal in the modern life. In some professions this could result almost impossible. One of the most demanding and time consuming professions is the law. In a first place, why law is so demanding?
There is a lot of factors and reasons for that but we can summarize the followings as the possible reasons why lawyers and legal professionals spend so many hours per week working:
- Financial pressure, debts!!! After law school, a lot of recent graduates keep a lot of debts on their shoulders, so, they need to work and make a lot of money, what is equal to more hours at the office and more cases to take.
- Competitiveness. If you are a recent graduate you want to be the best on your work, or if you have more years in the legal profession you want to show to the new ones that you know more than them and invest more time to be the best.
- Client pressure, the clients could be dictators of their time, and law professionals can find clients that can result in a real headache.
Now we know some of the reasons, but, what could be possible solutions? Here we have some:
- Law firms can have some flexibility about the working hours, so maybe you can slip away for a couple of hours and share with your family an important event and come back later.
- Negotiate parental leaving with your boss, you can choose (if you work in a law firm or an office) to work from your home, by digital media, so you can take care of your baby and your home and work at the same time.
- Consider what is better for you in any time of your life, maybe at the beginning of your career you are single and you do not care about spending a lot of hours working, but at some point you want the time to build your family, so you can consider work by your own, work in a large or small law firm, or maybe work for the government, which tends to be more flexible with work hours.
- Do not put so much pressure over yourself, if you are trying to be the best mom or dad, the best lawyer at your firm, or take a lot of clients, earn a lot of money, go to the gym and have the perfect body , and be the best friend, the result it is going to be frustration! So, avoid to be the “perfect one” in all the activities of your life.
There is not a magic formula to balance your personal life and your profession, but, in any case, depends of you in try to find what is better for your life and what makes you feel happy and satisfied. We have to say, that nowadays women in law profession feel more pressure to be successful and good mothers, the “superwoman”, so women in law profession maybe need to be more relaxed and do not try to the better than men, just do the best you can and do try to be the best and better than your male co-workers.
By: Maneet Salh
Lawyers have one of the toughest jobs when it comes to balancing work and life. It has become very difficult to live the life one wants and the life one needs to live in order to put food on the table.
When we think of work-life balance we mainly think of women and their children, but men are also joining women with this stuggle. Both men and women alike are seeking flexible hours that will allow them to enjoy their lives.
I believe that with the proper techniques that it is possible to attain a worklife balance. According to Jatrine Bensi-Enchill, some of the easiest ways to attain a work-life balance is by taking the following 6 steps:
• Determine your values and priorities
• Identify “blockers”
• Balance your mind
• Creat “non-negotiable” time blocks
• Hire a professional coach
• Create a vision
Sometimes it can be the smallest thing that can make a difference in your work-life balance, for example picking a suitable practice. Consider whether a larger firm will work with your lifestyle, and consider the individuals within the firm- have they experienced some of the same problems as you? What about a smaller practice? Working for yourself? Let employers know about personal commitments that you may have, consider other work arrangements.Julie Stauffer talks about these adaptions in more depth in her article, “Successfully Juggling Work and Family: Tips for Lawyers”. She also goes over 6 steps that can help you achieve a work-life balance:
1. Be organized: You need to start being more efficient with your time, do not waste it on little things that can put you behind in work or family time.
2. Have a plan B: Its always best to have a backup plan, especially when it comes to kids. Have a few phone numbers on hand, if you need to stay late at the office and cannot make it back to pick up the kids.
3. Make use of technology: Use all the technology we have to your advantage- laptops, cell phones, e-mails, etc.
4. Foster supportive partner and family memberships: Respect one another’s work schedule, be understanding.
5. Carve out time for yourself: Do not forget about yourself! Fuel yourself once in a while, get a way, go for a jog, plan a mini vacation.
6. Keep your expectations realistic: There will never be that perfect balance you seek for, and remember that.
I believe that it is possible to achieve that work-life balance though it will be difficult, it can be done!
Please take a look at my Clio Video.
By: Shannon O’Connor
Maintaining a work-life balance has been difficult for numerous legal professionals. The question still remains: can a balance between work and life be attainable within contemporary society?
I believe that it is possible to achieve a balance between work and life. This balance ensures that an individual is able to complete work while doing the activities they love. It is quit a challenging endeavor and comes with multiple obstacles. Ultimately, this balance can be achieved through multiple avenues.
Guidelines for Achieving a Work-Life Balance:
• A work-life balance is more attainable if you run your own practice or essentially you are your own boss
• Rank your priorities in order of importance (family, health, self-actualization, and happiness etc.)
• Set your own goals and timelines
• When you discover what makes you content you will be able to find a way to maintain a balance between work and life
• Make time for your wants and needs
• It’s ok to say no you can’t be expected to do everything
Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill wrote an interesting article Cases and Chaos: Work-Life Balance Strategies for Busy Lawyers. The informative article is regarding the subject matter of work-life balance. The author noted numerous important tips; one important tip is creating time for oneself throughout the week. It essentially means making a date for oneself. I found this tip to be of utter importance. It enables an individual to have time to reflect, decompress, and focus on finding happiness.
Yamri Taddese wrote another enlightening article on the subject matter. Male lawyers join women in seeking work-life balance addresses men joining women’s quest for work-life balance. The author posted numerous tips on how to re-enter the work force, which are helpful and should be kept in mind. Additionally, the author points out that this struggle is not just found among women but also men. The pursuit for a work-life balance is clearly evident between both men and women.
Lastly, Wolf the author of The Tyranny of Performance elaborates upon how the word balance should be replaced with “enjoyment”. Less emphasis should be on “performance” and more focus and attention should be paid towards enjoying oneself and gaining an education.
I agree with all three authors and believe the recommended tips should be incorporated in order to achieve a work-life balance. It is important to reflect, and ask oneself: what would you do if you had free time?
Please find an attached video elaborating upon what I would do with an extra 8 hours a week: The Ultimate Clio Day
By Hermione Shou
Like many of us, you are tired, but you keep pushing through life. As a legal professional or a student with long work hours, you may already be amongst the 1 in 4 Canadian workers who find their lives very stressful due to work and family obligations.
Work-life balance is a simple concept. However, it can be so hard to execute that instead of dancing your own routine, we turn into puppets, controlled by the demands of life. It is time for you to break out of this cycle and to control your own show… But what does it take? What can your employer and you do to help you achieve work-life balance and avoid burnout?
This issue is not new in the legal world. In the last decade, the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) has developed the Guide to Developing a Policy Regarding Flexible Work Arrangements to encourage work-life balance in the legal profession.
The LSUC has also created the Justicia Project with 57 Ontario law firms to give female lawyers career advancement support, since women may face career challenges if they give birth and go on maternity leave. Recently, men are also seeking flexible work hours, as found in a study about Ontario lawyers by Queen’s University professor Fiona Kay, and law firms are beginning to accommodate their requests as well.
Despite the fact that firms are implementing solutions for employees, such as alternative work weeks and child-care facilities, it is mainly up to you as an employee to make the right decisions to ensure work-life balance, as a Canadian Lawyer Magazine article suggests.
There are numerous strategies that allow you to dance around your schedule and achieve work-life balance as a legal professional. However, my favourite are the 6 tips that Julie Stauffer recommends in Successfully Juggling Work and Family: Tips for Lawyers. Here is a quick summary of it:
6 daily tips to work-life balance as a legal professional
- Stay organized by creating and sharing your schedule, as well as prioritizing tasks.
- Create a second plan for unpredictable work needs.
- Take advantage of technology to complete work outside of your workplace.
- Develop supportive relationships with your partner, family, and neighbours so that you can count on their help when you have an emergency.
- Allocate “me-time” for yourself to do all of your favourite things with your loved ones.
- Stay realistic with your expectations of what you can accomplish to avoid burning out.
Life can get busy—we all know that. But it is your choice to either continue being a puppet that is controlled by the demands of life or to be a brightly shining star on your own stage. So, go ahead! This time around, don’t burn out—break out and dance! This is your show on your stage.
To get you excited for balancing your work and personal life, I would like to share this neat video with all of you:
As a current student working towards my paralegal degree at Centennial College, I have begun to wonder what life would actually be like as a female within the legal field. Competitive? Challenging? Enough to want to get up every morning and head into work? I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, the answers to all those questions is yes.
A recent assignment had us look at the connection between working and balancing a healthy lifestyle and as I grow older, I begin to realize the importance this balance actually is.
Nicole Garton-Jones, a full-time mother and lawyer writes about her life and the struggles she has faced attempting to balance her workload and her family. Her blog post titled “The Myth of Work Life Balance in Law” portrays how time consuming the field of law actually is and how your yearly earnings are generally calculated by the number of hours one puts in.
However, Garton-Jones raises an interesting stance towards the end of her piece when she talks about what the future of law has in store. She believes that one-day, in order for law firms to stay not only competitive but also profitable, firms will promote more flexibility in order to draw in new employees (woohoo!!).
What about men? Most of us have a good understanding on the previous generations and the expected gender roles that came along with it (men working, women raising families); however, we have reached and era where that is no longer the norm.
Yamri Taddese, author of article “Male Lawyers join Women in seeking Work-life Balance” raises an extremely thought-provoking fact when he brings up the importance found in having flexibility in hours for the male lawyer population, pointing out it is valued more within the male populace than female.
Although is it still prominent within Canada at least, that women over men are found to take parental leave, men are still focused on finding a work-life balance with flexible full-time hours.
Taddese writes that since parental leave is not looked positively through the lens of legal firms, people departing on parental leave often do not return. Finding work in places that allow for flexibility in full-time hours. Perhaps this is why Nicole Garton-Jones feels that the future incentives of working within law will be forced to change their ancient expectations for not only females, but males as well.
Taddese confirms in his article that parental leave programs are imperative for ensuring a co-ed workforce that will continue to grow and prosper as the importance of family life in only expected to increase.
Finally, I am able to provide readers of this blog with some tips given by Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill author of article “Cases and Chaos: Work-Life Balance Strategies for Busy Lawyers” who has given some great tips for law professionals to stay happily afloat in their clearly hectic lifestyle.
Bentsi-Enchill, highlights two key ingredients perfectly in having a healthy work-life: accomplishment and enjoyment.
Her tips to follow are ones to take to heart as they provide great guidelines for those searching for a solution to help better balance family and work.
- Determining your own values and priorities
- Identifying the things blocking those value and priorities
- Balance your mind and beat to your own drum
- Creating “non-negotiable” personal time at least twice a week
- Contemplate a life-coach to help funnel your thoughts
- Create a vision that you want and stick to it
All three articles can be found by clicking these links!
Nicole Garton-Jones: The Myth of Work Life Balance in Law
Yamri Taddese: Male Lawyers join women in seeking work-life balance
Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill: Cases and Choas: Work-Life balance Strategies for Busy Laywers
By: Farrah Rajan
Justice Minister Peter Mackay claims that women are not applying to be judges because it may take them away from time with their children. Although his comments were made in reference to the lack of diversity on federally appointed courts, the mindset can be applied to all people in the workforce, regardless of gender or profession.
After reading about his comments, I was both confused and offended because:
- He did not address the scarcity of visible minorities (which is an issue that deserves its own post)
- Not all women are, or will be, mothers
- Classifying all women as mothers is sexist
- He is blaming women for the lack of diversity
By: Dhanvir Sohal
What is Work-Life Balance?
The author of a book, Peter Block, defines work life balance as “about more balance between engaging in what has meaning to the individual and doing things that are useful and practical, or in a sense, instrumental.”
The studies by Nicole Garton-Jones, briefs that work related duties such as managing multiple clients, fixing a serious problem and keeping up to date with the new laws amounts to high stress along with managing family goals and dealing with health issues.
I think these work and personal life requirements imposes a time constraints on lawyers for being unable to manage all of them at the same time such as work and family responsibilities, thereby, leading to high anxiety and stress. A study shows that flexible work schedule is considered an important factor that retains men as well as women’s in the legal profession.
A study by Stephen Mabey, discusses that the following as the reasons for the failure to balance a work-life balance, all amounting to individuals’ discretion to choose their lifestyle
1) The licensed lawyers must understand that firms they work for are there to undertake profitable business opportunities, not to accommodate for their personal needs.
2) The “Reality Check“- The article briefs that individuals often choose the legal profession by considering factors such as financial success, to bring positive changes in society and the development of intellectual intelligence. But, many professionals are astonished as they encounter the downsides such as high stress, long hours, client pressure and a highly competitive environment inside the firm and the industry, which leads them being unable to find the time to fulfill their personal life commitments, leading to stress and work-life imbalance.
I think the second cause is the one that needs to be addressed thoroughly as it becomes the main motive for many to pursue this profession, such as financial success. However, I think the downsides that are associated with the profession such as high stress and tight time constraints, are often overlooked to the benefits. The sudden exposure to the unexposed shortcoming causes high job burnouts. So, addressing the above causes would definitely exclude the amount of stress and create a more balanced approach in work-life.
The studies does propose some solutions to create a more balanced approach to work-life, as follows:
I. Choosing to work at a smaller firm or at a government office could increase availability of work flexibility
II. leave the legal profession altogether
III. Join an innovative firm which offers advantages such as virtual offices, value pricing, and online legal services.
IV. The study suggests that programs such as the parental leave program can reduce the amount of stress
V. As per Fiona Kay, lawyers could make an effective use of factors such as such as mentorship and educational programs, availability of part-time jobs, counseling programs
I think the third one is particularly a good option since it can save a lot of time, thus, reduce stress and create a more balanced work-life. Thereby, the implementation of the above proposed solutions could match the work-life balance requirements of some more closely than others. I think most of these proposed solutions would address the causes of this imbalance and result in balanced work-life, granting more time to be engaged in the activities that are useful and meaningful to each one.
If I, being a lawyer, achieve this balance, this is what I would do with my additional time:
By: Jason E Lau
It is no mystery that the typical day of work for a lawyer is laden with long hours, sleepless nights, and unrelenting amounts of stress. Although lawyer’s work often consumes his or her life, overshadowing both personal and family time, there needs to be a balance between the work and life to create a work-life.
The successful convergence of a lawyer’s work-life comes from two sources: an individual lawyer’s introspective and philosophy and from the externals environment of the firm.
The Lawyer’s Work-Life
Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill, founder and director of Esq. Development Institution, points out that the key ingredient to work-life balance for an individual lawyer is accomplishment and enjoyment. It is important to create positive outputs in a lawyer’s work-life
There are various tips and steps that one can take towards a work balance life:
- Create time blocks for yourself
- Determine values and priorities
- Make realistic expectations
- Stay organized
These points also relate to the importance of efficient time management. Derek LaCroix, director of Lawyer’s Assistance Program of British Columbia, emphasizes long-term solutions. The secret is to align one’s work schedule with their personal values, to create both value and pleasure in work.
The Firm’s Work-Life
Another problem stems from the workplace, the mentality and goals of the firm. One undeniable truth of the firm is that their main priority and goal is to make money. The firm expects demands their lawyers’ to provide quality, timely and perfect work.
Firms understand the importance that a balanced work-life will have on performance and have tried to address this issue with “firm generated” solutions, such as:
- Alternate work weeks
- Provision of mobile technology
- Access to child-care facilities
These firm generated solutions do not work. The problem is that these solutions either provide short-term gains or are short lived. These so-called ‘solutions’ further segregate a lawyer’s work and life, rather than integrate them.
Firms need to realize there needs to be a unison between work and life in which they are able to work together with their lawyers to create a cohesive solution and environment in which the two can merge and become simply work-life.
Both the firm and their lawyers should discuss what their goals are and craft programs and set up systems that address the root of the problem and provide lasting solutions.
It is important to integrate a lawyer’s goals of an accomplished and enjoyable work-life with that of a firm’s desire for quality and timely work. This harmony will effectively create a long-lasting and sustainable solution for both the firm and the lawyer’s work-life.
“My Clio Day” Video, which won an honourable mention in the “Clioday” the contest, is below:
By: Ashlin Kenuck
My biggest weakness that I will completely take full responsibility for is my own poor time management skills. Coming into the field of law I knew that this was going to be one of the biggest obstacles I would have to overcome. Time management in the legal field is absolutely crucial to success and longevity in the profession.
After some serious trial and error I have decided that in order to stay on top of everything I must take a very structured approach to my schedule.
Balancing a full time job, full time school, a mortgage, house, boyfriend, family, dogs, friends and baseball, I already want to rip my hair out some days and stay in bed. However, I know this is not an option. Organizing, prioritizing and ensuring I still leave time for myself and my family and friends are going to be the key to my sanity.
Along with proper time management, I know there will be a number of sacrifices that will have to be made in order to ensure my own success. There will not be time to go to the cottage every weekend, or go to the Jays game on a Tuesday night or have a couple drinks with friends on a patio on a warm summer night. The key is going to be finding a balance.
While some people would call legal professionals crazy workaholics, I call it passion and dedication. The question we will all be faced with is how much are we willing to sacrifice for our careers?
Do we choose a big firm that boasts huge clients with endless case work and the ability to grow immensely both professionally within the company and financially? Or do we choose a boutique firm that allow for more flexibility, but may not provide the same opportunities?
It all boils down to what we want out of our professional career and how we can fit that in to maintaining a successful family and personal life. The answers to these questions will come over time through trial and error. We will all find our paths in life with hard work, dedication, perseverance and balance.
By Vicky Medeiros
The legal industry is extremely competitive; individuals dedicate hours of hard work and commitment to adhere to the occupational pressures. Thanks to television shows like Suits, the legal profession is portrayed as a glamour career, though realistically many individuals have to sacrifice much of their personal freedom to become successful legal professionals.
Many legal professionals struggle to balance their professional life with their personal life. So, who is responsible for one’s unbalanced work-life? According to Work-life balance up to lawyers, not firms, Stephen Mabey believes that you only have yourself to blame. Mabey states, “work-life balance is an individual’s decision not the firm’s”.
No one can make you happy other than yourself. It is important to evaluate one’s priorities and take the necessary steps to becoming a happier legal professional.
Though it is difficult to manage a demanding career choice and a personal life, it is not impossible. In Successfully Juggling Work and Family: Tips for Lawyers, Julie Stauffer illustrates “Six Tips for Balancing Work and Family”, which includes:
- Being organized
- Having a backup plan
- Making use of technology
- Encourage supportive partner and family relationships
- Making time for yourself
- Keeping realistic expectations
Work-life balance is based on the professional and personal choices one makes. Nicole Garton-Jones states in her article, The Myth of Work Life Balance in Law, “it will be up to individual lawyers themselves to decide what balance means to them and then make it happen”. It is up to the individual to change his or her path in life. Too many individuals sit back and expect his or her life to change without putting forth the effort. In order to successfully balance a work-life, it is important to take the necessary steps in changing the dynamic of one’s professional career to incorporate the important element of one’s personal life.
Balance is the key to any lifestyle. Though diligence and perseverance is essential to a successful career, a balanced work-life is essential in attaining happiness.
“In order for businesses and individuals to thrive we must transition to a “renaissance” time of mindful living and working.” – Arianna Huffington
Photo Credit: Four Ways to Make Work-Life Balance Work
By: Pagan Cheung Paralegal student Centennial College, Published: Sun Jun 15 2014
Work-life balance is a struggle that every individual strives to achieve in the 21st-century. After all, who does not want a model home life and a great career in law or other businesses? But this is a balance that is hard to achieve especially when most of us struggle with time management and this is especially true for law professionals.
According to Steven J. Harper of the New York Times, the average billable hours lawyers are expected to generate in large firm are 2,000 hours per annum, averaging 50 hours per week of which only 40 is billable to clients. “Add commuting time, bathroom breaks, lunch, holidays, annual vacations” and familial obligations and it becomes a mess to achieve any realistic life balance.”
From a study by Harvard Business Review (HBR) spanning five years with interviews of almost 4,000 executives worldwide and 82 surveys conducted of HBS leadership executives, they found that a reflection of five main themes emerge to help face the work-life challenge.
1. Defining success for yourself
At any particular given time, the same concept applies to “leading a deliberate life: You have to define what success means to you.” For law professionals, this could mean targeting a billing range that you can realistically handle. Consider switching from working in a large law firm to becoming a sole practitioner as advised by Julie Stauffer. This switch can enable you to “call the shots” and determine how much work you wish to take on.
2. Building support networks at work and home
Build a base of support both in the home and at work. In the home, have a strong network of supporters (whether paid or extended family) to provide assistance in caregiving or helping with chores. In the workplace, build relationships with your coworkers and bosses as they can provide emotional and professional support that can be objective. In the situation when there is a car accident, you as a legal professional may need support in the workplace from coworkers to handle your current ongoing cases; in the home, you may need friends or immediate family members to provide at-home care.
3. Travelling selectively
There are times when you as a legal professional may be required to travel for your client. This should be handled with care and consideration of how it will impact your family members. The amount of travel and the time away from your family will impact both your professional career and your personal obligations. Only commit as much as you are able to maintain equilibrium.
4. Collaborating with your partner
Many executives from the HBR study empathized the importance of having a “shared vision” with your partner. The pressure of the law profession is demanding and working hours are long. An understanding partner or spouse can provide an emotional sounding board and make “positive contributions” to both your career and your life. With such intensive working lives, at times you will neglect yourself and this is where a spouse can add support and provide valuable input as to what matters.
5. Managing technology
In this age of technology where we are always connected, managing e-mails, text messages, voice mails, social media and other forms of communication has become the norm. Many interviewees from the HBR study “cautioned against using communications technology to be in two places at once, insisting on the value of undivided attention” by allocating a block of time during the day when you respond to all your communications. Alternatively, make use of practice management apps like Clio to save you time for more personal endeavours.
How Clio’s extra eight hours per week can be utilized for your Clio Day
As Arianna Huffington comments on the struggle to find a work-life balance. “From the Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” to the Roman practice “memento mori,” which is a reminder of the inevitability of death” — All impart the same wisdom which is the importance of mindful living.
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.