Legal Professionals – Law is Cool http://lawiscool.com The law school blog and podcast from Canada Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:10:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.6 1338880 Having a successful law career and a personal life is possible!!! http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/23/having-a-successful-law-career-and-a-personal-life-is-possible-by-carlos-vera/ Mon, 23 Jun 2014 04:29:37 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3776 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4.  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.

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Work and Family – Finding the right balance….for Lawyers http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/22/work-and-family-finding-the-right-balance-for-lawyers/ Sun, 22 Jun 2014 16:06:51 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3757 By: Tamir Salomon

 

Finding the right balance between work and family is a tough hill to climb, but it is very much attainable. With the right amount of preparation and vision, we can all find the balance that hangs above our heads. There are several steps to be taken in order to achieve a well balanced lifestyle between work and family, each persons scenario will vary depending on the paths they have chosen.

When it comes to the legal world, the hill becomes higher, the hours become longer and the balance grows heavier on the other side. If we take certain actions towards the struggle, we can overcome what might be one of the hardest struggles in life.

Organize

Make a list of the things you need to do, prioritize them in order of most important to things that can wait. If you need to divide the workload between you and your significant other, so be it. Don’t get caught up on missing social events and ‘fun stuff’ you are used to doing. Make little notes for yourself to keep you on the right track.

Don’t always rely on one plan of attack, have a secondary plan in case your first doesn’t go the way you planned. Have someone close to you look after your kids, whether it be family, friend or paid caregiver, to relive some stress and allow you to meet deadlines.

Work-life isn’t about tension between work and life, says Peter Block, it is about doing what is more meaningful, useful and practical in life. It really is up to the individual at hand, whether the job before them is being held to its highest regard, or is their family just as or even more important to them.

The truth is, what is the point of working so hard, if you cannot enjoy your hard work. I think this concept really applies to those who work in larger law firms are opposed to the smaller firms out there. As long as the person is satisfied and is meeting the expectations set out for themselves, the rest should follow suit.

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Is Work-Life Balance Attainable? http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/22/is-work-life-balance-attainable/ Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:55:59 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3752 By: Shannon O’Connor

work life

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

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Don’t burnout—break out and dance! http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/22/dont-burnout-break-out-and-dance/ Sun, 22 Jun 2014 14:50:52 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3753 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

  1. Stay organized by creating and sharing your schedule, as well as prioritizing tasks.
  2. Create a second plan for unpredictable work needs.
  3. Take advantage of technology to complete work outside of your workplace.
  4. Develop supportive relationships with your partner, family, and neighbours so that you can count on their help when you have an emergency.
  5. Allocate “me-time” for yourself to do all of your favourite things with your loved ones.
  6. 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:

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Personal Choice v. Systemic Issue http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/20/personal-choice-v-systemic-issue/ Fri, 20 Jun 2014 19:45:37 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3737 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

Thankfully, we have people like Avvy Yao-Yao Go willing to take a stand to dispute such ignorance.  The problem is that as long as the Mr. Mackay’s are running the show, achieving an optimal work-life balance will remain elusive for the majority of women and visible minorities across Canada.

As Omar He-Redeye points out, “many visible minorities in Canada still believe that a profession is one of the more stable routes to successful lifestyle.  Perhaps nobody told them that the chances of them making partner are even worse than their peers”.

I would like to think that I will be able to achieve great things in my future career as a paralegal, but as a visible minority female, I wonder how much I will need to sacrifice in order to do so.  In the past, I have compromised my health and personal relationships in order to fulfill work obligations.  More recently, I took a stand to protect my mental health and it resulted in me being forced to take an unpaid leave of absence.

Jordan Furlong thinks “work-life balance is a [legal professional’s] personal choice and responsibility”; I think it is a systemic issue that needs to be dealt with.

 

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Work-life Balance: Causes and Solutions! http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/19/work-life-balance-causes-and-solutions/ Thu, 19 Jun 2014 20:16:14 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3728 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.

 

Causes:

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.

Solutions:

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.
Solutions, Solutions!

 

If I, being a lawyer, achieve this balance, this is what I would do with my additional time:
MY CLIODAY:

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Choosing a Path in the Legal Field While Balancing a Personal Life http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/16/choosing-a-path-in-the-legal-field-while-balancing-a-personal-life/ Mon, 16 Jun 2014 04:08:46 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3711 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.

 

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Just Existing or Thriving? Its All in a Day’s Work http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/15/are-you-existing-or-thriving-its-all-in-a-days-work/ Sun, 15 Jun 2014 20:46:16 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3699 “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.


Source: Arianna Huffington, CBA PracticeLinkClioHarvard Business Review, New York Times

 

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Law Professionals Seeking Work-Life Balance http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/13/law-professionals-seeking-work-life-balance/ Fri, 13 Jun 2014 23:21:16 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3687 For Communication & Writing class, by L. Appleton

There is a common theme amongst lawyers and professionals trying to find a work-life balance for those in the legal profession, and that theme is you. You are responsible for creating your own work-life balance. It is your responsibility to create time for your family, friends, hobbies, mentoring, volunteer work, and regular old work. Then it is your responsibility to determine which of these are most important to you in order to allocate your time efficiently.

Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill’s “Cases and Chaos: Work-Life Balance Strategies for Busy Lawyers”sets out ways lawyers can decide what is most important to them and also find time for themselves to avoid burnout. However, it is still up to you to figure out what is important to you, and like most in a legal profession, one has to wonder if that time is really available or even existent. Trying to move up in any company? Sorry, no time off, you need to complete your allotted billable hours to get paid to even consider going on that vacation. You have kids? That’s great! But we need someone career driven that can work late into the evening. Hope you have an unpaid spouse at home to take care of those cute ankle-biters.

If you are a female lawyer with children, how often will you pick your career over your children? If you do pick your career specifically for your children to grow up in an affluent home in order to have all the best opportunities in life, how often will you be defending your position to do so? Similarly, single males with children and no caregiver at home will no doubt go through the same process of deciding what is most important to them.

These kinds of individual decisions are the basis for Stephen Mabey in his article “Work-life balance up to lawyers, not firms” that some firms are now allowing for:

  • Alternative work weeks;
  • Top-up of compensation during maternity and parental leaves;
  • Technology to allowing telecommuting;
  • Access to child-care facilities;
  • Child-care at firm meetings of lawyers;
  • Extrapolation of financial results caused by absences for family matters when considering rewards and admission to partnership; and
  • Provision of mobile technology.

We keep returning to the need for law professionals to figure their own lives out. As Nicole Garton-Jones put it, “it will be up to individual lawyers themselves to decide what balance means to them and then make it happen.”  If you are new to the legal profession and want to make that big salary, unless you have miraculous skills your employer can not find elsewhere, you’ll be spending a lot of time at the office.

Speaking realistically, a law firm’s main concern is the almighty dollar. It would therefore be difficult to discuss the paybacks of these benefits with a human resource specialist unless it was to retain a high-ranking or highly skilled/experienced/desirable staff member. Basically you would have to work your way up by spending a lot more time at your workplace than at home for quite some time before your superiors would consider putting in any effort to help you create a work-life balance.

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