I don't apologize for my statement! There seems to be a prevailing thought in the legal profession that you can only be a good lawyer if you live, breath, eat, sleep, and poop law. 70, 85, 100 hour per week work schedules are pronounced as if they are badges of honor. They are offered up as a measure of excellence and expertise. I don't buy into this way of thinking, and I don't feel guilty getting away from work. I am a good lawyer, even though I "only" work 30 to 40 hours per week. When I work, my time is organized and focused. I get as much into my time, and as much out of it, as other folks do. And I am not killing myself doing it. I have balance in my life, and that is just as important in my scheme of being a well rounded, mentally healthy lawyer. I am not alone in my thinking.
On her Legal Ease Blog Allison Shields, Esq. writes of the virtues of doing something other than lawyering around the clock. Here's what Allison has to say:
As many of you already know, I was in Chicago last week for the first annual Total Practice Management Association "Get a Life" (TM) conference. This month's Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter included a recap of some tips from the conference speakers, and I'll be posting more of them on the blog in the next week or so.
The purpose of the conference, as well as the Total Practice Management Association's new magazine, Total Balance, (which you can get for free) was to teach lawyers ways to achieve greater work/life balance. If you look at the roster of speakers and programs from the event and the conference recap, you'll realize that work/life balance doesn't mean not working hard or not taking the business of law seriously - in fact, it's just the opposite.
I firmly believe that in order to be intellectually challenged, to come to work with your best foot forward and to provide your clients with the excellent service they deserve, you've got to have balance in your life.
But work/life balance doesn't just have one meaning that's universal to everyone. For some, it can be working long hours doing something they're passionate about. For others, balance comes by defining your priorities and focusing on what you love and what you do best, outsourcing the rest. For others, balance is achieved through flexible work schedules, and technological advances. Still others achieve balance by focusing their marketing and their practice only on the highest value clients. And of course, work/life balance also means determining your personal priorities and incorporating those into your life - whether through your practice or outside of your practice.
Yesterday, I came across an article in Law.com entitled, "Are Today's Lawyers Stretched Too Far?" by Susan Beck of The American Lawyer. The article begins by talking about tough times faced by big law firms, and the depression and even suicides that have resulted from recent layoffs and firm restructuring. Beck notes that the current law firm model is not sustainable, either financially or practically. She says, "Expecting lawyers to devote every ounce of their energy to their firm and its clients is not sustainable."
So what is the alternative? I've heard some lawyers from large firms commenting that one 'bright spot' in the economic downturn is that the lawyers who still have jobs won't be 'whining about work/life balance any more; they'll just be glad to be working.' I couldn't disagree more.
Work/life balance is even more important now, when financial pressures are mounting, client expectations are increasing, budgets are being scrutinized, and some workloads have increased due to under-staffing. And again - clients are better served by lawyers who are committed and focused, which necessarily means that those lawyers are taking care of themselves, too.
Beck suggests that it's time to, "knock [lawyers] out of the daily grind, to get [them]to stop, look around and think." Hopefully, focus on these issues - including conferences like "Get a Life" will help lawyers to do that.
Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.