How to Achieve a Better Work-Life Balance as a Lawyer?

Work-Life Balance
Last updated: 23 Nov, 2022 Leave a comment

Lawyers often face a tricky balancing act between their professional and personal lives. The stress of working long hours, dealing with clients who don’t always play fair, and juggling family responsibilities can affect their health and well-being.

According to the American Bar Association, lawyers spend an average of over 50 hours per week at work. That means they spend nearly half of their waking time at the office. Although they earn higher salaries than other professions, lawyers also experience high levels of burnout. Lawyers are human beings too. They get tired, stressed, and frustrated, just like everyone else.

Studies show that lawyers are more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed or burnt out, consider taking some time off. 

Let’s hear from lawyers about their experience with work-life balance:

1. Tom Galvani, Patent Attorney | Galvani Legal

Lawyers have a hard time with work-life balance because there is almost always work to be done. We are generally highly-motivated type-A personalities who want to perform well and achieve the best result for their clients. Clients often have last-minute or urgent requests, and because the consequences for failing to act can be damaging, most lawyers want to help their clients meet those requests.

Litigators are also subject to the court’s calendar, which can be set and changed with short deadlines. I schedule time for first thing in the morning for exercise. Then, I make breakfast for the family and get the kids out the door to school. I have a plan for the day, but it only sometimes goes according to schedule.

New client calls and lots of incoming emails can quickly derail. Most attorneys like to work in big chunks of uninterrupted time to focus on writing successful arguments. If I turn the phone off so that I can concentrate on work, however, it usually means I have to spend more time later returning missed calls, which can mean lost income.

Also, for most small offices, we worry when we are too busy that we need to get all the work done fast enough. And when we aren’t happening, we’re worried that we will never be busy again!

2. Joshua Rogala, Criminal Defence Lawyer | Winnipeg Criminal Defence Lawyer

As a new lawyer, I found the market extremely competitive. With little to no experience, that meant working longer hours with less pay to establish my practice. As the year went on, fewer and fewer lawyers from my graduating year remained in my area of practice. During that time, I built up a strong network of lawyers, within and outside my firm, to make my workplace a positive space. After growing an extensive practice, I found myself very in demand, yet I still maintained the attitude I had when I first started. This significantly took away from other areas of my life as I worked all day hours during the week.

I consciously decided to lighten my workload by referring some of the less challenging cases to my associates. While I found a slight decrease in my income, my mental health improved, and I was much more productive when I was at the office. It’s essential to challenge our conceptions of the lawyer lifestyle; otherwise, you can easily fall into a pattern of decreasing productivity. The free time has also allowed me to take on a more significant mentorship role, which has its extrinsic value and helps develop junior lawyers at my office.

3. Gregory M. Rada, VA Benefits Attorney | After Service

As a solo practitioner, my income is directly related to the amount of time I work. So, it’s hard to be off the clock because I’m always thinking I could earn more income if I were working. Should I go for a 3-hour bike ride? Or should I work for those 3 hours to provide as much as possible for my family? I suspect this mentality applies to all solo attorneys and partners at firms because of the dynamic that time put into work has a direct relation to income earned.

My practice has an added dynamic because I represent veterans and their families against the VA to make sure they receive the VA benefits they’ve earned. Thus, when a compelling case presents itself, it’s hard for me to turn away from that veteran, even if my current caseload is too high.

Achieving a balance was difficult for the first eight years of my practice. But now, since I had children, it’s become more accessible. My technique is to do daily affirmations where I ask myself, will my children remember and appreciate my increasing my bottom line by another 10%, or will they remember and enjoy the time I spent with them? When I ask myself that, the answer is obvious, allowing me to put the work away and focus on life.

4. Tina Willis, Personal Injury Lawyer | Injury Attorney Florida

I think the practice of law itself pulls anyone away from balance, and into work, for a variety of reasons, including:

(i) By definition, most practice areas are more competitive than any other profession. We win or lose many battles. And working more increases the likelihood that you will win. This may be why 90% of cases settle. But still, there are good and bad settlements, which are primarily affected by the amount of work the lawyer put into the matter.

(ii) The potential intellectual work that could increase case value is virtually limitless in any size case. There are always more cases to research, practice guides to consult, and various forms of evidence to pursue or study (and the like), and those are challenges that take time and effort.

(iii)The impact we could have on our clients’ lives. Other than the medical profession, few professionals could have such a profound positive or negative impact on their client’s lives.

Here’s how I achieve work/life balance:

(i) Most days since I graduated from law school, I put exercise (in my case, running, but it could be anything) at the top of the list of my daily priorities. If we don’t have health, we have nothing for ourselves and eventually nothing to offer others.

Taking this time before starting client work most days lowers my stress. And the time that is required increases my work/life balance.

(ii) During My first several years after law school, I struggled with working into the night and on many weekends. That ran me into the ground mentally in a big firm environment.

But since I started my practice, thankfully, I have adopted a Monday-Friday, 9ish to 6ish schedule. I also fill my nights and weekends with other pursuits or hobbies. So I have something else I need to do, and I feel a sense of obligation to those things, too.

When I first started practicing, I didn’t think twice about working nights or weekends. Now my nights and weekends are already scheduled with non-legal pursuits. So my schedule and planned activities force me to have a work-life balance. (Most of these aren’t scheduled professional events, just activities that have become so routine that they feel part of my schedule. When my typical workday ends, I have things to do that prevent me from reading another deposition, checking one more case report, etc.

(iii) Lawyers must consider what unhealthy habits will do to them long-term. What value would any amount of money have without good health?

5. Riley Beam, Attorney at Douglas R. Beam, P.A. | Dougbeam

The legal industry is highly competitive, where finding and keeping clients is just as vital as winning cases. Lawyers are often left to handle a wide range of responsibilities, some of which are not even a part of their primary expertise. Add to this the long hours, the lack of scheduling options, especially regarding hearings and court appearances, and the last-minute surprises from opposing counsels and their teams. You have a long list of worries you cannot afford to ignore.

Achieving work-life balance soon becomes a second priority as you race to wrap up the tasks on your calendar. As a managing attorney, I have gone through these same struggles and witnessed others fight the same daily battles. Yet, the one answer I have come to rely on and pass on to everyone around me is delegation.

(i) The advantages of delegation:

When you delegate work, you are left with tasks requiring your expertise. With clients, you’ll have more time to understand their cases better, address common apprehensions, and deliver every bit of news and advice through one-on-one interactions. With your firm, you’ll be able to pay attention to the details of the case without the mundane paperwork distracting you and also notice and address finer details you may have otherwise missed.

(ii) Overcoming the fear:

While I understand that only some lawyers may find themselves where they can find the resources to delegate their tasks, they must decide that their time is better spent growing their practice and achieving success for clients. If they allow their daily duties and mundane responsibilities to overwhelm them, they will never be able to explore their true potential as legal professionals.

Conclusion

Legal professionals tend to juggle a lot daily, and sometimes it can be challenging to strike the perfect work-life balance to maintain the deliverable’s efficiency. Based on the job requirement, attorneys are subject to a ton of stress and pressure, as well as extended hours, so balancing out the moments to have a life can be challenging.

If you are a solo lawyer, law firm owner, or legal professional working with a law firm or corporation and struggling to achieve a work-life balance constantly, legal process outsourcing services can benefit you.

We at Legal Support World can help you with legal back office work and workload management to get ahead in your career and achieve a work-life balance. We are a global legal process outsourcing services provider, helping law firms and legal departments of businesses to streamline operations and optimize legal processes. To learn how we can help you, reach us at +1 646 688 2821 or send an email to info@legalsupportworld.com

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