The legal profession is one of the most competitive industries there is. It’s actually more competitive than ever due to the multigenerational workforce. For the first time in history, four generations are now competing for jobs. Many paralegals and attorneys are working past retirement age, which means the Traditionalists who were born before 1946 are now working alongside Baby Boomers who were born between 1946 and 1964, as well as Generation Xers who were born between 1965 and 1976 and Generation Ys, or Millennials, who were born between 1977 and 1997. Having a 50-year age gap between some employees means the typical stressors of being an attorney are now compounded by the fact that there are fewer jobs available and more overall competition.
The stress of working in a law office affects people of all ages. Older employees are nervous because they have to compete with younger, brighter, faster talent, and young employees have the “work now, live later” mentality of being hyper-focused on their careers. It’s a way of thinking that gets planted in law school then it continues after students enter the workforce. It’s easy to see why people refer to the term “work-life balance” as an oxymoron. The truth is there will always be an imbalance, you just need to find an effective and sustainable way of toggling the inequalities. There will always be a major brief due or a court date to prepare for, but burning the midnight oil and then celebrating after the fact no longer works if you also want to have a normal life outside of work. Establishing boundaries within your workplace is the best way to start defining your goals. From there, you can judge how well you are sticking to your objectives. In today’s economy, it’s very easy to want to dedicate yourself to work and bill as many hours as possible. It takes an internal strength to be able to stop when you realize you’re driving yourself too hard and decide it’s time to tap the brakes. Check your ego at the door and accept that it’s ok to delegate some tasks and ask people for help. Surround yourself with a team that supports you and encourages collaboration, and make sure to take full advantage of modern technology to lighten your workload.
Some law firms are starting to get the message that employees need a work-life balance in order to function at peak performance. Offering flexible hours, letting employees work from home, allowing part-time work, encouraging continuing education, and allowing temporary absences are just a few of the ways that law firms are showing a more human element.