The legal profession is known for a lot of things, but work/life balance definitely isn’t one of them. Most lawyers work way too much and spend way too little time enjoying life. The demands of billable hours, quality client services, and firm marketing keep attorneys incredibly busy with their professional responsibilities.
Lawyers need to consider improving the balance between work and life, and this post will explore seven reasons why.
1. Culture of unhealthy habits
The legal profession was built on unhealthy work habits. Generations of lawyers have been told to measure their time in terms of billable hours, and to spend that time working on as many client tasks as possible. Most law firms maintain a culture that celebrates working harder and longer, rewarding higher billable hours with promotions and bonuses. This type of environment breeds unhealthy work habits, while discouraging healthy downtime.
2. With more success comes more responsibility
For some professions, moving up the ladder of success includes the luxury of taking it easy and enjoying the fruits of your labor, but this is seldom the case in a solo or small legal practice. In fact, more success often means more work, and more work translates into more hours in the office and less hours enjoying life.
As a legal practice grows, it becomes even more important for lawyers to embrace a true work/ life balance. Otherwise, they will be left with no time to truly enjoy the successes they have earned.
3. The client conundrum
Lawyers constantly deal with the needs and wants of clients. While some of them can be extremely pleasant and cooperative, others can make you feel like leaving the profession altogether. But even the most challenging client deserves the highest level of legal services you can provide. That means returning calls you may not want to return, and sitting through conversations you may not want to have. After a day of serving clients, lawyers need time for some self-care.
4. Depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are far too prevalent among attorneys. Too much time and energy spent at work can lead to stress, emotional turmoil, and even physical pain. Lawyers are reportedly 3.6 times more likely to suffer from depression than non-lawyers, and among those seeking counseling, 26 percent cite depression and anxiety. In addition, lawyers rank fifth in incidence of suicide by occupation. This should be more than enough reason to practice a better work/ life balance.
5. Management duties
For most solo and small firm owners, the legal profession is about more than practicing law. It’s also about managing a business and its staff members. These attorneys must deal with the added administrative responsibilities of overhead costs, human resources, payroll, and budgeting.
Lawyers constantly deal with expectations. They have financial expectations from their family members. They have expectations from their clients, who expect wins and huge outcomes. They must also deal with the public, the state bar, and the court systems, which all have expectations about the conduct and image of what a lawyer should portray. The pressure to meet all of these expectations can prove extremely stressful.
7. Competition is stiff
The legal industry is a crowded playing field, so lawyers are constantly working to stand out and attract new client prospects. Without effective marketing, law firms can suffer from a lack of clients and profitable matters. It can be difficult trying to stay ahead of the crowd, leaving lawyers to constantly market and generate new leads.
When this happens, there is never any downtime. Every waking hour of every day becomes devoted to working or thinking about how to bring in more work. This challenge to compete is another reason why attorneys need to care about establishing a better work/ life balance.
Tips for improving your work/life balance:
- Acquire better management skills. If you are managing your law practice while serving your clients, it could be useful to acquire better management skills. Access some free online resources. You may even consider taking a few management courses. The skills and knowledge you gain can go a long way to freeing up valuable time in your busy schedule.
- Implement better technology. Legal technology is booming, with numerous apps and software on the market to help run your law office more efficiently and help you find some free time.
- Implement better systems. Along with technology advances, you should also take a look at your current firm processes to identify areas for greater productivity and efficiency. With better systems and procedures, you can improve your legal services while simultaneously improving your work/ life balance.
- Develop better support teams. With all of the tasks you handle on a daily basis, the right support staff can make a world of difference. Make the effort to find competent staff members that you can trust with delegated duties. From the receptionist to your paralegals, talented staff members help you feel confident enough to step away from the office for some much-needed free time.
- Schedule time for life. Make time for what matters. While it sounds easy enough, many lawyers operate in such a way that, if it isn’t on the calendar, it does not exist. If you are one of those attorneys, place personal time on your calendar to make sure it actually happens. Write down your weekly workouts and schedule a month’s worth of massages. You should even plan out some extended family time. With a little planning and scheduling, you can ensure that you are getting a healthy work/ life balance.
An adequate work/ life balance is vitally important to the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of attorneys. Identify areas for improvement and implement some of these tips to develop an appropriate work/ life balance.