Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Work-Life Balance in the Legal Profession: A Necessity Even in a Down Economy

Earlier in the week one of my favorite blogs – The Glass Hammer – posted a very interesting article on how so many attorneys have been willing to neglect their personal lives to avoid being let go. However, as the article explains it is important to give yourself some personal time so that you can be both mentally and physically ready for the demands of your job. You can find a snippet of their post below, but be sure to head over to The Glass Hammer for the full text, including a list of the top 10 family friendly law firms in the country.

Over the last year, in large law firms across the country, associates have lived in fear of losing their jobs, accepting and even seeking out longer hours at the office in the hope that if they can accumulate enough billable hours, their jobs will be spared. Unfortunately, such a practice is leading to growing dissatisfaction for all involved. Associates are worn out and resentful of their current predicament. Clients are becoming fed up with large legal bills which reflect the work of several attorneys billing a significant number of hours in order to produce a single piece of work product. Law firm partners are struggling to maintain and bring in business since clients are going in increasing numbers to smaller firms where the same legal work can be done for a lot less.

In this time of high unemployment and economic hardship, should we consider work-life balance a luxury, available only when economic times are good, and just be thankful we have jobs at all?

Although the answer from many quarters seems to be “yes”, others believe that sacrificing work-life balance is not the best strategy to surviving a tough economy. Lisa Gates, life balance coach and author of “Are You Ditching Work-Life Balance Because You’re Afraid of Losing Your Job?” explains that balancing work and personal life in a down economy is important, not just for your well-being outside of work, but to ensure you remain mentally and physically prepared to successfully carry out workplace goals and make sound decisions in your career.

Large law firms can learn from those employers which have already recognized the importance of work-life balance. According to Susan Fenton, author of “Firms Say Work-Life Balance Boosts Productivity”, companies such as Dutch mail company TNT, oil company BP, and US computer maker Sun Microsystems Inc. have found that work life imbalances lead to increased business costs. As a result of these findings, these companies have adopted more flexible working arrangements which they say motivate employees, resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.

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