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My next move: How do I achieve work-life balance?

My next move: How do I achieve work-life balance?

Many lawyers work consistently long and unpredictable hours. The pressure to be client focused, to meet tight timeframes, and technology such as email, Skype and smartphones have blurred the lines between one’s work and personal life.


Lawyers not willing to “be there until the job is done” are often considered as not committed. Promotional prospects can be affected.  

We all need time out: to relax, to be involved in the lives of our family and friends, to have hobbies and interests. This is why a flexible work environment is highly sought after by many lawyers.

Employers recognise that, in order to attract and retain the best legal talent and to create a happier and healthier environment, they need to be able to provide flexibility. Long, unsustainable hours affect health, absenteeism and productivity.

The best employers work to address the problem by supporting lawyers to achieve a balance.  They create a culture that supports staff needs and trusts employees when they do work flexibly.  Paid parental leave, part-time and casual work, telecommuting, leave without pay, opportunities to purchase additional leave, compulsory leave, strict maximum hours and half days on Friday during summer are all ways of offering flexibility.

Many employers regularly seek feedback from staff to determine if they are achieving balance.  They conduct surveys to determine whether lawyers enjoy their work and feel a sense of achievement; to find out what their typical working hours and commuting times are, and to discover how they spend their time outside the office, to better understand their lawyers’ stresses.

Lawyers, however, also have a responsibility to achieve the right balance between work and home.  They need to manage their time, speak up and take action. The onus is on your employer to create a culture and environment that supports and encourages work/life balance if they wish to retain you, but it is your responsibility to manage your career and life. 

Try talking to your firm about how the hours are affecting you.  If nothing changes and it gets untenable, draw the line and say enough is enough.

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