Life as an in-house lawyer comes with its own unique professional challenges, and prioritising health and happiness, as well as a need to openly communicate with trusted persons, is more important than being able to tick off everything from your list.
Being able to realise that there is always going to be something that needs to get done is an important skill, according to TabCorp senior corporate lawyer Ashley Kerr, as is appreciating that one is never going to be able to complete the full “to-do list”.
“It is an endless list, especially in a fast-moving company. And it becomes more and more difficult to separate what is urgent and critical and what can probably wait. For anyone who is a perfectionist and takes pride in what they do, they’d hate to see anything slip by the wayside and want to do everything that they can to make sure the business is knocking it out of the park,” he said recently on The Corporate Counsel Show.
“The problem with that is that you might be sacrificing yourself as a result.
“And it’s really difficult to recognise that and to know when enough is enough and a pause needs to happen. My advice for those that are in-house is that you are more contactable, you are expected to be there 24/7, and so you will get inundated with questions and calls. So, work out how to make that balance. And knowing, even when you’re friends with someone in the business, that you have to respectfully say, ’I'm sorry, but this is going to have to wait’.”
Thales Group legal counsel Lena Chapple agreed, saying it is crucial to have people who can pull you up when you need it and also recognise when you are putting work ahead of your health.
“I think it’s important that everyone goes out and finds someone who can be that check and balance to them. And sometimes, you know what? It might be your bosses. You might have a fantastic team and they’re the ones there that can support and talk to you about those things,” she said.
“I know that I also have the benefit of a team like that. If I’m ever like, ‘I can’t sleep. There’s this particular issue’, they’re all over me. They’re like, ‘Is anyone going to die?’ And I’m like, ‘No’. And they’re like, ‘Then go to bed’.”
For Stockland legal counsel Eva Chapple (Lena’s sister and Ashley’s fiancée) finding the right person or people to keep you in line do not have to be spouses, siblings or even colleagues in the in-house realm.
“Having anyone who you can download to and debrief with I think is really important. There are also those times at the office where the pressure and the stress can get to you, and I think in those situations, one of the key things to really do is to take a deep breath and step away for a bit,” she advised.
“That’s definitely something I’ve learnt over time because in those situations, you physiologically actually can’t get your brain to think straight. So, take a deep breath, walk away, come back. That would be probably my biggest tip.”
To listen to Jerome’s full conversation with Ashley, Lena and Eva, click below: