It’s been a while since my last post. However, recently my hours have been fairly depressing and I believe this is a necessary concern that I need to address.
When you finish law school, and go into your interview for your first job as a graduate, you will hear a lot of emphasis on how your firm is different because they genuinely care about their employees and have an excellent work life balance and associated well being culture. This, I’m afraid, is an outright lie.
Any work/life balance in commercial law firms is about balancing non work commitments, with work, within a work environment. For instance, you might spend 40 minutes at the gym on the ground level and head back up to work. You’ll be exercising with your work mates. There may be drinks or a social outing, and this will be with work mates. Your weekend will be work in the office with other work mates. Frankly, your life is consumed by your job and your colleagues become your circle of friends.
This, in my opinion, is unhealthy and depressing. Whilst the opportunity for you to strike a perfect balance is very hard, you should nonetheless actively work towards this. There are several ways I do this:
- I reduce my attendance at firm outings or social events – I won’t go for drinks the majority of times; I will not work out with colleagues at all; I will not attend social events with colleagues, or meet colleagues during my weekend; if your firm gives you a Blackberry – then do not give your personal mobile number to colleagues but use your Blackberry number.
- Socialise with other people – when you were at uni, did you have friends in Engineering, Medicine, Science, Arts etc? Do you have siblings you’re close to? Do you have friends who don’t work in commercial firms? Are any of your friends criminal lawyers, or family lawyers or In House? These are the people you need to reconnect with and invest time in building these relationships.
- Leave work at work – This is really hard, but leave all your work related worries at your desk. You’re always going to think: did I dot that i and cross that t? You might not have, but don’t let it pull you down. Go home, turn your Blackberry off and keep a clear mind.
- Hobbies – Engage in stuff that make you happy: does smoking cigars calm you down? go for it. Does retail therapy work for you? Spend some money on yourself. The more you get to know your partner, the more you realise they have a fair bit going for them outside of the office. They probably own a pub in some country town; they own a business which operates a ski resort in NZ; they have a limousine service etc… You should work towards making a hobby into a small business plan. Maybe open with an ebay store? I have a colleague who has a vegetable market as a side business, starting from scatch less than a decade ago.
To your firm, you’re just another piece of meat. You generate three times over what you earn and your partner still gives you performance lectures. What is important, is your health and mental well being – and this isn’t a primary concern for your partner.
You need to establish your own balance, and by doing so, you’ll become more efficient and dare I say, content, with yourself.