Work-life balance is getting a bad rap. I’m not talking about the usual rumbling from big-firm attorney who “paid their dues” and think everyone else should, too, but about a serious misconception about what work-life balance means to our clients.
Work-life balance is not about slighting your clients.
Quite the opposite: we believe that healthy, low-stress professionals are more focused and provide a higher quality of service than those who are burned out, stretched too thin, or focusing most of their attention on trying to keep too many balls in the air.
We also believe that the way to achieve that balance is not to short-change your clients, but to clean up your processes, increase your efficiency, make good decisions about delegation, and focus your energies where they’re required.
Bloggers like Jordan Furlong give the issue serious analysis, but fall short of the big picture because the discussion rests on the erroneous assumption that balance means producing less or providing inferior services. Furlong points out that most associates in their early years don’t have much choice, and there’s some truth to that for employees of large and mid-sized firms. But the solo or small firm lawyer has much more control over his caseload, the decision to delegate and all of the other moving pieces that make work-life balance work without sacrificing productivity or client satisfaction.
At What about Clients?, attorneys who dare to speak of work-life balance are referred to as “the slackoise”, and one comment laments a generation that doesn’t want to work and has little interest in actually helping clients. Of course, if that were true there would be no need for a “work-life balance movement”. Sadly, many professionals don’t start to think about work-life balance at all until they’ve pushed themselves to the point of losing both productivity and perspective.
To those who dismiss the importance of work-life balance—or worse, deem it irresponsible—a few questions:
-Can you honestly say that you never work inefficiently because you’re tired, stressed or overloaded?
-Is every task you perform in your law office something only an attorney can do, and therefore the most productive and profitable use of your time?
-Do you have (and take) the time to develop a personal relationship with each and every one of your clients?
If you can honestly answer yes to all of those questions, it sounds like you’ve already achieved work-life balance. If not, do you really believe it would be a bad idea to cut out the wasted time, delegate the things you don’t need to do yourself, and work more efficiently instead of at greater length?