YourABA June 2012 Masthead

Advice on balancing life and work

"Looking around, you will see numerous examples of attorneys who live their lives with work filling 90 percent of their time and everything else squeezing into the remaining 10 percent," says solo practitioner Amy E. Clark Kleinpeter in her Young Lawyers Division 101 Practice Series article, "Balancing Life and Work."

To help lawyers find a way to make a career choice they can and want to live with, rather then letting the stress and the anxiety of the job get to them, Kleinpeter shares several life values that can help lawyers find a balance between work and their private life. Among them:

Be not afraid. Kleinpeter suggests that lawyers move toward balance with confidence and with the understanding that building a life with friends, family, spirituality, fitness—and not just work—is their right. "Do not buy into the myth that misery, overwork and permanent exhaustion are hallmarks of our profession," she writes.

Do not settle for being content as a substitute for being happy. "I do love my job. Every day, even when it is a complete pain, I cannot imagine doing anything else," writes Kleinpeter, explaining her professional satisfaction now as a result of a lesson she learned as a first-year associate by a firm's partner. When she was first asked whether she loved her job, she thought it was OK that she found her work interesting more than 51 percent of the time.  But, as Kleinpeter noted, that is not the same as being happy and looking forward to going to work every day.

Define your values. Life should be a reflection of what you value the most.  Find what is important to you and find a way to include it in your life. Kleinpeter's message is clear: "If you value family, spend time with them. If your health is paramount, then exercise and find time to eat right. Practice your religion and volunteer for causes. "

Eschew perfection. Sometimes, "you will miss a detail, make a typo, or leave out a comma. Get over it," says Kleinpeter. Strive for doing your best for effective arguments and writing— instead of perfection—and you will be serving your client well.

Do not procrastinate. Procrastinating keeps your mind busy and prevents you from relaxing with your loved ones in your time off. "Schedule your work, do what of it you can in the time you have allotted, then go home," suggests Kleinpeter.

Organize, organize, organize. Figuring out a way to organize your time, space and habits may not be easy, so continue trying ways to do so until you find a method that works and fits you. Being organized can "be very calming," says Kleinpeter, as she warns that "spending 40 minutes looking for a lost file does not count as relaxing ‘down time. '"

Eat lunch. Eating "Pop-Tarts in your car or an apple at your desk" does not constitute having a proper lunch, advises Kleinpeter.

Fail. Everybody makes mistakes and accepting failure as part of life is something you have to get over, writes Kleinpeter. "If you never fail, you may not be taking healthy risks that could benefit your clients and yourself. Go for it—take calculated risks—the worst that can happen is that you fail. And with a balanced life, failure is something you can not only survive, but learn from. "

Read "Balancing Life and Work" in its entirety for the full set of tips from Kleinpeter.

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