Seeking Balance? Here's Some Recommended Reading - ABA YLD 101 Practice Series

By Carolyn L. Hann

Law school may have taught us to how to think like lawyers, but not necessarily how to lead balanced lives. While the search for balance certainly is not limited to the legal profession, young attorneys in particular may find it daunting to navigate a myriad of interests, including daily work demands, long-term career aspirations, and personal lives. I recently contemplated this issue from my own perspective as a young Asian-American female attorney, and I found a number of useful resources:

Stress Management for Lawyers: How to Increase Personal and Professional Satisfaction in the Law (The Vorkell Group, 2d ed. 1997), by Amiram Elwork, provides a thoughtful and comprehensive overview of the challenges faced by this generation's lawyers. The author, who is the Director of Widener University's Law-Psychology Graduate Program, offers a number of practical suggestions for stress management, including overcoming perfectionism and achieving a greater balance between work and personal life.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less. How the Culture of Abundance Robs us of Satisfaction (Harper Perennial, 2004), by Barry Schwartz, while not specifically geared towards lawyers, chronicles the almost overwhelming level of choice, ranging "from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs," that we face in modern society. Professor Schwartz, who teaches social theory and social action at Swarthmore College, observes that this "choice overload" may lead to increased stress, anxiety, and busyness in day-to-day life. The author offers practical advice for managing expectations and limiting choice by listening to one's own priorities. Business Week magazine named The Paradox of Choice as a "Top Ten Book of the Year" for 2004.

What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question (Ballantine Books, 2002), by Po Bronson, profiles 50 individuals, including some attorneys, who sought (and in most cases, ultimately found) their inner calling. Bronson, who is a journalist and writer, writes each vignette with compassion, wit, and insight, and he masterfully interweaves his own experiences into various chapters of the book. While maintaining each individual's voice, Bronson highlights common threads in these profiles, including the importance of being true to oneself rather than seeking approval from external sources. This book provides an unparalleled opportunity to live vicariously through the experiences of others.

Time Off for Good Behavior: How Hardworking Women Can Take a Break and Change Their Lives (Broadway Books, 2005), by Mary Lou Quinlan, provides a compelling and personal account of female professionals who took a break from their busy, high-achieving lives to rediscover their own priorities. Written in conversational prose, the book focuses on Quinlan's journey as an advertising executive from burn-out to balanced life and includes a short profile of one private practice attorney.

Breaking The Bamboo Ceiling: Career Strategies for Asians. The Essential Guide to Getting in, Moving up, and Reaching The Top (Harper Business, 2005), by Jane Hyun, is a groundbreaking career guide for Asian-American professionals. Hyun, who is a Korean-American career coach, makes insightful observations about the interplay between one's Asian cultural upbringing and professional success. The author provides comprehensive and practical advice for navigating critical stages of one's career, including interviews, performance reviews, and promotions.

The web site, JD Bliss (, is a comprehensive resource that provides up-to-date information for attorneys, including inspiring profiles of lawyers who have chosen non-traditional career paths. Unlike many law-related sites, JD Bliss focuses on career satisfaction, and the site frequently announces recently published books regarding attorneys and the work-personal life balance.

While each of these resources addresses a different audience, they share the same underlying principle: striking a balance by being true to oneself. This list is by no means comprehensive, and like many individuals, I expect my own search for balance to develop, adapt, and mutate over time. I hope that others will find these resources a good starting point for their own journeys.


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About the Author

Carolyn L. Hann is the YLD National Representative for the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and a member of the YLD Affiliate Assistance Team. She currently practices consumer protection law in Washington, DC.

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