On Your Journey to Professional Success, Don’t Forget to Have a Life

Charles N. Hurley and Oderah C. Nwaeze
In the twilight of our lives, we likely will reflect more on our personal triumphs and family milestones than our professional successes.

In the twilight of our lives, we likely will reflect more on our personal triumphs and family milestones than our professional successes.

Maskot/Maskot via GettyImages

Often with little exposure to the legal profession, soon-to-be JDs must decide on a practice area, an employer, and where to take the bar. This continual decision-making does not stop at graduation. Once in the workforce, the decisions become more complicated. At almost every step of our careers, we amass copious amounts of information to make prudent decisions with very little time or coaching.

Unless we are intentional, our careers can easily consume our lives. Indeed, to survive the shellshock of being a junior attorney, we often neglect our happiness. We forgo vacations. We convince ourselves that we are too busy to have hobbies, enjoy the arts, or date. The reality is, in the twilight of our lives, we likely will reflect more on our personal triumphs and family milestones than our professional successes. Therefore, it is as essential to pursue personal goals as it is to chase professional wins. Below are some tips for personal life success.

Friends

Keep your friends updated on your career and life and take time to find out what is going on in their lives. While your life may be challenging and stressful, that is true for many young professionals. It is possible that your friends have had similar experiences (demanding boss, client, assignment, etc.) and could help you avoid their past mistakes. The more you invest in your friends and their personal or professional success, the more likely it is that you will see a return. One of your friends could be your next great client.

Dating

Technology is your biggest ally. No longer must you spend hours in bars, clubs, or church functions. Now, you can scroll through potential matches on the phone during your commute. Make sure that your possible love connections understand and support your busy lifestyle. Remember, your time is limited, but being busy is no excuse for a spinster lifestyle. Use dating as an opportunity to expand your horizons by trying new foods and activities. Not only will you maximize the limited time you have on dates, but the new experiences might also spur your growth as a person and lawyer.

Marriage

Before saying, “I do,” make sure you and your future partner have a sense of the roles you each will play. Does your future spouse expect to eat dinner with you nightly? Is there a day that your future spouse expects to be work-free? If so, make sure she has your undivided attention. Take your vacation days! Disconnecting from work stress is vital for your relationship, mental health, and productivity. Few of us can truly excel at work when home life is unpleasant or chaotic.

Kids

Realistically (and sadly), you will not be there for all your child’s activities. As with most other things in law, proper planning and expectation-setting at work will improve the chances that you are around for your child’s important events. New parents: take your parental leave! Although the culture is changing, many remain reluctant to take leave because of potential backlash at work. You might be replaceable at work, but you are irreplaceable to your children. Take advantage of those moments to help mold what likely will be your most significant contribution to society. The profession survived for a long time without you, and despite how brilliant your resume claims you are, it will still survive without you—at least until parental leave ends.

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Charles N. Hurley is a litigator and the director of legal affairs for the Arena Football League.

Oderah C. Nwaeze is a trial lawyer in the Wilmington and Philadelphia offices of Duane Morris LLP.