The Real Lawyers, Real Lives survey series aims to find commonalities and practical advice on topics that matter to lawyers' well-being. The first survey in the series focuses on Work/Life Balance. You can still participate at this link: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/431141/006907913704
Early findings are painting a picture of a well-balanced, integrated lawyer. She is driven by passion, with a clear life vision. This lawyer works quite a bit, but doesn't feel like she makes undue sacrifices. Religion or spirituality is a guiding hand behind her choices.
The ABA Journal published a podcast yesterday entitled "Do Reduced-Hour Workloads Derail Partnership-Track Careers?" (http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/podcast_monthly_episode_8) Here's the description from the ABA Journal:
"Work-life balance is always a hot topic among our readers, but this month our podcast guests were the ones fired up in a heated discussion about the realities of practicing law, raising children and making it all work.
ABA Journal Podcast moderator Stephanie Francis Ward led our guests through a frank debate examining whether reduced-hour workloads derail partner-track careers; how female attorneys can gain more power over their schedules; and whether computer software that simulates client interactions adequately prepares students and underutilized associates to practice law."
I am very excited to be hosting the first women's call for Cutting Edge Law!
In this first hour, we'll create a space where we can support each other and recognize all work/life choices as valid and meaningful.
I'll start the call with my "Five Best Minutes" exercise, and if you like you can prepare yours ahead of time. Even if you're not joining the call, it's fun and can provide insight. Here it is:
Your Five Best Minutes
Focus on the positive
Positive psychologists have shown that making a list every day of three things that went well and why is effective at combating depression, and also improves physical health and energy levels.
Think of a time in the past week where you felt your best. What were you doing? Who were you with? Focus in on the five best minutes.
Now write about it. Be really descriptive, drawing on all the senses to help a potential reader/listener really feel like she was in that moment with you.
Fifty-two percent of employees say that job demands interfere with family or home responsibilities, while 43% say that home and family responsibilities interfere with job performance (American Psychological Association, 2007)(cited in the APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Fact Sheet)
When I read this statistic yesterday, I wondered if the data would be different in a survey of law firms. Based on my own anecdotal evidence, my guess is yes. The design of the workplace and the structure of the workday embed conflict with family responsibilities.
In the spirit of this website, I'd like to ask the question:
What if lawyers were peacemakers in their own workplaces, creating solutions to work-family conflict?
Please chime in in the comments.
One of the most-linked topics I've seen this week is Clayton Christensen's Harvard Business Review article and David Brooks' New York Times op-ed response. If you haven't read them, go do it now. What immediately struck me about Christensen's address to the HBS graduates was its genesis as a request from the students for Christensen to advise them on their personal lives instead of their careers. No less striking was the context Brooks (and even the HBR editors) placed on Christensen's religious viewpoint and its influence on his advice. Both of these highlight the prevalence of fractured lives; of strict demarcation between business and personal, between secular and religious.
In his "Work Matters" blog at Psychology Today, Robert I. Sutton, author of "The No Asshole Rule," asserts detachment can be as important as passion for maintaining well-being. Sutton presents two main reasons: 1) human cognitive limits prevent us from being fully passionate about everything we do, so we need to be indifferent about things that don't matter; and 2) passion is a recipe for self-destruction if you are in a poisonous setting, so exercising detachment is necessary for self-preservation.
Sutton also discusses change management consultant Ann Michael's idea that passion can blind one to the big picture and be confused for license to be a jerk. He points to David Maister's confession of being an asshole when he "got overexcited and overenthused on a topic."
Passion is a hallmark of the Inner Purpose in my 7 Purposes of Wellness model. Here is an excerpt from my Introduction to Purpose eBook:
The ABA Journal's Question of the Week this week focuses on "work/life balance," asking "What's your personal work/life balance, right now—and are you happy with it? How many hours have you worked in the last seven days? How many of the last seven days have you taken off from work? Is this typical?"
I'll be following the answers posted on the ABA Journal website and their Facebook page, and I'm interested to see if responders speak of "priorities" and "sacrifices" as has been the theme thus far.
The ABA Journal recently picked up a Texas Lawyer article by coach and psychologist James Dolan on the fantasy of achieving a perfect "work-life balance." While Dolan's article is thoughtful and hints that finding this balance requires some introspection into the meaning and purpose of one's life, the ABA Journal's distillation is flat and trite. The article reduces his advice to "work toward a schedule that allows personal and family time, knowing that sacrifices have to be made on one side or the other."
How fitting that as the Daily Practice resumes, the White House holds a forum on Workplace Flexibility, with the Council of Economic Advisers releasing a companion report. The report, though unfortunately titled with "Work-Life Balance," addresses the longstanding changes in American culture that workplaces have ignored. Citing economic reasons for employers' reluctance to adopt flexible working arrangements, such as telecommuting, job-sharing and flexible hours, the CEA points to seemingly win-win solutions for both workers and employers.