The business of practicing law has become more demanding and complex since I articled in 1996. The introduction of emails, smart-phones, and text messages has increased the pressure on lawyers to always be available to clients and to respond to queries with alacrity. Long gone are the days when one would receive a letter from opposing counsel, dictate a response, go home for the evening after disconnecting from your practice and return the next day to consider your reply letter after having “slept on it”. More articling students appear to be competing for the same number of positions. Regional firms are becoming national firms and some national firms are joining international firms. At the same time, a greater number of lawyers are competing for a finite number of clients and clients are pushing for alternative billing arrangements. Meanwhile, the pressure to record billable hours, meet financial targets, obtain new business, service existing clients and keep abreast of changes in the law is constant.
Practicing law in this day and age is not for the faint of heart. It is a demanding, and often rewarding, profession.
Periodically, it may be useful to consider your life and ask yourself some of the following questions about your professional development and personal wellness.
- What are my typical hours of work? Do I take a lunch break? Do I take work home on weeknights or weekends when it is not necessary?
- Do my family members or the person I am in a relationship with complain about the hours I work or the fact that I am preoccupied by work when I am with them?
- Do I feel resentful sometimes when working in the office late at night or on the weekend?
- Have I missed important events involving those I love such as birthdays or anniversaries because I was working?
- Do I take vacations? If I don’t take vacations, why not? When and how long was my last vacation?
Do not confuse a good career with a good life. Just because you have one does not necessarily mean you have the other. Unless you are psychologically and physically healthy you will not be the best lawyer, or person, that you can be. If you are psychologically and physically healthy you will be better prepared to fulfill your duties as a lawyer. You will also make a better friend, a better son, a better daughter, a better husband, a better wife, a better partner, a better father, a better mother, because healthy people do. You will, in short, be better prepared to live.
— Dana Schindelka