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Do Lawyers Really Want Work/Life Balance?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Making time for family, traveling the world on vacation, disconnecting from the office, and keeping up your health and exercise -- these are all things lawyers tend to struggle with. With the pressures of a legal career, many lawyers spend a lot more time grinding out billable hours than they spend on themselves.

Of course, we all wish we had a better work/life balance, right? Well, maybe not. When it comes to perks that could make lawyers' lives a bit more balanced, many of those perks are going unused.

Thanks for the Unlimited Time Off, Now Let Me Get Back to Billing

BigLaw firms have been showering their attorneys with benefits meant to make a balanced life easier, like unlimited vacation and generous, gender-neutral parental leave policies. But according to the Law Firm Flexibility Benchmarking Survey, which looked at 28 BigLaw firms, many of these perks are going unused.

When it comes to time off, this makes some sense. After all, it's hard to hit 2,000 hours a year, stay on the partner track, and earn a massive year-end bonus if you're not working just about every day.

But some beneficial work/life balance perks don't cut in to billable hours and still go unused. Most all of the surveyed firms had policies that offered flexible schedules and telecommuting, yet just 8.8 percent of attorneys took advantage of those offers.

What Life?

This raises the question: Do lawyers even want work/life balance? The answer is presumably yes, but for many attorneys, their work is their life. They enjoy going in to the office and some will work until the day they day.

For those lawyers, a life where the balance tilts heavily towards work is totally satisfying. (Or is it Stockholm syndrome?) For others, not so much. It leads to ulcers, strained relationships, burn out. If your life also involves raising children, for example, living for the job becomes less appealing.

If you'd rather have more life and less work, perhaps it's time to start taking advantage of the policies that are available. Don't worry, it's not career suicide. One of the bright notes from the survey was that firms continued to promote attorneys who worked reduced schedules.

Would you work fewer hours if possible?
Yes, please! I want to know what a weekend is again!
Yes, but only if it didn't hurt my career track.
No, I'm happy with my work/life balance.
No, I wish I had more hours I could bill.

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