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What Gives a Law Firm a High Quality of Life?

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

Most discussions on work-life balance focus on giving lawyers sufficient time off, finding opportunities for lawyers to meet their children or glimpse a beach, while trying to still bill 80 hours a week.

But there's more to quality of life than just spare time and high pay. In fact, lawyers can improve their quality of life, and that of their firm, by focusing on factors other than hours and compensation altogether.

What Matters for Work Quality of Life

Quality of life is, of course, a hazy concept. First, not everyone defines quality of life similarly. For some, their general happiness may be more dependent on the weather than the substance of their work. There are plenty of lawyers who would rather do document review in Miami than appellate practice under the gray skies of Seattle.

However, when it comes quality of life at one's work, we can narrow it down to a few key factors. That's just what the career information company Vault did for its annual Best Law Firms to Work For rankings. Now, some have criticized the Vault rankings as a pointless exercise in self-perpetuating prestige, and perhaps that's correct. But the rankings also give us a good clue into what makes a firm worth working for.

Here are the 11 factors that influence law firm's quality of life:

  1. Hours
  2. Compensation
  3. Business Outlook
  4. Substantive Work
  5. Associate/Partner Relations
  6. Leadership Transparency
  7. Formal Training
  8. Informal Training and Mentoring
  9. Pro Bono Work
  10. Overall Diversity
  11. Career Outlook

Focus on What You Can Improve

The Vault rankings focus only on the biggest of BigLaw. As many lawyers know, small and medium firms can offer a higher quality of life while still going largely unnoticed. Smaller firms looking to make themselves more competitive and to improve the satisfaction of their lawyers should focus on improving a few key factors.

For example, you may not be able to offer a BigLaw salary, but you can offer a higher quality of life through strong mentorship programs and commitment to diversity. Similarly, encouraging pro bono work can help counteract a weak formal training program. After all, money and time aren't the only things that give lawyers satisfaction.

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