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How do lawyers balance their work life and social life?

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Kathleen’s Answer

There are many things you can do with a law degree other than "practice" law. Many corporation have in-house lawyers to help with their practices, procedures or contracts. In the insurance industry, we have many individuals with law degrees who handle everything from reviewing our marketing materials, to working with lobbyist to handling jurisdictional questions or even complex cases. A law degree provides you with many more opportunities then the practice of law.

Hi Kathleen, can you share any insights on the work/life balance for lawyers? Gurpreet Lally, CareerVillage.org Team

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Desiree’s Answer

As with any other demanding, often high pressure job, this can be tricky. However, most attorneys find ways to make time in their day for things they prioritize -- whether it's early morning runs/yoga/exercise before work, leaving early to coach a kid's supporting event (and then logging back in after the kid goes to sleep), taking off a day to run an elderly relative to appointments (whether using personal time or making up the time on the weekend, depending on the HR policies ) or just making time for a weekly catch-up with friends. It's a time-consuming profession, but most practices have a groove and you can find what works for you.

There is a certain pace to most law practices, but it might take you some time to learn it. Is your practice linked to a local court calendar? Then it's easier to schedule vacations around the court. Will you be on calls/video conferences with global clients in time zones all around the world? If so, perhaps you can start of your day early with Asia and then end it early to meet up with friends. Will you be traveling to clients (around your state, across the US or all over the globe)? If so, maybe you can add a weekend to that business trip to visit your buddies in that area. (MOST companies/firms will allow you to do so provided you pay for your own hotel or any increased travel cost - like plane or train tickets.) Also, some aspects of law practice encourage socialization - especially business development at law firms (which is a fancy way of saying "finding & landing new clients"). Whether that is within your existing social circle or expanding it, you may be surprised at the time you spend socializing for work.

To be honest, most attorneys put in lots of hours - it's a requirement at most large firms to do so to maintain good performance reviews/stay on partnership track. But even roles at small firms, in-house and as govnt attorneys tend to be demanding jobs that are rarely just 9AM-5PM. In addition to working for your clients, you have to maintain your skills with Continuing Legal Education classes (specific hour requirements vary by state), volunteer your time with Pro Bono legal work, and -- typically -- conduct some sorts of business responsibilities, too (e.g., developing new clients at a firm, management/review/HR issues for the team of lawyers who report to you). Some types of practices or a part-time practice may allow attorneys to better can carve out routines. Once you really get into your role, you'll notice the ebbs and flows of your unique practice, when things get busy (e.g., end of quarter for in-house counsel or fiscal year in govnt) and when there is more flexibility (holiday weeks when court isn't in session for litigators).

Desiree recommends the following next steps:

Research "work life balance" in the practice of law/legal profession
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Jonathan’s Answer

It is hard and ultimately is based on your decision on how to live your life. it is really hard to make money as a lawyer without putting in the time. You can only make so much working 40-50 hours a week because you need to bill and get the work and the more you dedicate yourself the higher quality work you will get. You need to work when the work is there and you always need be marketing yourself. I think you should strongly consider going out on your own at some point. One of my law professor's stated that the reward for being good in the law is just more work and that is true. To make money you need to delegate work to associates and paralegals so you can go out and get more work. Ultimately, you will learn that law isn't as financially rewarding as you may think it is and if you are going to try to make money there are other professions that are more financially rewarding.
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