That’s all they really want
When the working day is done
Girls – they want to have fun
Oh girls just want to have fun
Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about how women can achieve a better work/life balance in their careers. Starting with a provocative piece in the Atlantic Monthly, the conversation has now turned to the in-house profession and its amenability to women being able to grow professionally and in other spheres of their lives. This blog post is about making sure that the conversation, which has been quite fruitful thus far, doesn’t forget about the many men who would like that work/life balance as well.
I’ll start with my own experience. After clerking for a couple of years, I joined a high-power Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice here in Washington, DC. My goals were clear: 1) argue a bunch of Supreme Court cases; 2) become a federal judge. To make a long story short, my wife and I were blessed with a second child, and I took a long, hard look at my life and decided to try something different.
After a zig and a zag, I joined the United States Chamber of Commerce as an in-house lawyer managing their extensive Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice. And now, I’m at the ACC representing the in-house bar and have an amazing front-row seat to the dramatic changes occurring in the legal profession. So, I’m not complaining.
That said, I’ve learned a few things along the way about trying to maintain a good work/life balance. So, in my best David Letterman voice, here it goes:
10. You — not your job, not your career — make work-life balance happen. You can’t delegate away that responsibility.
9. Work/life balance is more difficult with the billable hour model. There are a lot of things wrong with that method of compensation. This is just one of them.
8. It’s the team, stupid. When you’re looking at job opportunities, one key ingredient — beyond what’s written in the flexible workplace policy — is the kind of people with whom you’ll be spending your time. Life is better when work doesn’t take more than its pound of flesh out of you.
7. Upward mobility is way overrated. Find something you enjoy doing and stop worrying if it will lead anywhere.
5. Work/life balance is not just for women. As I wrote in the lead, both women and men want it. I sure do.
4. Having a fulfilling personal life makes me a better worker. Self-explanatory, but have you ever worked with somebody who doesn’t have a life?
3. I really love my wife and kids.
2. Tradeoffs, tradeoffs. If #3, or some variant thereof, matters to you, well, you have to pick. You can’t have it all.
1. The biggest enemy is guilt. Banish it now. Something, or things, will suffer. That’s OK. What’s not OK is a lawyer’s inborn capacity to stew about it for ages.
I know what you’re thinking — that left you as fulfilled as one of Dave’s Top Tens. Since I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon, no worries. With that said, I would love to hear, and learn from, your top ten lessons in the comments. Until then, I’m off to have a bit of fun.