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Solo & Small Law Firms

Two Great Reasons for A Work Life Balance Firm

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The concept of work-life balance or a life without seams  doesn’t get much love in the legal profession. Lawyers who strive to balance family and work are often derided as dabblers, losers or faux-lawyers. And while there are many days that I too question whether it’s possible to do everything well, all at once, there are just as many reminders — indeed, two this past week — that a well-rounded life is possible.

First up, this blog post in the Harvard Business Review gives the best selling point for a family-friendly firm that I’ve ever seen.  Here’s the excerpt:

[A client questioned whether to hire a small law firm that had advertised itself as a “family-friendly workplace] “What happens when an emergency comes up during my case?” asked the prospect. “How do I know you’ll be able to respond?”
“We can respond better because we have a balanced approach,” explained the attorney. “And here’s why. We prioritize better, are staffed more appropriately, schedule time for long-term planning, and yes, allow for time outside of work for our lawyers to have full family lives. Because my lawyers aren’t chronically overworked, they have the capacity – in terms of time, energy, and mental focus – to respond effectively to your crisis situations. We are much more able to rise to these occasional challenges because we don’t treat every day like a crisis.”  He got the client.

Next, it’s always nice to realize that work life balance isn’t exclusively a woman’s issue.  After all, when we speak of re-entry into law practice, we frequently assume that it’s women making the return after taking time off to raise a family. So it was refreshing to come across this Q&A profile of Napa Valley estate planning attorney Jonathan Hollister, who spent ten years as a stay-at-home dad raising three children before returning to the law. And not surprisingly, Hollister opted for solo practice as the vehicle for his launch back to law – partly because it gives him some flexibility to work around his family’s demands.

Seems the world is changing after all….

  • shg

    The occasional anecdote does not show the “world is changing after all…” I expect better of you. This is the sort of marketeer nonsense that Susan tries to sell to desperate kids.
    More importantly, the quote from the HBR blog emits the unpleasant odor of a vapid sales pitch. One cannot plan for emergencies, by definition, and being well-rested (which speaks more to lack of business) has nothing to do with availability.
    If you’re trying to offer reasons for why emphasis on work-life balance won’t impair the success of solos, this post does not accomplish your goal. No doubt, some will adore it as it validates their personal choice even though they realize deep down that they’re just blowing smoke to justify doing what they want to do. But it will convince no one who isn’t already a member of the choir, and will serve instead to show just the opposite.

  • AD

    A great message to start off the week right! While my legal practice is busy and lucrative, I love the balance I am striking between my family and personal commitments and my work. I definitely feel my work benefits from the clarity I bring by feeling centered and like I’m not being pulled in a million directions (because when I actually spend meaningful time on my various priorities, I don’t often feel that stress of needing to be doing something else). My clients tell me almost daily that I am “awesome,” “the best” or “great” and thank me regularly for being available at odd times and “being there” for them. It can be done! (And I’m in corporate/transactional practice.)

  • Jordan Rushie


    When I worked at a law firm, I could take a two week vacation because someone would read my emails, cover hearings, and was ultimately available to try cases. We had paralegals that check the mail, answer phone calls, and do all the things to make taking a vacation less stressful.

    Now that I’m the boss I have to do everything down to taking out the trash. Just found out a case is going to trial close to Christmas. Guess whose problem it is? Hint: Mine.

    Solo practice is not the land of milk and honey where everyone works as much or as little as they want to. I work more hours now than I did working for a law firm.

    Is it better? Yeah. But not because I get to do whatever I want, but because I get to run everything the way I want to run it.

    Is it a lot more work and time? You had better believe it. I’ve been at the office since about 6am and it’s about 7pm right now. I’ll probably walk back in the door around 9pm. I managed to sneak out for an hour between clients and hearings to hit the gym.

    If your goal is work-life balance, go work in house for someone or do insurance defense.

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