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June 09, 2009

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Venkat

It's great to see lawyers (and others) pushing for having a life.

However, I'm still stuck a bit. Here's my problem with the discussion. Much of the get a life debate revolves around the billable hour. The theory goes - lawyers have been traditionally paid by the billable hour and the traditional firm model (being focused on maximizing profit) aims to get the most out of every lawyer. Hence dissatisfaction > depression are rampant within the industry. I'm not sure this focus is going to address the problem. Certainly the whole initiative brings awareness and that's a good thing.

Much of the stress and long hours that comes with lawyering just comes from "trying to be a good lawyer." I can only speak for myself, but I've never ever been focused on the billable hour. I've worked at several firms, some of which had substantial billable hour "requirements" and some of which didn't. My hourly input was never influenced by these requirements.

I've since started my own firm. I'm loving it. Things are going great. However, I work more than I've ever worked at any other place. The reason is that I stress about doing a good job for "my clients." I'm not sure this will ever go away. We can try to minimize it and look for ways to make life easier (e.g., technology) but at the end of the day, I've come to the conclusion that lawyering is and will always be a relatively high stress/time intensive exercise. Regardless of whether I have five clients or twenty. Regardless of whether I'm working on big matters or small matters. That's just my nature and I think the nature of many many good lawyers I've encountered. I don't ever discount anyone for trying to focus on work/life balance, but I've yet to encounter a standout lawyer that practices casually. Again, this is purely anecdotal/personal evidence.

On the bright side, I was on vacation last week - working a menial hour per day. :-)

Laurie

I think the Get A Life conference would have been very interesting - will have to remember that for next year!

That said, and especially in light of the comment by Venkat, I think part of the problem in getting lawyers to have more of a life is sort of two-pronged. First firms have to truly encourage an appropriate billable hours target and second, firm lawyers and solo lawyers need to recognize that while being driven and committed to clients is great, they don't have to do it alone and they should not do it at the expense of their mental/physical health - which means they must find time to enjoy their life somehow.

As a fairly new business owner these are lessons I need to learn as well!

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