Everyone wants to find the right work-life balance. No matter the profession, the ability to balance your life at work with your life at home can be a struggle. Especially in your early professional years, it can be challenging to find enough time for yourself and for your family.
In order to succeed professionally, you must be ready, willing, and able to dedicate a significant amount of time to developing your career. However, this can be difficult to accomplish when your personal life also requires attention.
As a solo attorney, you have a unique set of challenges that may not exist for an attorney who works as an employee of a law firm or for someone who works for any type of corporation or business. Because you are responsible for operating your own law firm, you are under a unique set of pressures that might well cause you to work more hours than you want (or should).
The pressure to succeed, thrive, and advance your career as a solo attorney can be overwhelming. This can cause an unbearable level of stress and anxiety. It can also disrupt your ability to create a beneficial work-life balance.
Many attorneys elect to open a solo law practice because initially, they believe that the endeavor will allow them the freedom to establish a more flexible work schedule. However, it’s not uncommon for a solo attorney to find out that the decision to run a solo law practice can actually lead to less flexibility than originally anticipated.
As a solo attorney, it’s important to make a concerted effort to develop the appropriate work-life balance that meets your needs. Following are some ideas on how to develop and maintain a work schedule that is conducive to you, both as a solo attorney and as a person, with responsibilities outside of a professional life.
Accept the fact that it might be impossible for you to handle everything on your own. If you have too much work to handle, pass some of it to another attorney or consider hiring a paralegal to help you get through your busy periods.
Understand the concept of urgency, but draw some lines. Many clients want their work completed “yesterday.” While no attorney wants to disappoint a client, it’s essential that your clients have reasonable expectations.
Make sure your clients realize that you are not available to them 24 hours a day/7 days a week. No attorney wants to lose a good client. But that does not mean you should always be available to meet the demands of your clients at unreasonable hours.
Remember that you are human, and humans need a break. It’s practically impossible be an effective attorney when you work 20 hours a day for days/weeks/months on end.
Block out time for yourself and your family. If necessary, add personal time to your calendar. Make sure to refrain from scheduling work meetings during those blocks of time.
Know your limits. If you know that your schedule is booked, do not take on new work or new clients. Consider referring your overload to another attorney.
It’s important to remember that just because you own and operate a solo law firm does not mean that you have a flexible schedule. It also does not mean you will have unlimited time to dedicate to your personal life. It is absolutely possible to create an optimal work-life balance as a solo attorney, but it can require significant amount of planning and effort.