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Work/Life Balance

It’s Time to Give Up Fantasy of Perfect Work-Life Equilibrium, Lawyer Coach Says

Posted May 12, 2010 9:11 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Many lawyers believe that there are other, better attorneys out there who manage to give their firms more than they earn in salary, while also finding quality time for families, exercise, hobbies and sleep.

James Dolan, a professional coach and psychotherapist, treats lawyers with this belief, and he has a message for them: The perfect equilibrium of work-life balance is a fantasy.

“Law practice is simply not like that, at least not in the big firms,” Dolan writes for Texas Lawyer. “What seems a better target is to do the best one can, and that does not mean working to the breaking point and then letting off steam with a binge of some kind: alcohol, sex, drugs, food, exercise, gambling, etc.”

Dolan advises lawyers to give the practice of law their all—while they are working. But they should also work toward a schedule that allows personal and family time, knowing that sacrifices have to be made on one side or the other. The key, he says, is not to let devotion to work outweigh outside pursuits.

“A lawyer gets out of balance when he prioritizes work above all else,” Dolan says. “This is a common response to pressure from the firm and within oneself. Work is a great hiding place. It is where many lawyers feel most alive and most safe. They succumb to the illusion of control while at work because there they are in charge. The work is a shield against the world of personal, intimate relationships or the mysterious, unwritten dynamics of marriage.”

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