Want to learn more about work-life balance in law firms? Editor and writer for Legal Maxim, Rhea Ajmera, provides her insights on work-life balance and how you can avoid getting bogged down with work and deadlines.
Work-Life Balance in Law Firms: Page Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Work hours and ethics
- 3 Expectations as a fresh recruit
- 4 Tasks with a deadline should be completed within that time
In this article we aim to create awareness about the work-life balance in a law firm, as working with a law firm is a career aspiration for many. This balance becomes crucial in the contemporary scenario. We live in a busy yet isolated world where expectations from us at our workplace are extremely high, challenging and tiresome. In a world where “I” comes before “we” and selfish interests are prioritized over collective gain, the discussion around the importance of mental health becomes all the more important.
In light of these issues, we believe that it is vital to discuss the work-life balance in such workspaces. We limit the scope of this article specifically to law firms, as there is a general notion that law firms demand you to work for long erratic hours. There are several practitioners and students who join law firms, and while some truly love it there, the rest of them often struggle to find answers. Understanding the work-life balance will help those interest in joining a law firm to be prepared mentally and physically. We desire to pass on some insights as shared with us by Mr Ankit Chapparia who is an associate at AQUILAW.
Work hours and ethics
A law firm is an organization consisting of lawyers indulging in corporate commercial work and other fields of legal expertise. Hierarchies are deeply rooted in the organisational structure and climbing the corporate ladder can be very tedious. While many employees of other organizations have a “typical workday”, the same does not apply for employees at a law firm. You are expected to push your limits depending on what your work demands. There are some days when you may be fortunate enough to leave early, at around 7-8 pm due to limited work or no stringent deadlines. However, while working on urgent cases and crucial transactions, you may also find yourself racing against time and eventually land up pulling long hours or working all night. Those interested in joining a law firm must prepare themselves to accept a flexible lifestyle with little certainty about their work hours. The law profession demands you to put your work commitments before everything else.
Expectations as a fresh recruit
As an entry-level associate or fresh trainee, although you will be provided with some basic training, no one is going to handhold you through every task that you are assigned. Working in a law firm is very different from working around a law school curriculum.
For example: If you are working with a general corporate team in a firm, possessing efficient drafting and research skills are necessary as most of the work revolves around drafting various documents, forms and circulars. In law school, although we write academic papers, we are never taught skilled drafting in particular. Therefore, the entry-level life is tougher to balance as the work is challenging and time-taking. The pressure to perform and also the responsibility to learn on the job can be overwhelming.
Tasks with a deadline should be completed within that time
When responsibility is assigned to you by your senior with a set deadline, it is implicit that the task should be accomplished within that stipulated time. One should possess self-control and perseverance to keep going at it until it is done. If we keep motivating ourselves mentally, we will soon find ourselves in a habit of enjoying work and meeting deadlines. Inculcating this habit will make more effective use of our time and facilitate the process of self-care. However, if you are at a task and you cannot continue due to any mental, emotional or physical stress, then it is advised to stop forcing yourself into working further. Instead, you should take a refreshing break and divert your mind into activities that give you peace. In a nutshell, we must focus and work to the best of our capabilities but also take breaks when necessary.
The harsh reality is that the initial six months at any law firm is extremely gruelling and tiresome as the responsibilities test you in various ways. Someday you may feel bogged down with work and mental health seems to take a backseat. To prevent that from happening, you need to understand these 3 things:
It is very easy to lose your calm and get frustrated on others, your family members or even yourself. Please remember that your work is only a part of your life, not your life. Value your work but do not let it get the worst out of you. Professionals should practice the art of meditation as it assists in attaining peace and mindfulness. We would also suggest to keep your cool and abstain from decision making when feeling angry or frustrated.
The legal field is extremely competitive, and so is the atmosphere at a law firm. People are constantly on the lookout to bring themselves up by bringing you down. They may find various personal or professional reasons to do so, and this is what we generally refer to as “playing politics”. It is advised to stay away and stay clean from any form of politics. Remind yourself that you are here for a reason, you are here with them because you are capable. Possessing self-confidence will always make you feel secure and grounded.
– Be true to your work:
In a law firm, your work will be loyal to you whereas people may or may not be. Your work will always remain yours while we cannot say the same about people. Embrace what you do and do it well enough for others to have faith in your work. At the end of the day, you are judged based on what you bring to the table.
It is not a nightmare to work at a law firm and if done right it could rather be an enriching journey. These are a few insights that can help many of us in navigating our way through the law firm culture while giving due importance to our mental health. While these are some broad insights, creating a work-life balance is an extremely individualistic practice. Striking such a balance is dependent on the subjective aspirations one has from their life. We should take out some time for our hobbies or activities that bring us joy so that we can turn to them in times of immense stress and pressure. Happiness and peace are interlinked to prosperity and success. A wholesome personal life will automatically create a drive for a productive professional life.
Hence, I will end with the cliché that “health is wealth” because whoever said it was a happy wise man!
- First published at Legal Maxim
- Author Details – Written by Rhea Ajmera, Editor (Legal Maxim)
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