Wellness and Work/Life Balance

A. Career Paths

The following points are provided to facilitate a discussion about different career paths for lawyers, the environments in different types of practice settings, and the resources for exploring career options that fit with the lawyer’s definition of balancer and wellness.

  1. Discuss the different types of law practice. For example, government or public office, private practice, large firm vs. small firm vs. solo practice, corporate, environmental, the judiciary, non-traditional legal positions, legal aid.
  2. Share with the new lawyer your experiences and the environments in the different practice settings in which you have worked. Invite another experienced lawyer to discuss with you and the new lawyer his or her experiences in different practice settings.
  3. If the mentor specializes in an area of practice, share with the new lawyer how you acquired the expertise in that area. Why did you choose to practice in that concentration? Discuss how to secure a position in your practice concentration.
  4. Describe to the new lawyer your typical day with respect to things such as court appearances, trial work, research and writing, client contact, discovery, mediation/dispute resolution, hours/vacation/benefits/quality of life, and similar topics.
  5. Share with the new lawyer what you enjoy most and least about your practice area. What or who was most instrumental in developing your practice expertise? What has been your greatest achievement?
  6. If the new lawyer is not in the type of practice s/he would like to be in long-term, the mentor should try to introduce the new lawyer to lawyers in the field s/he would like to explore.
  7. Discuss networking opportunities that would coincide with the new lawyer’s objectives.
  8. Share with the new lawyer tips for succeeding in the practice of law, especially in the practice setting in which the new lawyer works.
  9. Encourage self-reflection by the mentee. What is their personality and preferred work styles? Certain practice areas are a better “fit” for certain personality types, such as more introspective and academic personalities may find a better “fit” in a tax, antitrust or intellectual property practice. Does the mentee prefer predictability in his or her work life, or is unpredictability exciting at work? Does the mentee plan to one day seek part-time work? Thinking in a reflective manner about these types of issue can help a new lawyer find the right professional “fit.”
  10. Suggest a personality assessment tool, which can be helpful in identifying personality traits that can in turn help a mentee find a great professional “fit.”

Resources:

ABA-CLE Career Counsel, http://www2.americanbar.org/careercenter/Pages/careercenter.aspx.

NALP Career Paths, http://www.nalp.org/careerpaths_careerservadmin#cargen.

DISC Profile, http://www.discprofile.com/whatisdisc.htm.

Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) Mentoring Resource Center, http://mentoringcolorado.org/mentoring-resources/mentoring-literature.

Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) Resources, http://www.coloradolap.org.

B. Career Objectives 

The following points are suggested to facilitate a discussion about the new lawyer’s career objectives and ways to achieve them.

  1. Discuss the article Kathleen Brady, Navigating Detours on the Road to Success, Law Practice Today, March 2005, http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt03058.html.
  2. Discuss the different types of law practice. For example, government or public office, private practice, large firm vs. small firm vs. solo practice, corporate, environmental, judicial clerkships, non-traditional legal positions, legal aid.
  3. Share with the new lawyer the long-term goals you had as a new lawyer. Discuss how and why those goals changed and/or the successes and failures you had in reaching those goals. Discuss what you have achieved and what career goals you have now.
  4. Share with the new lawyer how you would do things differently in pursuing your career objectives if you had a chance to start over.
  5. If the new lawyer is not in the type of practice s/he would like to be in long-term, the mentor should try to introduce the new lawyer to lawyers in the field s/he would like to explore.
  6. Discuss networking opportunities that would coincide with the new lawyer’s objectives. Discuss the new lawyer’s resume and suggest activities in which engagement would help to strengthen the ability to meet career goals. Suggest other ways for the new lawyer to develop professionally.
  7. Assist the new lawyer in creating a five-year plan stating career objectives and strategies for meeting them.

Resources:

ABA Career Counsel, http://www2.americanbar.org/careercenter/Pages/careercenter.aspx.

Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) Mentoring Resource Center, http://mentoringcolorado.org/mentoring-resources/mentoring-literature.

Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) Resources, http://www.coloradolap.org. 

C. Balance between Career and Personal Life 

The following points are intended to facilitate a discussion about balancing career and personal life, putting daily pressures into perspective, reconciling job expectations with actual experience, and maximizing career satisfaction.

  1. Share with the new lawyer techniques to create and maintain balance between personal and professional life. Share your own experiences, including successes and failures, in finding balance between your personal life and career.
  2. Discuss strategies to achieve the following components to balancing personal and professional life. (For specific strategies, see The Young Attorney Balancing Act: How to Have a Career—and a Life cited below.)
    1. How to create expectations for your employer and clients that are compatible with a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
    2. How to give your all at work while saving energy and emotion for family and self.
    3. How to maintain physical health with a busy schedule and how doing so contributes to your productivity and success.
    4. How to make nutritious choices at home, at work, or on the road, and how doing so maximizes performance and energy levels.
    5. How to plan ahead for the challenges of caring for children or aging parents.
    6. How to develop and maintain friendships or other relationships when time seems to be in critically short supply.
    7. How to foster professional relationships.
    8. How to be efficient and productive at work, as well as how to prioritize and delegate tasks.
  3. Share stress management techniques. Refer to the Mayo Clinic’s basic stress management tips, available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress-relievers/MY01373. Discuss the article: Pat McHenry Sullivan, You Can Find Time to De-Stress, Law Practice Today, Feb. 2006, http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt02064.shtml.
  4. Discuss how to reconcile job expectations with the actual experience at work. Discuss the new lawyer’s expectations for his or her job and the rationale(s) underlying those expectations. Does the new lawyer want to help people? Does the new lawyer want to pay off student loan debt? Does the new lawyer seek meaning in his or her professional life? Consider discussing this piece if the new lawyer is a Millennial and the answer to this last question is “yes”: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/opinion/sunday/millennial-searchers.html?_r=0. With these rationales in mind, identify the aspects of the new lawyer’s job which do not meet his or her expectations. Keeping the new lawyer’s underlying rationales in mind, determine together whether the expectations are realistic and discuss ways to make changes which will positively affect the work experience.
  5. Discuss ways to maintain a positive attitude at work and create a positive work environment to maximize enjoyment of work.
  6. Discuss the importance of identifying an individual or individuals in the work setting who can help answer questions about the culture of the office and how to balance a career with one’s personal life. If mentoring in-house, help the new lawyer identify that person (if it is not the mentor) or those people.
  7. Discuss ways to positively deal with the criticism of employers and clients.
  8. Discuss the “dos” and “don’ts” of leaving a job because of job dissatisfaction, including the following tips:
    1. DO work hard until you leave. If you are in the process of looking for another job, it may be easier to find one while you still have one.
    2. DON’T burn bridges by leaving on bad terms. You never know when and how you will have to interact with a member of your old firm in the future, or whether you will want to come back to your old firm.
    3. DO be careful about the reasons you say you are leaving. To keep the relationships you have built intact, keep your reasons for leaving focused on the positive growth you expect by moving on rather than the negative experience you had which caused you to want to leave.
    4. DON’T forget to mend difficult relationships before you go. Find something nice to say and shake hands with those you had problems with at your old employer so that you will be remembered as pleasantly as possible.
    5. DO stay in touch with your old employer. Maintain the good relationships you built because an old employer always has influence over your career and your reputation.

Resources: 

Victoria Santoro, The Young Attorney Balancing Act: How to Have a Career—and a Life, Law Practice Today (2013), http://tinyurl.com/jvwlh64.

Kleinpeter, Amy E. Clark, Balancing Life and Work, ABA YLD 101 Practice Series (2007), http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/yld/mo/balance.authcheckdam.pdf.

Sharon Meit Abrahams, 100 Plus Pointers for New lawyers on Adjusting to Your Job, ABA Publishing (2004), http://tinyurl.com/k6gyuvq.

Kathy Morris et al., Ask the Career Counselors…Answers for Lawyers on Their Lives and Life’s Work, ABA Publishing (2003).

M. Diane Vogt et al., Keeping Good Lawyers: Best Practices to Create Career Satisfaction, ABA Publishing (2000).

George W. Kaufman, Lawyers Guide to Balancing Life and Work: Taking Stress Out of Success, ABA Publishing (1999).

“Striving for Balance in a High Stress Job” is a one hour online CLE developed by the Lawyer’s Assistance Program available at www.lapcle.org. 

Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) Mentoring Resource Center, http://mentoringcolorado.org/mentoring-resources/mentoring-literature.

Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) Resources, http://www.coloradolap.org. 

D. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Issues

Use the following points to facilitate a discussion about substance abuse and mental health issues in the legal profession. Topics include possible warning signs of alcohol or substance abuse, what to do if the new lawyer is faced with a substance abuse or mental health issue, and resources for assistance.

  1. Objectively discuss the legitimate goals of mandatory substance abuse instruction which include raising the attorney population’s consciousness regarding the problems of chemical dependency; informing all attorneys of how to detect, prevent and assist impaired attorneys; and increasing awareness of available assistance programs.
  2. Share with the new lawyer experiences, if any, that you have had dealing with an impaired lawyer or judge and how you handled (or c/should have handled) the situation(s).
  3. Discuss the signs and symptoms of chemical dependency. Symptoms of alcoholism are available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcoholism/DS00340/DSECTION=symptoms. Symptoms of drug addiction are available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/drug-addiction/DS00183/DSECTION=symptoms.
  4. Discuss with the new lawyer your experience (if any) with noticing the signs and symptoms of chemical dependency in someone with whom you worked. Talk about how to professionally address that type of situation.
  5. Discuss the most professional ways for dealing with the following situations:
    1. The judge before whom you appear seems to be impaired;
    2. The opposing counsel in your case attempts to negotiate with you while s/he appears to be impaired;
    3. The opposing counsel in your case appears with his or her client at a deposition or hearing and you suspect s/he is impaired; and
    4. Your client appears for a hearing impaired.
  6. Discuss a lawyer’s personal and professional duties to assist their colleagues if they suspect impairment. If mentoring in-house, give the new lawyer information about your organization’s HR policies surrounding this topic.
  7. Discuss a lawyer’s heightened responsibility to a client who is mentally impaired.

Resources:

Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program (CAMP) Mentoring Resource Center, http://mentoringcolorado.org/mentoring-resources/mentoring-literature.

Colorado Lawyer Assistance Program (COLAP) Resources, http://www.coloradolap.org.

Comments are closed.