How Can Lawyers Learn from Paul Ryan and the Work/Life Balance Debate?

Earlier this year, as the Speaker of the House position remained vacant, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan finally raised his hand. However, he made his acceptance of the role conditional. He refused to give up time with his family. While the debate about work/life balance has been raging for some time, the high-profile declaration has ignited the conversation once again. Professionals in the legal field often feel as though their concerns go unheard when they are expected to work far more than 40 hours each week. So what can lawyers learn from Paul Ryan and his stance on work/life balance?

  • Find a role that suits your life, not the other way around. Far too often, especially as young professionals, lawyers aim for the top and figure they’ll adjust their lives around their job. This can lead to extreme stress not only for you, but for your family as well. Maybe there are alternatives for practicing law that are better suited to the lifestyle you really want to have.
  • Establish boundaries early on in your career. The only reason people work 70 to 80 hours a week is because they feel a sense of obligation. In truth, you won’t be fired if you establish your boundaries early on. And, if you are, then maybe that firm wasn’t right for you. Let your employer and staff know when you will be disconnected and that when you’re home, you’re home.
  • Working for yourself versus working for someone else. As a lawyer, there are a variety of potential job opportunities. If you work for a law firm, you’ll be subject to the rules and regulations of the people in charge. But if you open your own practice, you can set your own limits. You can only take as many cases as you can handle, and you can hire others to help you succeed.
  • Know where to draw the line, professionally speaking. Finally, it is important that you know you’re the only person in charge of your career path. What is most important for you? What will you not bend on when it comes to your work/life balance? The more lawyers who stand up for better balance, the more this issue will become the norm within the legal marketplace.

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