Work-Life Balance: Or Is It?

"A day-and-a-half ago," as my mother used to say when talking about age, I was president of the California Young Lawyers Association, then about 50,000 lawyers age 36 or younger. I remember my induction dinner. I was proud to have been elected; my work schedule prevented me from being with my family as often as I should have or wanted … thus, I took my then age 6 and 8 son and daughter with me to the dinner. This was a first for those in my circle of colleagues and friends and set the standard for many young lawyers thereafter.

Today, I see many young lawyers blending their family life with their professional life. And what really warms my heart is that I see many young men unbridling themselves from the harness of the old stereotypes and being as active in the raising of their children as the young women are.

In the Wall Street Journal, Jared Sandberg, in Back to the Future: Mixing Work, Home Is a Very Old Dilemma,” discusses the process of balancing of “life” and “work.”  He makes some interesting points:
•    When you have to schedule an appointment to talk with your wife, something has gone wrong
•    There is life without cellphones and voicemail, and sales can actually increase
•    Modern technology has dissolved the workplace’s boundaries of place and time without necessarily being more convenient
•    While bringing work into the home, many people forget how much people also bring home into work

As his proof of the latter point, he says that the biggest online shopping day last Christmas season was a workday.

In other words, it’s not a question of balancing work and life so much as it is stirring them together and finding a mix that works. And, “one size doesn’t fit all.” That, I think, is the essence of “flex-time,” child-care programs in the office and other such programs now gaining favor in many law firms.

The author continues with a history lesson, suggesting that the prevalent attitude of men being bread-winners (focusing entirely on work)  and women being home care-givers (focusing entirely on the home) arose in the 1950s and 1960s. See Stephanie Coontz’s book, Marriage: A History, for details. And we have more free time than ever; that’s the reason for a very active tourism and recreation industries. Are we overestimating the modern work burdens? According to a Rockefeller University study, on average, we spend 20% of our lives working as contrasted to 50% in the late 1800s. We work less than ever. Of course, these studies don’t focus on the legal profession.

Almost every attorney I know works long hours, takes work home and is constantly on call for his/her clients. Yet, somehow, we seem to survive. Perhaps we’re returning to the farmers’ work-home balance. It isn’t a work-home balance issue so much as it is just “all the stuff” you do.


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