Here’s to The Death of Work-Life Balance
Friends, lawyers, colleagues, lend me your ears: I come to bury “work-life balance,” not to praise it.
The phrase belongs in the Dustbin of the Obsolete, along with the pet rock, Chevy Vega, Blockbuster Video membership card and Ronco Rhinestone Stud Setter.
And good riddance, I say. The idea that your “work” and your “life” are two separate, distinct things on opposite ends of some cosmic scale has long passed its expiration date. The stress of finding the perfect balance between your personal and professional selves, the struggle to maintain it for a minute, an hour, a whole day. Who needs it?
Sometimes life comes fast and hard, and it doesn’t matter if you’re at home or work when it happens.
So I say, Death to work-life balance!
We Only Get One Life, After All
It’s why I named my company Your Law Life, and it’s why many of the stories in my collection “The Most Powerful Attorney in the World” are about how hard it is to find the elusive point of equilibrium, how exhausting and endless that effort can be.
Some stories are from early on, when I was running a solo practice with five children at home (three in diapers). I shudder when I recall racing around like a madman trying to keep up with a roiling roster of appointed cases in District Court, representing juvenile delinquents and beleaguered child support defendants and glad to do so, the lifeblood of my practice – but did I mention racing around like a madman? With three children in diapers?
When I reflect on those days, I wonder how in the world I got it all done.
The answer is I just did it. I was in the thick of the action. All I could do was show up, do my best, and trust the universe to take care of the rest. Which so far it has done.
So How’s Your Law Life?
Some stories in “The Most Powerful Attorney in the World” come from later in my career, when diapers were a thing of the past, and I represented lawyers in disciplinary and malpractice matters.
When I met with a new lawyer-client, I would invariably ask, “How are things at home?” This was another way of asking, “How’s your law life?”
Rarely did I find a lawyer whose professional life was a mess but everything was rosy at home, or vice versa. I saw the wreckage of lives alarmingly out of whack. Most of my clients had made mistakes; that’s why they were there. Some had done bad things, and some had done worse things. But all were more than just clients. They were people, and there were other people who loved them. The least I could do was hold my head up as I stood beside them on their worst day.
Law Lives Well-Lived
Last month I was a guest speaker at the annual meeting of the Georgia Defense Lawyer’s Association. It was great to meet with a roomful of actual humans after so long talking to onscreen boxes. I told the group some stories. I gave them my “death to work-life balance” power salute and sold a few books.
The highlight of my talk, to be perfectly honest, was when I ran out of material and we adjourned a few minutes early. This thrilled the four-score crowd of lawyers, who rushed out to enjoy the rest of their Friday. Many were there with spouses, children and dogs. Music was playing, tee times were scheduled, a cornhole tournament on the beach commenced – all of it a vivid display of Law Lives well-lived.
So don’t get me wrong. I am one hundred percent in favor of balance. It’s important in everything we do: from running a few miles to running a law practice.
For improved balance, change your mental image from a seesaw (linear, one side up, the other down), to a circle (holistic, all parts connected). Turn the dial on your inner soundtrack from “Workin’ for a Living” (Huey Lewis) to “The Circle Game” (Joni Mitchell).
It’s what I’ll be doing after I finish this piece and wrap up work for the week and take off on my 66-year-old man’s shuffle along beautiful Bolin Creek, on this splendid and sun-bleached summer day in Chapel Hill.
Jay Reeves practiced law for nearly 40 years in North and South Carolina. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World and runs Your Law Life LLC. He was recently trained in Discernment Counseling, a structured session for when you feel blocked or stuck. Sometimes talking with someone helps bring clarity. Contact email@example.com. He is available for talks, presentations and in-house Zoom sessions.
About the Author
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.Read More by Jay >