We lawyers are intimately familiar with the phrase “the Work-Life Balance.” In fact, we could give you a really cynical definition of it. But I am loath to speak on other professions and their degree of familiarity with this seemingly innocuous notion.
Law firms tell you the Work-Life Balance (WLB from here on out) means greater flexibility in your schedule so you can accommodate the family and personal obligations that truly make life meaningful. You will be able to attend the 4th Grade Play and the High School Recital. You can take your Significant Other To the Doctor when necessary. You can do all of these things without worry about your work or threat to advancement or really anything. It’s this great utopia that law firms call the WLB.
Associates in law firms tell you that the WLB does not exist.
Associates, if they have to define the WLB, would sneer and likely say that if you have a Tuesday night open (ie: if there is nothing on your schedule when you leave the office at 8:24pm), then you are free to meet a friend for a drink! But don’t schedule that in advance, because more often than not, something will come up and you will have to reschedule. And don’t plan Saturdays or holidays either.
Well, I toe the line between business person and associate attorney. In my world, I share the WLB theory on 2 different planes. My business colleagues don’t seem to necessarily know this altruistic phrase. They simply live it. It’s not a theory to them… it’s part of the job. They don’t worry about missing a Junior Achievement session at the middle school down the road, because it’s never been an issue. They simply work around it and keep their day ticking.
The lawyer side of me, though, runs into the work emergencies. More than once, I’ve had to cancel dinner and lunch dates with friends. I have even pretty much stood one friend up because I got pulled into a meeting at 20 minutes to lunch and couldn’t text him that I would not be meeting him. He’s a lawyer, so I know that a small part of him understands, even though he was upset. (I bought lunch next time around).
But it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating to be the person who gets cancelled upon… and it’s more frustrating to be the one who has to cancel. I’ve been in both situations. And it’s hard to stomach the thought nagging in the back of your mind that your are choosing work over friends. And this weekend is another prime example. After months of planning and finding the *one* weekend that we could all get together, 2 of my dearest law school girlfriends both now find themselves 2 days before our rendezvous and having to work through the weekend.
It’s okay. I know. It happens. But it’s still frustrating. And does it happen in other industries? I think it must. At least in business and real estate, I know that the end of the year is a veritable cyclone of year-end deals… just so everything can get papered with the 2007 on it.
I suppose my WLB comes in the form of ebbing and flowing. I won’t be able to make every dinner date with friends. But the times that I can, I should. And I must embrace the disappointment of having a friend cancel on short notice. Because I have done it too. And at the end of the day, I am glad that business is good. And I know, deep down, that the WLB exists for all of us. Just not necessarily when we want it to, or when we schedule it to.