Louisa Phillips
Louisa Phillips
Director

Articles From the Team

Chasing the elusive work-life balance

In 2020 we experienced unprecedented changes in the legal market as a result of COVID-19.

Shock waves of the pandemic permeated throughout the legal community and although work levels remained steady, the market was extremely nervous.  Work trends shifted and recruitment clearly slumped, with the furlough scheme being utilised and to an extent redundancies being made.

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Fast forward to 2021 – this year has seen a huge upturn in the legal market, starting from January and continuing through out Q1 and Q2 at speed.  The market is buoyant and lawyers are gaining good quality work across the spectrum, from corporate and banking transactions to commercial property instructions which are keeping lawyers busy.  But for transactional lawyers there is a price to pay – long hours are now the norm for most lawyers, and achieving a work-life balance can be an uphill task at best.  Lawyers at the Associate/Senior Associate level seem to be hit the most.  They are responsible for large, complex transactions for demanding clients, often under unrealistic time constraints, whilst being dangled the carrot of potential Partnership – the peak of their legal career, which continues to drive their motivation.  But keeping morale is tough, especially for top tier and magic circle firms where the demands can often be the most. 

Unfortunately finding the ultimate work-life balance can be hard, but now the working model has undoubtedly changed post COVID, there is a chance for busy lawyers to find time outside of work to spend time with family and enjoy leisure time.  Working at home has opened up the ability for many to become more involved with family, gain fresh air through exercise and some have even relocated further outside the city now the daily commute is behind them.  Late nights and weekend working at times is unavoidable, but it’s so important to switch off and recharge.  The one thing the pandemic has forced upon us is time away from the office, so try to embrace it and capture time at home you once never had.  The most difficult thing with home working for most of us seems to be gaining clear separation between home and work, so force it and block out time or you will have gained nothing from this new working world.

Lawyers undoubtedly work in a distinct environment, unfortunately demanding and emotionally charged clients come as standard in the commercial world, and with ever present deadlines and increased competition for clients long hours in the national firms will often now be the norm.  But compartmentalise the busy times and try to enjoy the down time.  Ultimately if your working environment or situation means this isn’t possible, maybe it’s time to reflect on new opportunities.  Lawyers at present have the ability to move to larger firms, gain pay rises and have a wider range of options than available ever before.  Smaller firms can often offer better working hours and more flexibility, and for Associates and Senior Associates who do not aspire to reach Partnership they can make this move and still retain quality work, or move in-house for a role with more diversity and commercial input.

Long hours may be necessary, but are not the marks of success or a badge of honour.  This may require further self awareness and a conscious effort to create time which doesn’t necessarily seem to exist, but it is achievable.

Lawyers work in a tough environment, but often make it tougher on themselves when some self discipline can go a long way to protect from burnout.

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