Lawyers: What Your Dirty Dishes Can Teach You About Work-Life Balance
By Aaron H. Wallace, Esq.
Years ago, I learned one of my best life lessons in my kitchen sink.
Like a lot of lawyers, I’m a highly driven multitasker with a to-do list so tall it could have its own lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center next month.
Funny thing is, I keep working harder but the list doesn’t seem to get shorter. Each accomplishment only opens a slot for the next task.
So when it would come to a chore as seemingly unurgent as a sink full of dirty dishes, well, all those crusty coffee mugs would just have to wait. And wait they did… until they stacked into an Empire State Building all their own. Only at the point of a full-blown Cascade crisis would I finally clear my calendar long enough to suds up the sink. Of course, “long enough” was much longer than it needed to be, having let a simple chore fester into an Olympic game.
Finally: an epiphany. No more “I don’t have time for dishes.” Now, a new philosophy: I don’t have time not to do the dishes.
When I take small bits of time throughout the week to tend to life’s “little necessities,” I find that I have more of the time, energy, and focus I need for the big things when they come around. Those nagging needs will create bigger problems if I don’t give them the timely attention they require.
In a very real sense, the best thing I can do to serve my most important responsibilities is to refuse to neglect the lesser ones along the way.
Work-life balance is a lot like that. If there is one thing all we lawyers have in common, it’s that we’re human beings. We have basic needs for rest, relaxation, human connection, spiritual fulfillment, and daily joy. If we short-change those things, they turn us into the emotional equivalent of an unkempt stack of sticky plates.
Earlier this year, as Director of Marketing at Florida Lawyers Mutual, I had the privilege of partaking in the American Bar Association and Institute for Well-Being in Law’s inaugural Well-Being Week in Law campaign — a weeklong effort to shine a spotlight on the glaring problems of overwork, depression, dissatisfaction, anxiety, substance dependence, and suicidal ideation in our profession.
What I learned through that process is that the lawyer wellness movement isn’t just about lip service, buzzwords, and abstract inspiration. No, it’s about a fundamental paradigm shift in the modern practice of law.
Why? Because a profession full of burned-out, bummed-out lawyers is not sustainable. It is incompatible with excellence. And it can even pose a hazard of harm to our clients. No one is well served by a frantic, frazzled lawyer whose workload has them in over their heads.
As a lawyers’ professional liability company, we at Florida Lawyers Mutual know that there is a risk management dimension to work-life balance too. A happy lawyer is a better lawyer — a more careful, attentive, and focused lawyer, less likely to make mistakes. It’s one of the many reasons we champion lawyer well-being and bring that message to our members.
In fact, we just launched a new Florida Lawyer Well-Being Resource Center online, including a music playlistwith 30 songs to fuel happiness, optimism, and work-life balance for Florida lawyers. Our members, who now can get all their 33 hours of CLE for free within their member-exclusive portal, also have access to HD streaming videos about lawyer well-being, mental health, and happiness. It’s something that truly has become a core value of our brand.
For that matter, it really needs to become integral to your personal brand as a lawyer too — and to your law firm’s brand as an employer, and most importantly, to your own sense of self-identity.
We can’t be the lawyers we want to be if our lives are out of balance. Bringing work and life into alignment starts with a simple commitment to taking care of ourselves and honoring our humanity. Just like the mountain of mugs I used to tolerate, our needs won’t go away just because we deprioritize them. We’re all better off when we recognize balance — not bombardment — as an engine for excellence.
As it turns out, there’s a lot we lawyers can learn from our dirty dishes.
About Florida Lawyers Mutual: Errors & Omissions Insurance for Lawyers in Florida
Created by The Florida Bar so that Florida lawyers would have a high-quality source for errors & omissions insurance, Florida Lawyers Mutual is an AM Best A-rated insurance company that has been protecting Florida lawyers and their reputations for over 30 years. Owned by its member lawyers, Florida Lawyers Mutual offers high-quality E&O policy features (including an automatic cyber liability endorsement at no additional premium cost) and legendary member service.
The Company recently declared its first-ever member dividend and launched an extensive risk management library with 33+ hours of free CLE for its member lawyers, including coveted credit types (e.g. Technology, Board Certification, etc). Getting a quote for coverage is as simple as submitting our easy online application.