Mental Health and Work/Life Balance

Sh*t My Partners Told Me

In some law firms there is the ‘Go Big or Go Home’ faction (and by “Home” I mean to a firm where lawyers work reasonable hours and people care about each other and their physical and mental health).   

For this faction, it is all about improving earnings and damn the lifestyle.

There is often another faction comprised of lawyers who want to make a decent living but who also want to have a happy life. In a firm where the ‘Go Big or Go Home” group are calling the shots, nobody cares what these lifestyle losers think, so I am also going to ignore them in this post.

It may not shock you to learn that the ‘Go Big or Go Home’ faction often has more of the business promoters and workaholics in it than the lifestyle group.

Here are some things that I heard from ‘Go Big or Go Home’ lawyers over my career:

  1. “This is not a lifestyle firm. People who cannot accept that should move on.”
  2. “It is not the firm’s problem if certain lawyers have child-care responsibilities. That is for them and their life partners to work out.”
  3. “If lawyer A is a single parent and can put in 1,800 hours, being a single parent is not an excuse for lawyer B not to do the same.”
  4. “Sure, the lawyers who bill 1,400 hours are profitable, but if we could replace them all with lawyers who bill 1,800 hours, we would make a ton more money.”
  5. “Lawyer C has taken more than enough time to mope about her divorce. It is time for her to get her hours back up.”
  6. “We need to hire more business generators. We can always find lawyers to do the work.”
  7. “If lawyer D can bring in enough work, we can live with him being a second-rate legal mind.”

Now just to be clear, that is what you hear in the corridors and in partners meetings. You don’t hear anything like that in associate interviews or read it on the firm website. In those places everyone is “dynamic” and “collaborative” and “collegial.”

So if you are thinking about joining a law firm of any size, understand that it will be the rare firm that has no partners who think like this.

It you are a ‘Go Big or Go Home’ type of person, joining a firm where people do not share that philosophy will frustrate you and drive you to distraction.

And if you are not a ‘Go Big or Go Home” type of person, you need to figure out if those attitudes prevail at the firm you are considering joining, or surely misery will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in hell until you quit or get booted out.

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