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Work/Life Balance

You Can’t Fix Crazy

“Lawyers make wonderful (psychiatric) patients: they have excellent health insurance and they never get better.” Niles Crane on Frasier

As a completely unqualified, amateur mental health consultant, I have diagnosed myself with post-professional stress syndrome which I believe results from my forty-year legal career. My symptoms are not sleeping well and worrying too much, even in retirement when on any rational basis I have very little to worry about.

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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.

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Work/Life Balance

Why are You Wasting Time Reading this Drivel?

Back when I was practicing law, I considered publications like The Lawyer’s Daily to be an unwelcome but necessary evil. I would skim the headlines and case digests looking for information that I had to know to remain competent. There were many times that I did not even read news about upcoming legislation. I figured that it was a waste of time to focus on things that may never be enacted, and I could just wait until it became law to worry about it.

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Work/Life Balance

Toxic Productivity

In 1639, John Clarke said, “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

I go to bed early and like other older folks I can no longer sleep through the night, so I suppose I wake up early. So, I should have it made. But I don’t.

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Work/Life Balance

Goodbye Earl – A Legal Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a common law jurisdiction not that far away, there was a partner in a law firm who did what all good law firm partners do. He billed a lot. He brought in many clients. He trained the junior lawyers. He supervised the clerks. All in all, he was somewhat of a star. I will call him Earl.

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Work/Life Balance

Going Over to The Light Side of the Force

Since I retired, I have entertained myself by writing about the legal profession, mentoring a few lawyers, and teaching some classes about business law. None of these are particularly remunerative activities.

Now and then someone suggests to me that I should write a novel, or at least compile my articles into a book. And sell it. And try to make some real money. My standard answer is that it sounds like work, and that I have no interest in working.

It is not that earning a few dollars would not come in useful. I long ago learned from my mother that ‘rich or poor, it is good to have money.’ And I am not rich. But nor am I poor. I think that I can get by without working, and I have every intention of finding out if I am right.

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Work/Life Balance

My Dream Job in Law

Last night I worked on a trademark file. It was a disaster. The application had been filed incorrectly and the Trademarks Office had cited a long list of issues and demanded a response 9 years ago. It seems that for some reason no one had looked at the file for quite some time. I needed to figure out if the application was even still alive. It was beyond stressful.

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Work/Life Balance

Always Failing at Something

When I practiced law, I was fairly good at doing the many things that a lawyer has to do in order to deliver great client service. I always offered to meet at the client’s office. I listened carefully to the clients to ascertain their goals and concerns. I insisted that I work to a deadline and if the client did not volunteer a deadline, I prompted them to set one. I frequently made the deadline on Monday so if I got overwhelmed with work, I could finish the project up on the weekend. I almost always met my deadline, and on the rare occasion that I was having difficulty doing so, I would call and explain the situation and give the client options, such as having me work all night to meet the original deadline, extending the deadline or having an associate take over the project.

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Work/Life Balance

Game Over

I met Maria when she landed her first job as an associate at a medium sized law firm in the Toronto area.  She was capable, intelligent, and eager to learn.  However, just how hard lawyers work in law firms seemed to catch her by surprise. I guess that they don’t tell you about that in law school.

There is a steep learning curve in the area of law in which Maria commenced her practice.  A great deal of training takes place in the first year or two, after which a good associate will hit their stride and become downright useful.  Maria was a good associate.  She persevered and right on schedule as she approached her second anniversary at the firm, Maria was becoming downright productive.

As often seems to happen, just as she was becoming valuable to her firm, Maria chose to leave. She departed for greener pastures just shy of her third anniversary at the firm.

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Work/Life Balance

Billings First, Babies Later

Some forty years ago, I knew a young lawyer in her third year of practice. My acquaintance had just given birth to her first child.  She took what was then considered to be a lengthy maternity leave of 6 months (3 months being standard) before returning to work at a mid-sized downtown Toronto law firm, where she was the only female associate in her department and one of only three female lawyers in the firm.  Having taken such a long maternity leave, the firm looked at her as a slacker.