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Eye on the Profession: Nagging question for lawyers — “How can you do it all?”

June 13, 2018

TrimbleThe practice of law can be a wonderful way to make a living. It is multifaceted, diverse in subject matter, interesting and challenging. It can be demanding, time sensitive and disruptive, but if a lawyer learns to keep things in balance, the joy of practicing law (and reasonable compensation) can make it worth the effort.

For busy professionals who love what they do, there is a constant challenge. They simply feel that they don’t have time to live life and stay on top of their legal careers. They constantly are asking themselves and others, “How can you do it all?” Indeed, our profession sees regular movement of lawyers from one position to another, and many times, the move is the result of a desire to do it all.

A lawyer friend of mine from Kentucky, Claire Parsons, recently posted an article on the blog Ms. JD about the question of “How Do You Do It All?” Her first and most important point was that it is wrong (and, at times, insulting) to suggest that this is just a question for women. It is not. For all of us, male or female, we need to be concerned about our own life balance and the life balance of the colleagues we supervise and mentor. Furthermore, we should feel free to talk about it. We certainly should not act as if it is a question that should be posed exclusively to women in the law. The question nags at all of us.

One significant question that we often overlook is “What does ‘all’ mean?” The short answer is that “all” means a lot of different things. To most people, it means having a successful and satisfying career with whatever demands are required to attain it. It also means being a reliable and supportive spouse, child, parent, grandparent or companion to our loved ones. The forgotten “all” should also include taking care of ourselves in mind, body and spirit.

For us to get a grip on this nagging question, we have to realize that “all” changes with each life cycle we experience. Sometimes when you are in a life cycle, you cannot see the next life cycle, nor can you understand that the next life cycle will bring life changes that will alter the meaning of “all” and cause you to shift focus.

From my perspective, the definition of “all” is personal, and it should stay that way. None of us should measure someone else’s “all” against our own. Each of us will be far happier if we measure “all” by what works for us, and we should set our expectations to be consistent with that moment in our life cycle.

My Kentucky friend, Claire Parsons, has a straightforward view about her sense of “all.” She says: “Things fall into place. When you love two things, when you can see the value in two things, you find a way to make them fit even when it doesn’t always look like they can. So, I manage a family and a law practice because it is satisfying to do so. In fact, it is more satisfying for me to do both than to not do both. This isn’t true for everyone, but it’s true for me, and that’s how I make it work.”

If you are a person who feels the tension of whether you are succeeding in having it “all,” then I urge you to step back for a moment. Put your life and career in perspective. Understand that life cycles come and go, and the balance of life and career shifts. Realize that “all” comes and goes and that your own sense of “all” should be measured by what matters to you. You may have it “all” and not know it. #WillYouBeThere?•

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John C. Trimble (@indytrims) is a senior partner at the Indianapolis firm of Lewis Wagner LLP. He is a self-described bar association “junkie” who admits that he spends an inordinate amount of time on law practice management, judicial independence and legal profession issues. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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