July 11, 2007


I let it slip today at a firm social event. I flat out said it.

The reality is, my social life and being a lawyer are not able to coexist. So I need to figure out who I want to be, my long term goals, and make a decision between them.

Probably not what you should say at a summer associate event. But none of them heard me. I was commiserating with a fellow member of my team.

I don't think of myself as a particularly social person. But, even so, I am relatively social. I make plans. And, I like to keep them.

Being a lawyer gets in the way of life. Especially if the business you are in is going well at the same time that you are in the traditional ramp-up period. It asks that you reschedule your life around work. It asks that you make sacrifices. It asks that you become someone who places work ahead of at least one of your friends, your family, or your health. The firm, in many ways, would not complain if you put work ahead of all three. The people will tell you to hold your own, and that they don't actually want you to sacrifice all 3, but the messages you receive will occasionally contradict that.

Lately, I've realized that of those three, the first is the one where I'm most willing to budge. If something's got to give, I'll stop being so social. And don't think that makes me very willing--I wouldn't give up my weekly barbeque for bar studies, I was willing to fail the exam before I'd give up my weekly social tradition. Regardless, for me, social life is the first to take the hit, but family and health occasionally also take a hit, even though I guard them with a little more vigilance.

Health, well, it comes in many flavors, non? I'll give an hour of sleep a night or drop my mileage from 20-30 miles per week all the way down to 10-15 before I give up quality time with E. But after a few weeks of low sleep and/or miles, the time with E isn't so quality, 'cause I'm slowly going crazy. I give up yoga night for late night work if it means I'll get date night later in the week, but I can only do it occasionally because lack of yoga starts to hurt after a week or two. Oddly, my eating habits are the one thing that seems to benefit from the lawyer life. The harder I work, the less likely I am to have a heavy lunch, to drink too many calories before bed, or to cook up a heavy delicious meal.

But family? It doesn't come in an easy to sacrifice package. It demands when it feels like it. I very much want to be a good wife. A good sister. A good Aunt. A good daughter. I'll give up my social life, and even some of my health to accomplish this. But what about when the lawyer life conflicts with this one?

For me, when the lawyer life gets in the way of family, that's when I really need to re-evaluate. That's when I have to draw some ugly lines with the comfort that I can't go there, and if that means I get fired, or I'm not considered "partner material" or I'm not going to get a big bonus, that's just fine.

But I'll tell you what.

It's hard.

It's very hard.

I like my job. I like being a lawyer. I like the work. I like the people I work with. I like my social life. I like my health. And I love my family.

Balancing it all has become the focus of this very difficult phase of my life. The only thing I keep telling myself is that it has to get easier. There are people I respect who appear to have good social lives, good health, great family lives and decent careers as lawyers.

The difficult gig is figuring out how to make it work.

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