Balancing the Bar

Happiness and the Practice of Law


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Gratitude in the midst of a hectic week.

This week was a quick one.  A few days of feeling like a dart board and by Friday afternoon I left the clean up my office and the aftermath of chaos.  As the week wound to a close, I found a lot to be grateful for in the spite of the hectic nature of my work week.

National Alliance on Mental Illness – I attended the Hamilton County NAMI Annual Celebration Dinner on Thursday.  It was great to be with people who share your common thoughts and common cause.   Also, finding a way to give back to Society and grassroots volunteerism was the theme which invigorated me as well.  I was accompanied by Betsy Jameson, Katherine Jameson & Pat Ross.  Despite their personal loss, the Jameson clan is strong, resilient and at the end of time spent with them, I was grateful for their companionship and our shared commitment to make something good come out of Ken’s tragic death.

Connecting with others–  Feeling connected to those around me is a way I keep myself grounded and more than that I find that as I know people longer there are deeper connections that reveal themselves.  I had that happen a few times this week.  Clients and colleagues I have known  for a long time only to  discover some shared issue,  something deeper that connects us and I am amazed to find these things.  Suddenly, our close connection makes sense.  This happened a few times this week and I am grateful for the revelations.

The ability to say No to others.   I am exceedingly grateful for my ability to say no, to set limits and to maintain my client’s position in the face of hostile and aggressive adversary clients.   Sometimes NO is the best word in the English language.  Learning to set limits on others, to be obstinate and  stoic if necessary is an essential skill.  Being able to do so without aggression has taken a lot of practice on my part and somehow that practice seems to have clicked this week.

A view from the Witness box.  Today I spent time testifying at hearing to enforce settlement agreement against my former client.  Uncomfortable to say the least.  However, by being the witness and not the attorney, I realized how much I miss being in the courtroom.  I was also very very grateful to have fired the client.  Sometimes, it is best to move on because a client and you can no longer agree.  Leaving the case may cost you some unpaid fees, but it may save you time and aggravation.

A busy week, but a lot to take stock of.  Also, for the record, a lot to be frustrated about.  Somehow, however, in light of all that happened I am more grateful than stressed.

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Vacation = VACATE and relax

Vacation how I have missed you.  It is that time of year where people head out for a week or more away from their office and the practice of law.   For years, I have a been a huge proponent of time away.  The old addage work hard to play hard rings true.  However, I always checked an answered email every day I was away.  I would normally limit this to once daily first thing in the morning for about an hour.  I thought this was time away, but last year I spent 10 billable hours handling a client emergency and that was too much and therefore, this yearI tried something new.

This year, I disconnected, vacated and dropped out of the practice of law for 10 days.  IT WAS GREAT!!!.   I just returned today and guess what — my practice, my secretary and my partners all made it without me.   Wow.  Just saying I am not available and sticking to it made for a great time away and a stress free Holiday in the sun.

It wasn’t a complete success but, I had very few office interruptions.  I refused to answer emails or return phone calls.  I had two text messages, one call to my secretary, one call to an associate and two calls to my cell phone which I refused to answer.  In ten days, 6 interruptions is not bad.   I will confess to looking to see what was in my email.  However, I set my phone to manually check them instead of them just floating in.  I read only a few and responded to non legal/personal emails only. I also managed to loose my phone at least 5 times.  I simply forgot where I put it.  Funny how that happens when you disengage.

I was thinking today as I reengaged with the office about why we need to emphasis the word VACATE when we plan our time out of the office.   It is great to have time to give your brain and body a break from the constant demands and pressures of others.   Of course, I will note this may be easier from some of us than others.  Being a solo attorney is hard.  But, I challenge people to find someone who can be their backup.  I had several people taking care of my work/practice while I was a away and it worked.

This is the most relaxing vacation I have had in years.  Next time, I am shooting for no email checking and even fewer contacts with my office.  Frankly, there are very few things that can’t wait until you are back in the office.  Making yourself available on vacation only encourages the client  to email and or call and demand you handle something while you are away.  It just comes down to boundaries and balance and for me I want to vacate and not think about work when I am on vacation.