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When Work-Life Balance Becomes Life-or-Death

July 5, 2011

I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing weekend celebration our nation’s independence. I certainly did not regret staying in the city, which meant barbecuing with friends and fam, a hipster birthday with a mini-dinosaur pinata, and a Philly-centric live-music smorgasbord catered by ?uestlove of The Roots: CSLSX, Work Drugs, DJ Jazzy Jeff (probably the best deejay set I’ve ever experienced), Diplo, Estelle, Michael McDonald, BoyzIIMen, Eddie Levert of the O’Jays, and Earth, Wind & Fire. Plus, fireworks–some official, some less so.

At some point, a paralegal acquaintance remarked that his boss was stuck in the office all weekend, working to meet a deadline. Normally, I would have merely shook my head in pity. But his boss’s plight seemed particularly poignant in light of some tragic recent news: a BigLaw attorney in California died of a heart attack while working from home. Apparently, her health had been visibly suffering leading up to her death, but her colleagues had not done much but whisper about it. I have watched a number of attorneys suffer health declines, from minor to shocking, while working long hours. And I have suffered palpable impacts on my own health during periods of high stress and long hours. 

In light of the stakes, please don’t accept the status quo if it’s destroying your health or a colleague’s. Speak up or consult with a more senior attorney whom you trust. Consider carefully the workload you take on and how you manage it. While it might not seem possible sometimes to reduce workload or  incorporate stress-relief into your daily routine (much less speak freely about it) the alternatives are too grim. Make an honest self-appraisal and consider how you can mitigate the toll that work takes, even if it means occasionally refusing an assignment or case. Try explaining the refusal in terms of your desire to ensure the highest quality performance on your existing assignments or cases. Also, consider small routine adjustments to mitigate the negative health effects of our sedentary lifestyle. Try getting up and walking around a little bit every hour while at work, doing work standing up if possible, and sitting less while not at work. You’ll thank yourself later when you find that the bonus checks from those extra billables can’t buy your health back.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Underemployed JD permalink
    July 10, 2011 9:40 pm

    Another negative effect on health: stress from under- and unemployment for all the JDs and Esq’s out there making $15/hr in retail jobs, unable to get into the legal market.

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