July/August 2012 / The New York County Lawyer 11
Balance: Where Work and Life Converge By Jennifer Yoon Harvey Mackay once famously stated, “Find something you love to do – and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” As a fairly new attorney in the field, I was well warned about the typical lifestyle for one following this career path—overworked and underpaid; overstressed and undervalued—and the list went on. Upon graduation in 2010 during the crux of the economic downfall, when my colleagues and I were scrambling to find any position of employment, these warnings seemed less of actual pre-emptive warnings, and more of a reality as we accepted jobs that could pay less, but demand more because of our desperate need for employment. Having grown up in a small, sleepy hometown, I was not accustomed to a fast-paced lifestyle. So when becoming a litigator in a place that was the complete opposite—New York City—there was nothing more important to me than maintaining balance between my professional work and my personal life. Therefore, I set out with the typical checklists and how-to’s on achieving work/balance life: Reprioritize! Create time for friends! Build time in your schedule for fun! Ensure exercise three times per week! Let’s be serious – when did we become a society that had to “build time for fun”?
And when there is a Summary Judgment motion sitting on your desk, who has extra time to “create” for friends? And exercise? After a 14-hour day, the last thing I am doing is going to the gym. In full disclosure however, I did try these checklists – but my ‘scheduling of fun’ was never really fun when it was planned, ‘creating time for friends’ became more of a burden, and reprioritizing only lasted for about three days. Therefore, I learned early on in my career the true meaning of work-life balance. It isn’t about this great separation between work life and personal life where the pieces of the pie chart have to be divided evenly. It is about combining my love for life with my work so that in Mackay’s word, I “never have to work a day in my life.” For me, it was about bringing the best parts of my everyday life into my work that has enabled me to achieve a work-life balance through the simple things in life. 1. Start your mornings off doing something small that you love. New Yorkers are famous for crowded subways, rush hour traffic, and minds set on full speed the moment we wake up. Not for a moment do we take time to pause and take a deep breath, lest we get shoved in the mad rush onto the L train. Start your morning off doing something small that you love. For me,
it’s listening to Motown music and drinking Starbucks venti vanilla iced coffees while walking to work – and it sets my tone for the rest of the day. It is so important to bring small parts of your personal life into your work life and to focus on the small things that make you happy to get you through the big things throughout your work day. 2. Make your work relationships your new life relationships. While of course there are many boundaries of professionalism, when did we become a society that has to separate our work relationships from our personal relationships? More than anyone else, I spend the most time with my office mate – so why shouldn’t he be someone that I have developed a relationship with? Why don’t I know his birthday or his favorite band? This isn’t just for those people who work in your office; it’s about developing relationships with your clients and even adversarial attorneys. During court conferences, who says you have to solely speak about your case and not about your co-defendant kid’s upcoming recital? When you begin to develop deeper relationships with the people you work with, your job becomes a lot more personal as people become not merely coworkers, but people you are invested in and who are invested in you. Your
work life slowly starts to become a part of your personal life. 3. Count your blessings, not your billable hours. Sure we all have the dreaded billable hours we have to meet, but why does this have to be the only area in life we count? With the unemployment level growing, having a job in this economy looks a lot more like a blessing and a lot less like a burden. When I begin to focus on the blessings I have in my life with my family and friends, and the opportunity to litigate in one of the best cities in the world, those billable hours seem a lot less harrowing. I become grateful for the ability to even be able to wake up and go to a job in such an unforgiving economy. The bottom line is that there doesn’t need to be this great divide between your work life and your personal life. You should bring your love and passion for life into your work life so that you are not only just trying to get through work, but actually enjoying each day for what it brings you – even if it is a Summary Judgment motion. Jennifer S. Yoon is a NYCLA member and a defense litigation attorney at Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman, & Dicker. She is also a board member of a New York non-profit organization and practices general litigation in Florida and New Jersey as well.
Published on Jun 28, 2012
Published on Jun 28, 2012
Work-life balance has been a topic of much interest over the last several years, and we have devoted this issue of the New York County Lawye...