I graduated from law school in 2016 and started working at Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter in Columbus, Ohio soon thereafter. I joined the litigation group because I like being a problem-solver for people when they’re going through a not-so-great time. I love to learn about the human aspects of difficult cases.
On the other side of that coin, the very things I like about my job are also what make it so difficult. While I may work on several pieces of litigation at a time, each case is mentally all-consuming. Additionally, even seemingly benign business litigation can have a deep backstory, making it contentious, and at times nasty.
For these reasons, finding a balance between my work and life is important. I know that some people hear the phrase “work-life balance” and think of someone who doesn’t want to work hard. Candidates won’t bring up the issue of balance in an interview because they worry about appearing like they don’t take the job seriously. Many young lawyers feel the need to be tied to their desks, emails, and phones, to be on call 24 hours a day.
However, I don’t see work-life balance as avoiding work or slacking off. Living with balance means that you recognize that lawyers are human beings who need to take care of themselves outside of work. I also think that living with balance means integrating aspects of your life that you are passionate about into your work, so you aren’t living for the weekend or counting the minutes until you can leave work for whatever you actually want to be doing.
Shortly after I started working here, my firm sponsored me through an executive coaching program with a fantastic coach named Regan Walsh that set the tone for my career in a big way. The most impactful lesson I took away from this was the importance of saying yes with purpose—because saying yes with purpose also means saying no with purpose. The program also helped me identify and discuss my personal values and career goals. Now, when I look at a new opportunity, I consider whether I’d be saying yes because it aligns with my values and brings me closer to my goals, or because I’d feel too guilty saying no.
Controlling my yesses allows me to achieve balance. I have chosen to say yes to opportunities that are not only beneficial to my career, but also ones that I find personally enriching. This has led me to getting involved both within my firm and in the community with organizations that I care about on a personal level. Not only does this make me happier, but I am more motivated to do a good job when I feel invested.
A major highlight of my career has been getting involved in my firm’s Women’s Collaborative. In my first year as an associate, I took on a role as co-chair of my firm’s women’s affinity group and we re-branded ourselves as the Women’s Collaborative, or The Lab for short. With this re-brand, my co-chair and I wanted to create initiatives where the women lawyers at our firm could reach out and touch the community of women business owners, entrepreneurs, and other female professionals, in a more meaningful way. One of the concrete actions we take as a collaborative is inviting in female entrepreneurs to the firm to talk to us about their experiences. To give back to them, we are putting together a seminar focused on specific legal issues that business owners face.
Along with interacting more with my colleagues, this has helped me feel more connected to the business community in Columbus, and specifically the women-owned business community. When I go into a coffee shop on a Saturday morning, or shop at a boutique, I feel great personal satisfaction knowing the business owner and knowing that we may have played a small role in her success. In this sense, I am achieving balance with my work and my life by integrating my professional self with my personal self.
Of course, achieving work-life balance also means unplugging from your professional life. I make the time to exercise, spend time with my friends and other loved ones. However, I believe that real balance must be achieved in a way that is beneficial to both your professional and personal well-being.