How can lawyers balance their demanding career with maintaining healthy personal relationships?

How can lawyers balance their demanding career with maintaining healthy personal relationships?

How can lawyers balance their demanding career with maintaining healthy personal relationships?

How can lawyers balance their demanding careers with maintaining healthy personal relationships?

Balancing a demanding legal career with healthy personal relationships can be a challenging task but once it is achieved, it can improve performance and well-being. I think the first thing to put straight that balance does not mean 50-50, it is not about finding a way to spend a specific amount of time in your personal relationship. It’s about committing the time and headspace to nurture relationships because relationships need nourishment. This requires the ability to set and maintain boundaries and being able to switch off from work to be present and available for personal relationships. Lawyers typically work long and unpredictable hours therefore setting boundaries and switching off can be challenging but not impossible.  An ‘all or nothing’ thinking style can sometimes sabotage committing time to a relationship. So, because someone is very busy, they tell themselves, ‘I never have the time for relationships’, rather thinking about how they can commit some of the very precious free time they do have, to being present in a relationship. A small amount of time being present with someone will strengthen a relationship more than lots of time together but not being present. It is a good idea to think about when you can commit basic none-negotiable time to your relationship, this might be as little as making your partner a drink in the morning and wishing them a good day. This simple consistent gesture if carried out with the intentionality of connection and giving has the power to nourish a relationship. The same gesture carried out in a rush and with the felt burden of another task on the long list of things to do, does not have the same positive influence on a relationship.

What are the common challenges lawyers face in their marriages or romantic partnerships?”

The unpredictable and long hours that lawyers work often puts a strain on relationships. However, just focusing on the hours does not explain the full strain. Quite often it is how couples communicate, negotiate and compromise when it comes to managing the hours that predicts if a couple will be able to survive the strain.

When you work long hours as a lawyer, it can be quite difficult to make the switch into another role such as partner or parent when you get home. So, when it comes to communicating, negotiating and compromise at home, quite often lawyers stay in lawyer role. This can create a power imbalance or a competition to be right. Alternatively, if you feel over- guilty about the long hours, you may become over-permissive and make unrealistic promises. It is very hard to diffuse conflict or negotiate once locked in these patterns.

When your day is full of stressful events, it can be difficult to come home, unwind and be present for partners and children. This can make other people in a lawyer’s life feel devalued and hurt. This can lead to other friction at home and over time, home can feel like a place to be avoided and then self-justifications for not going home kick in and over time, the opportunities to connect and be present with each other gradually lessen and a big distance has been created.

Tips for lawyers to manage stress and maintain strong family relationships?

I recommend that lawyers think about the different roles they play in life and the benefits of these different roles. A good question for lawyers to ask themselves is, ‘why am I needed in these other roles?’

I work with lawyers to take a close look how these roles differ, and the mindsets, emotions and behaviours required for these different roles. We also explore other role models in a lawyer’s life who might be negatively influencing how a person shows up in these roles. Then it is important to create structures to help a lawyer step into these different roles with more intentionality.

Is it possible for lawyers to maintain a work-life balance without compromising their careers or personal relationships?

It certainly is but it does require some self-awareness and effective communication and negotiation. Finding balance as a lawyer is not easy but once we understand all the factors that are impacting that imbalance then we discover that more is within an individual’s control.

How can lawyers communicate effectively with their partners to navigate the unique challenges of their profession in relationships?

Effective communication where both parties feel heard and understood is key to navigating the challenges of personal relationships. This can be as simple as agreeing a framework for how long hours are communicated. Sometimes it can be obvious that is going to be a long day from the start of the day, but this might not get communicated to a partner until the last minute for fear of upsetting the other partner. What might be upsetting for that other partner is not be the long hours but the feeling of being disrespected and dropped at the last minute. If a couple has an agreement about how we discuss and communicate about long hours this can reduce a lot of friction.

Creating the mental space to build connections when you are with your partner can also help to protect the closeness of a relationship. This will nourish the relationship and serve as positive memories for times when you are not able to be physically close due to working long hours.

About the author
Specialising in healing and elevating professionals in high-pressure environments, particularly partners at law firms in the City of London, Dr. Sykes brings a wealth of expertise to the realms of self-discovery, self-elevation and leadership. Drawing from her extensive tenure working alongside individuals in demanding roles, Dr. Sykes offers a unique perspective rooted in practical experience...