How To Juggle Work And Family—A Message For Both Associates And Their Managers

It’s Friday afternoon. You’re looking forward to a weekend with the family, and then you get a phone call from the name partner. It’s going to be another weekend at the office.

As a lawyer or even a law student on a tight time budget and even tighter family time budget, how do you juggle your caseload, spouse, and kids?

An Associate’s Mind’s Keith Lee—who had a baby during law school—gives some helpful advice:

  1. Manage Expectations—What’s the protocol for a missed phone call? What time will you get home? How often can you communicate throughout the day? Not everybody in your family signed up to be an attorney. So help them better understand the life of one by managing their expectations of you (and visa versa).
  2. Communicate—Even though it’s easier to put off difficult conversations with loved ones, have them immediately. Don’t let issues fester.
  3. Sleep—Sleep at least 8 hours a night. Even if it has to be on the cot in your office. 
  4. Manage Your Schedule in Writing—Buy a wall calendar. Wall calendars allow you to visualize the day, week, or month, and they will limit your number of scheduling conflicts. A wall calendar, for example, keeps you from being taken by surprise when you’re the next CLE speaker. As in, today.
  5. Keep Your Commitments—You’re creating a reputation as an attorney, so make it one of honoring commitments. Don’t flake out on study groups, committee meetings, or other obligations you volunteered for (before you knew about that happy hour).   
  6. Plug Your Leaks—Anything that distracts you from law school or work—like videogames, TV, or endless web surfing—needs to be plugged. Prioritize what matters most, instead.

This list is certainly valuable as an employee. But what about as an employer?

As managing partner, you hate to call that first-year associate with a two-year old son and keep them working all weekend. However, that is the post-J.D. life.

This time, implement the same, aforementioned tips and you’ll find making that phone call became just a little bit easier.

  1. Manage Expectations—What is the billable hour expectation for this assignment? Do not underestimate the time it will take to complete the requested research, brief, or project at hand. By being reasonable with your projected timeframe, associates will trust you more, and be more apt to take and complete your projects in the future. Nothing is more demoralizing than hearing an assignment should take “just one hour” when, in reality, all parties know it will take at least five.
  2. Communicate—Briefly explain to Gina why you’ve chosen her over George—whether it be expertise, background, or familiarity with the case. When George is off at happy hour with friends, Gina won’t be wondering why she got stuck with the short straw. This will limit unhealthy competition among associates, but it will also allow you as manager to really evaluate human resources. For example, do you unknowingly show favoritism at the office? Keep a record of each junior associate’s overtime and be fair when doling out hours.
  3. Sleep—Sleep at least 8 hours a night. And know that your associates should too.
  4. Manage Your Schedule In Writing—When at all possible, prepare your associates in advance for long evenings at the office. Give associates open access to your schedule to minimize surprises.
  5. Keep Your Commitments—You’re creating a reputation as a manager, so make it one of honoring commitments. You expect your associates to be on the other line during client conference calls, so don’t break meetings with them—especially mentoring sessions. There’s no better time than the present.
  6. Plug Your Leaks—Plug a leak in that personality weakness. Impatient? Micro-manager? Be cognizant of whatever pesky pet peeve drives your subordinates crazy.

Afterall, people love to love the boss.                                                            


Interested in ideas to increase the firm’s profit as well as employee satisfaction? Try CCM’s Worklife Flexibility CD Box Set, which combines two of its most popular programs into one complete and invaluable collection, featuring: Flextime Strategies that Boost Productivity and Your Bottom Line and Telecommuting: Protect Company Interests and Increase Employee Satisfaction.


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