Would you call yourself a perfectionist? How about an overachiever?
Even for highly-motivated legal professionals, the need to work long hours for demanding clients—in a hyper-competitive field—can make it difficult to achieve a healthy work-life balance. And whether you’re an associate at a large firm or a solo trying to make it on your own, that lack of balance is a problem.
Why is it a problem? A less-than-optimal work-life balance can take away from both your quality of work and the time you spend with family and friends. Worse, prolonged periods of stress and overwork can negatively impact your overall mental well-being. In a heavy-workload, high-stress profession such as law, this can have disastrous consequences: lawyers lead the U.S. with the highest incidence of depression, as many as one in five struggles with substance abuse, and rank among the highest in terms of suicide.
You’re likely aware of this, but you’ve got client demands to meet, bills to pay, and either a firm to run or a partner to answer to. If you’re an associate, your workflow may seem even more beyond your control.
How can you meet your commitments while obtaining the ever-elusive lawyer work-life balance?
A mobile practice may be your answer. With increased mobility, you’ll be able to operate on a flexible schedule that works for you. No more 18-hour marathon days at the office. Also, you’ll be better positioned to respond to clients quickly and meet them anytime, anywhere—a competitive advantage over lawyers working in brick-and-mortar offices.
Here’s how lawyers can achieve a healthy work-life balance with a mobile practice.
1. Embrace a flexible schedule
Practicing law during regular business hours, from within the confines of an office, is not always the most efficient use of your time. You may end up staring at the wall in frustration from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.—only to miss dinner when an idea strikes you at six.
With a mobile practice, you can work when it best suits you. (Maybe you find peak productivity at 6 a.m. or 11 p.m.) Meanwhile, you can mix other activities you want to do throughout your day—without neglecting clients. You can attend your kid’s soccer practice and make it to more family dinners. Rather than forego vacation time, you can leave town while maintaining full access to all your firm’s information.
On the flip side, a mobile office means that black holes in your daily productivity can be turned into routine opportunities for key tasks. Check your email in transit, or review a document while waiting at the dentist’s office.
The bottom line—work-life balance is becoming less about separation and more about integration, and a mobile practice can help you achieve this.
2. Set realistic and attainable goals.
It’s impossible to maintain good health and happiness while working non-stop 18-hour days (unless you really, REALLY love your job, but even then, we’d urge you to be wary of burnout). To find a healthy work-life balance, it’s important to set goals on quality of work, not quantity, based on what you have accomplished in the past. Remember that you will be more productive when you also take the time to focus on your physical and mental wellness.
With the flexibility that comes with a mobile practice, you can work whenever you choose and/or when the need arises, but that doesn’t mean you should be on-call at all times. Be flexible, but also set healthy boundaries and work at times that make sense to you (like this lawyer does). Also, try to spend one hour a day on a health and wellness activity of your choosing.
3. Balance stressful periods with time for recovery
If it was easy, everyone would be a lawyer. But it’s not. It’s a career that involves late nights, conflicts, and drama.
That’s why it’s important to balance the elements of your job that stress you out with elements of your personal life you enjoy the most. A mobile practice can help you do this—with the flexible schedule a mobile practice affords, it’s a lot easier to balance out stressful periods with hobbies or other activities that you enjoy.
Tip: Practicing mindfulness can help you de-stress and improve productivity. Learn about it in our free guide, Better Lawyering Through Mindfulness.
4. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
Try as you might, you can’t do everything. As with any type of practice, you’ll need to track and prioritize both time-sensitive items and items that are important in the long term—so that when you’re practicing on-the-go, you have a clear idea of your daily workflow. This will help you better respond to last-minute requests that could otherwise leave you feeling overwhelmed.
There are plenty of apps for lawyers that can help you prioritize. For example, the home screen on Clio’s mobile app prioritizes your top five most pressing tasks, events, and recently updated matters, so you can see what’s most important at a glance.
5. Stay organized
For any lawyer, organization is key. For mobile lawyers, there are a number of tools that can help you track billable hours, set your schedule, and keep an eye on upcoming tasks—all from the palm of your hand. Your mind will be clearer without all of those unwieldy stacks of paper piled on your desk.
With a mobile practice (or with any cloud-based practice management solution, for that matter) your files are stored securely in the cloud, your workflows are always on-hand, and you’ll have the ability to practice wherever you or clients require. This flexibility should eliminate a lot of unnecessary stress, and provide you with some peace-of-mind as you structure your practice, and life, in a way that works best for you.
Thinking of starting a mobile practice? Find out more about the benefits in our free report, The Mobile Revolution: What Law Firms Need to Know.