Balancing Work and Life as a Younger Attorney

Posted: April 22, 2016

When I started law school at night, I was working full-time as a journalist and then during my second year of law school, I quit my job and took on a law clerkship at a personal injury firm downtown. I volunteered for a little over two months at the firm working about 30-40 hours per week.

Then, I was offered a paid law clerk position at the firm, earning a very modest hourly wage, and I ended up working 40-50 hours per week, while going to law school at night and over the summers. I considered law school my second job and I would not get home until about 9:00 p.m. While I was in law school, my husband and I had responsibilities including a mortgage and bills. I finished up law school in 3.5 years, graduating at the top of my class, and during this time, I developed an intense work ethic, very high standards for myself and a sense of perseverance. My husband provided me with support during this time from doing laundry to making dinner.

I also saw my fellow night law school colleagues battling equally difficult hardships. My one friend took a train from Kankakee four nights a week and worked during the day at a law firm. My other friend worked on the Southside of Chicago during the day, had a kid and went to school at night.

So, when I was finished with law school, work alone, did not seem that bad. Essentially, I had one job and I no longer had to worry about legal writing assignments, finals and balancing my life as a student, a partner to my husband, a daughter and sister, and an employee. When I talk with my friends, who also worked while going to law school, they all say that balancing life with work alone seemed to be an easy transition.

During the spring/summer of 2014, when I had three back-to-back, 2.5 week long medical malpractice trials and my own wedding in between, it was not easy balancing my life and working until all hours to prepare for trial. But I made it work. Is there some key to balancing your life and work? I do not think so.

But I do know, that sometimes, you need to choose a job, which will help you best make this balance work. For me, I knew my husband and I wanted to move to the northwest suburbs (not too far from the city because I’m a city girl at heart) and start a family. I knew I loved being a trial attorney and never wanted to give this up. I knew I wanted to work at a place which would allow me to grow as an attorney and grow my client base. I knew I wanted to work with people who understood the importance of balancing work and family. I happened to be lucky enough to land a job at MLG to achieve my goal of balancing work and life.

Maybe this is the key, finding a job which you excel at and love, while at the same time focusing on those people who really matter in your life, your family and good friends. I also think that having to work so hard at balancing law school, work and my personal life, made me better prepared for the real world. I think too many young folks who get jobs, whether they’re attorneys or not, fail to realize that work ethic is crucial, more so than how intelligent you are or who you know. Your intelligence and/or connections may get you a job, but to keep a job you love, while having a life you love, requires work, patience, compromise, and an occasional good night’s sleep.