Q. Like everything else, I'm behind in formulating my New Year's resolutions. Aside from getting my booster shot, what should I resolve to do in the year ahead?
A. After the ball drops on another year, we often spend the next twelve months dropping balls in all aspects of lives. Even if you finished your list of resolutions, in a few weeks, that list would be buried beneath a pile of paperwork, as the overwhelming demands of practice, multiple deadlines and an endless stream of phone calls monopolize your time.
In a profession that struggles with a higher incidence of depression and anxiety than the population at large, we tell ourselves that "the client comes first" and let everything else suffer.
Contrary to the time-honored adage, clients do not come first. You do.
If you truly want to serve your clients well, scrap the resolutions and start making some firm decisions. You cannot attend to their needs at the expense of everything else. Sleep deprivation and a steady diet of caffeine and anti-depressants won't make you a better lawyer. The unhealthy, one-dimensional lifestyle that many of us maintain comes with serious consequences and may ultimately harm the very clients we are sworn to help.
Achieving balance takes time — time which cannot be measured in billable hours.
Using 2020 vision, imagine a year in which your practice is but one aspect of a healthy life that includes a proper diet, exercise, family and recreation. If you are overwhelmed at the office, honestly assess your need for support staff, better technology and case management systems, and a more selective approach to incoming business.
As lawyers, we are accustomed to rolling up our sleeves to put in extra hours – maybe even "all-nighters" – to get the job done. That may be necessary on occasion. But it should never become a way of life.
This applies to all of us irrespective of the nature of our practice or the setting in which we work. But achieving balance is particularly challenging for sole practitioners who are accustomed to doing everything themselves.
If you aren't getting enough sleep, fail to exercise, don't eat right or spend enough time with family, you won't be in a position to help anyone after long. Your clients may appreciate your hard work and dedication. But they'll find plenty of other lawyers to take over once you're gone.
Your family will miss you, though. Perhaps they miss you already.
Don't drop the ball.