A Lawyer’s Regret: Know Your Boundaries!

9 May

 

 

One lesson that I have taken away in owning my own practice and being a lawyer is to learn your boundaries! I have always been the person who said I would be successful, have it all by the time I was 30, and for the most part I did it by 27.  By the time I was 27 years old, I had my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, my master’s degree in Communication and Culture with an emphasis in Human Rights, I attended the Institute for Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, completed my Law Degree and I was enrolled in an LLM program.  I also opened my law firm which is still up and successfully running.  Oh did I mention, I am a mommy of a two year old currently.  When he was 5 months old I took and passed the California Bar on my first try.  ….. Now, here is where you breathe and let your head stop spinning…

“Stop the spinning” That was something that someone said to me recently and it stuck so well that I did not even realize my life was spinning, literally spinning because of the chaos and loss of focus and boundaries in my work and personal life.  

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge believer in being a successful and independent woman who can have a career and a family.  In fact, I don’t see myself living life any other way.  While I was not always sure I would be a parent or have children, I would not change that miracle for the world.  My son inspired me to be a better lawyer and truly find a balance in life.  So while some bloggers may tell you about how to balance your work and your spouse, or your work and your social life…my explanation is how to balance it all full circle.  First, figure out what you want in life.  Once you know that, don’t sacrifice a damn thing you want for work.  If you want to be married and your boss wants you to work your wedding weekend, quit.  If you want to have kids and your boss doesn’t understand why you can’t be there on time at 7:00 a.m. when you drop your kids off for school, quit.  Why? First, that boss does not respect you, nor do they understand what is going on.  Second, if you sacrifice your wants and dreams for your career those pieces of those dreams will begin to fade.  Work is not a life, its just a part of it.  

Some people, especially women, don’t start their careers with the intention of devoting themselves to their work, it just happens.  For me, I knew my career was going to be everything in my life.  I have put my career first since I started college.  It was my goal and my focus for years.  So when I became pregnant my last semester of law school my entire dream changed, but did not stop.  Instead of graduating and working for some big time law firm 80 hours a week and barely making ends meet or being a public defender and working 8-5 in some far away city with a commute, I immediately opened my own practice, which successfully grew in no time.  Do I work insane hours, yes…but I can leave on a Thursday to take my son to go to Disneyland and work until Midnight to make up for it.  Where else can you do that? 

My motto on life has always been work your ass off for 5 years and enjoy 65 of them.  In reality though, you have to set some boundaries.  Working hard for 5-10 years and enjoying the next 5-10 years is not a balance.  In reality, you are going to end up watching your life pass you by.  This is “spinning.”  Eventually you will realize you cannot balance any of the events in your life, whether its a birthday party for a friend, a dinner, your own birthday, anniversary and then your career, you will feel pulled in twelve different directions.  So stop… balance it now, in the beginning.  It is so much easier to build the solid foundation then fix the one that was built wrong.    

The last three months have changed my view on work and how to balance life.  Before, I was the one who worked from 6:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. came home, made dinner, got my son ready for bed, put him to bed, and then continued to work until 1:00 a.m. Repeat the next day.  But these last three months have all been about balance for me.  I recently became a single mother, although this did not affect my life in too harsh of a fashion as I did not have much support at home, which is another point, you want this crazy career and insane life, find a partner who can be supportive, and understand.  Be respectful of that partner and be there for them as well.  I did not realize how insane the hours I was working were until I sat for two hours one morning, just talking to someone, and did not touch my iphone once….not once.  Granted I had 47 emails when I returned to my office, but my mind was so clear, so fresh… I was balanced for just that moment. 

LESSON: You don’t have to be on your BlackBerry or iPhone from the first moment in the morning to the last moment at night.  In fact, turn it off from time to time…its amazing at how we forget to connect to people.  Each your lunch away from your desk…or at least remember to eat (one month I lost 10lbs over stress from a case and not eating).  Take a vacation, a break and a sick day.  Do not work 70 hours a week.  

In the end if you bill out 150 – 200 hours a month Congratulations, guess what you have, 150-200 hours a month.  That’s it. How do I know this? I’ve done it… I’ve lived it. I guarantee that your spouse or partner will leave, your friends will be annoyed, and there is no way you will be able to raise a healthy child if you are working like that.  There is no humanly possible way to bill that many hours and provide the attention to the world around you.  In the end take breaks, make money, build your career, but not at the expense of your life.  

Work your ass off…so you can enjoy your life.  Your job is a job, its not who you are, it’s only a part of your identity. 

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