I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about the balance between my professional and personal responsibilities. For good reason: My wife and I are expecting our first-born any minute now (as I type this I am keeping my phone in view just in case).
I keep asking myself, “How do I successfully meet the needs of my law practice while having a newborn?!?”
Because, at the end of the day, my practice is a business with expenses, requiring continual effort, and no matter what else is going on, the numbers on my business’ balance sheet need to trend toward the positive.
Today, as usual for a Monday, I spent the first half of my day working on internal business matters and the development of my law practice. I started with my monthly Lawyerist Lab Mastermind conference call, held with a cohort of attorneys from around the country in which we bounce ideas, offer suggestions, and generally help each other out with approaches to the business of law. I asked my question, how to succeed at work with a newborn, and my cohort offered some encouragement. I left the call feeling a little better.
Before lunch and heading to the office to do actual legal work, I took my dog for a walk. I grabbed the leash and scrolled through the list of available podcasts on my phone. There, from the Lawyerist group, was a pertinent one titled “The Key to Better Family Relationships.” The guest on the podcast was Jim Sheils, who is a consultant and guru regarding building and maintaining relationships with those that matter most: Your family.
Mr. Sheils discusses how you can add some structure and effectiveness to old concepts, like the date night. How you should leave the cell phone in the car. How you should have a ‘question’ for each date night: Something you are going to discuss or focus on that goes beyond “How was your day?” The examples discussed included such things as “What was your favorite part of our last vacation and why?” or deeper topics such as “What was a time I wasn’t there for you?” The point of these questions, Mr. Sheils says, is to get below the surface and continue the process of ‘dating your spouse.’
The second half of the podcast focused on time with your children, conducting what Mr. Sheil’s calls the Family Board Meeting. Once a quarter (every 90 days), he blocks off time for each of his children. His child gets to pick the activity (and he explains why that is important) and they go, just the two of them, for a minimum of four hours of one-on-one time. No screens. No phones. No lectures or punishments or scolding about things at home. Because, with your children, you only have 18-Summers to foster and build a relationship before they become adults.
After listening to the podcast, I realized the question I was asking is all wrong.
I should have been asking myself, “How do I successfully meet the needs of my family while having a law practice?!?”
Because, at the end of the day, my household also has needs, requiring continual effort, and no matter what else is going on, a successful family life goes well beyond the numbers on a balance sheet.
I highly encourage all of you to listen to the podcast from Lawyerist, even if you are not a lawyer, and to check out Jim Sheils’ website and writings. If you are a lawyer, listen to all of Lawyerist’s podcasts.
Then, take some time to focus on your family. Work will always be there.