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A question of balance

Top lawyers offer tips on juggling work and home lives

work-life_mainAttorney wellness has been a top-of-mind discussion for Virginia’s legal leaders in the past year and a half.

Virginia Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons appointed a special committee, chaired by his colleague, Justice William C. Mims, to explore wellness and to recommend solutions to lawyers for improving their lives, fighting stress and warding off substance abuse and depression.

Leonard C. Heath, former president of the Virginia State Bar, made wellness a leitmotif for his year at the helm of the bar. In May the VSB released a 79-page report investigating why lawyers experience wellness problems at a “disproportionate rate when compared to the public as a whole.”

Mims also spearheaded an effort to boost the money available to Lawyers Helping Lawyers, now known as the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. Lawyers saw a $30 assessment on their bar dues statements this summer.

One common issue for lawyers is how to balance their personal and professional lives. After all, law is demanding. So is parenthood. So are relationships at times – and not just on the legal end. That’s why the VSB report also aims to help spouses, significant others and family members of an “affected legal professional.”

It’s no surprise that lawyers struggle maintaining a work-life balance, considering it’s the only profession with an industry devoted to helping people quit practice: There are numerous counselors and websites offering advice on how to use a legal education in other fields.

So what are the best ways to keep all the moving parts of your life in check?

Each year, Virginia Lawyers Weekly honors a group of leading Virginia lawyers in our “Leaders in the Law” program. “Leaders,” as we are fond of saying, are lawyers who set the example for other lawyers.

We ask each honoree to complete a questionnaire that allows our readers to know them better.

One question we have asked for more than 10 years is this: “How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and personal life?”

There have been a wide variety of responses. Some leaders acknowledge this is a daily effort; others say work-life balance is impossible to achieve.

“There is no balance – please know that going into the law and do the best you can. Some days I am a good wife and mother and some days I am a good lawyer. On a great day from time to time – I am great at both,” wrote Richmond attorney Stephanie E. Grana.

This may be true for some lawyers. But according to our leaders, it doesn’t have to be. The VLW archive has advice from more than 300 attorneys on how they manage to find balance and maintain mental, physical and emotional wellness.

Many leaders agree that maintaining a work-life balance is a difficult task that can only be managed through trial and error. Finding a wellness routine that works for you requires “constant adjustment,” said Manuel A Capsalis, now a judge in Fairfax.

Regardless of how you find a work-life balance, the most important tip to keep in mind is not to be too hard on yourself during the process. If the first routine you try doesn’t work, reassess and try again.

“Forgive yourself for not getting it right,” said Richmond lawyer Joanna Suyes. “No one ever does.”

For the complete list of answers for Leaders in the Law from 2009 to 2018, CLICK HERE.