5 Tips for Improving Work-Life Balance in Legal Jobs

Whether you're working your way up to partner at your law firm, facing the pressure of billable hours, or busy with myriad projects within a corporate legal department, it can be difficult to achieve the work-life balance you desire. However, there are ways to give your personal life the time and attention it needs while still progressing toward your professional goals.

Here are five legal career advice tips to help you attain better work-life balance:

  1. Commit to setting clear boundaries between your personal and work life. If you work at a law firm, the ambition to make partner may cause you to blur the lines between work and home. But it's important to maintain some defined separation every day between your personal and professional life. Many successful lawyers make a point to set specific work hours, leave the office at a certain time and refrain from taking files home. When you do (inevitably) need to take work home, set aside some personal time first so you can hang out with family or friends, exercise or engage in other non-work pursuits.

  2. Explore flexible work hours. If needed, work with your employer to adjust your schedule so you can actually maintain the boundary lines you set. Flextime can be a valuable tool: When lawyers have the ability to arrange their own work schedules, they can focus on their job during their most productive hours of the day, while still meeting their employer's hourly work requirement.

  3. Consider working from home. Commuting to and from work can be a drain on your energy and personal time. Telecommuting can help. If you're disciplined and establish distinct working hours with breaks, working from home can help reduce stress, increase productivity and improve work-life balance.

  4. Delegate nonessential tasks. Assign non-core work that doesn't necessarily require your personal touch to support staff. For help with larger projects, investigate using a third-party provider of legal services. Hiring interim legal help when needed – for ediscovery matters, for example -- can save valuable time that could be used to enrich your personal — and professional — life. (If you have a manager who makes it difficult for you to delegate tasks, read these tips.)

  5. Work in a position that doesn't require billable hours. Legal jobs that don’t require a set number of hours enable workers to have more time to devote to personal relationships and interests. Lawyers can choose to work in a small private practice or as a solo practitioner to avoid a billable-hour commitment. Firms that favor alternative fee arrangements also put less pressure on associates to meet high billable-hour quotas.

Professionals who want to achieve work-life balance in legal jobs must commit to establishing strict boundaries between the office and home. In a demanding profession like law, setting boundaries can be tough, but it’s necessary if you want to maintain your well-being and avoid burnout.

To ensure you make work-life balance decisions that can benefit you both personally and professionally, look to mentors or other trusted contacts for their insights and legal career advice.

To learn about compensation trends for legal jobs, download a complimentary copy of the Robert Half Legal 2014 Salary Guide.