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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    February 07, 2023

    Final Thought
    A New Lawyer's Challenge: Balancing Career and Family Life

    Lawyers before us have done it, but young lawyers today face even greater challenges in balancing work and life. Here's what I've learned to achieve that balance.

    Jose Castro

    Being a law firm associate can be grueling. So can being a parent. Managing a demanding career and family responsibilities is something many new lawyers face. Many before us have done it, yet there are new challenges in today’s legal profession.

    Jose A. CastroJose A. Castro, U.W. 2016, is an associate attorney at Spencer Fane LLP, Denver, Colo., practicing in commercial litigation and real estate. Castro is the current president of the State Bar’s Young Lawyers Division. He is also a member of the Nonresident Lawyers Division, and the Litigation Section.

    According to Thomson Reuters, “young professionals are placing more explicit emphasis on work-life balance than was evident in previous generations.” What’s more, “a higher proportion of the professional workforce are mothers and, as men now take more active roles in child-rearing, it means that younger professionals as a group are juggling more domestic responsibilities alongside their paid jobs.”

    I am experiencing this myself. I am a typical law firm associate in many ways. I have been out of law school for seven years and have achieved a steady rhythm – taking on new projects within the firm, meeting other attorneys, joining professional and community organizations that enrich my life, and spending my free time with my wife, family, and friends. My wife and I became parents 18 months ago, bringing disruption to our settled routine.

    I am not an expert on this subject, but here are a few things that I have observed.

    Prioritizing time. My family is my highest priority. While I strive to maintain a balance between my work and my personal life, I have learned that it is okay to take time to fully participate in family life. This means being flexible with my work schedule and sometimes working at odd hours to get everything done. I am getting more comfortable taking breaks to participate in family activities; doing so is a necessity in our changing work environment.

    Saying no is okay. This is the age-old dilemma for new lawyers. When is it okay to say, “no, I can’t do that right now”? Sometimes I simply don’t have time for a new work project. I have learned that openly communicating can often resolve this issue. If the project is not time sensitive, maybe I can take it on later. If it is time sensitive, perhaps another associate can help or maybe there is another solution. The key is to become comfortable openly communicating priorities and capacity.

    Work on efficiency and have clear goals. I wanted to improve my efficiency, and it certainly helps to have more experience in my practice area. But now that I am a parent, I have an even greater incentive to be efficient. Naturally, there are standards that I must reach and uphold in my career and position – these are unavoidable. But I also acknowledge that I must claim my career goals as my own and maintain them in the context of spending quality time with my family. After all, if my priority is my family, then my career goals need to align.

    The legal industry is changing as more people pull double duty as parents and young professionals. This causes challenges for workplaces and for individuals. It is important that new attorneys think about priorities and goals and how they spend time; doing so will help guide decision-making.

    It is important that new attorneys working on both a career and a personal life think about our priorities, our goals, and how our time is spent, as these things will guide our decisions.

    » Cite this article: 96 Wis. Law. 64 (February 2023).

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