As we wrap up our anniversary month, it’s truly amazing to think about where we started 5 years ago compared to where we are today. Part of what made that progress possible is the final ingredient in our Practus Recipe for Success: Balance.
Five years ago, work-life balance wasn’t such a priority for law firms – it wasn’t even a priority for most industries back in 2018. Today, “work-life balance” seems like a buzzword, a term many people gloss over because of how frequently it’s used. The reality is balance is necessary for longevity… without it, attorneys face burnout and lose passion for the profession they worked so hard to build. That’s why this 5th and final part of the anniversary series covers why it’s critical to have work-life balance for long-term success.
The evolution of Practus
To see why balance is so important, let’s go back more than 5 years ago – to a time where my value at a law firm seemed like it was only determined by the number of billable hours worked. Each day, I was working the grind, putting in long hours, and spending what little free time I had on my commute instead of spending quality time with my loved ones. This was (and is) the typical traditional law firm model. It’s what most partners experienced, but there’s a lot more to practice of law than your last billable hour.
I knew there had to be a more efficient and enjoyable way to practice law. A way that valued lawyers as individuals with unique perspectives (and personal lives) rather than simply seeing them as revenue machines. So, I set out to practice law virtually in 2010 as a way to spend more time with family and see if this modern version of a legal practice was even possible.
Back in 2010, the legal tech wasn’t nearly as developed as it is now, yet I was still able to effectively work with clients from anywhere in the world. This experience proved it’s possible to practice remotely and highlighted for me just how many unnecessary expenses and barriers there are in the traditional law firm model.
The best part? I wasn’t alone in realizing the potential for a modern law firm model. So, when Practus co-Founder, Bob Elwood, and I launched Practus five years ago, it wasn’t too much of a surprise just how many attorneys wanted the autonomy, financial freedom, and work-life balance a virtual law firm could offer.
Why is work-life balance important for a law firm?
The truth is when you’re unhappy, it’s almost impossible to do your job at your highest caliber. It’s certainly not sustainable. When attorneys are weighed down by limitations on how they can practice law and how they manage clients, work product is often negatively affected. When attorneys work on an arbitrary schedule instead of during the hours they feel most productive, work gets done more slowly. When law firms expect attorneys to dedicate their entire selves to the practice of law without any regard to their personal lives, they become uninspired and disconnect from the reason they became a lawyer in the first place.
I truly believe happier attorneys do better work, so when I talk about balance, I’m talking about working for a firm that understands you are more than just a lawyer. You’re a parent, caregiver, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, friend, artist, musician, home chef, etc. We want to celebrate that part of you too because each attorney’s unique experiences bring new perspectives to the firm. When attorneys are empowered to practice law in a way that they know best serves their clients while also enjoying a personal life that fuels them, they produce better work.
To clarify, better work product does not mean more billable hours. It means innovative thinking, flexible fee arrangements that work better for clients, collaborations across practice areas, and improved attorney-client relationships. An attorney without balance that’s facing burnout may be able to perform at their best for a short time, but that way of working won’t create long-term success and it certainly doesn’t spark joy for the profession.
We had one attorney join us after working at BigLaw for her entire career. Shortly after joining, she talked about how she’s found the joy in practicing law again – something she didn’t think was possible. Finding that work-life balance and positive culture of Practus helped her reconnect with what she loved most about the profession. Connecting with her love for law helped her become a better attorney at work and a happier mom, partner, and friend outside of work.
The benefits of prioritizing work-life balance again aren’t unique to just a handful of individuals at Practus. You can really feel the impact this sense of balance has on everyone here during firm-wide events. Just last week, we threw our fifth anniversary party – a charcuterie showdown where we hosted a virtual competition for best board. Our team gave it their all; one partner spelled the word “Practus” in vegetables, people incorporated our logo into boards, and some even included the Roman numeral V in celebration of our 5th anniversary.
Seeing the participation and the level of excitement people had at our annual event sharing laughs together felt right. It highlighted everything that makes Practus unique. This level of happiness doesn’t happen with a culture of burnout. It happens when you feel fueled by what you do. It’s a reflection of the work-life balance we’ve been able to carve into the culture of our firm.
Thank you to everyone at Practus who has made these five years some of the most rewarding I have experienced. That goes for our attorneys, our legal team, our admin team, our clients, and readers who stumble upon our website to read this blog. It’s really the people that makes Practus what it is today, and we wouldn’t have found these people without creating a virtual law firm model that incorporates culture, support, independence, collaboration, and balance. I can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.
If you missed parts 1-4 of this anniversary series, you can find the full series here.