Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rose, or, the Importance of a Personal Life

Why Rose?

The style and color selection for this blog was easy. When considering the design, I knew I didn't have the creativity or artistic sense to do anything novel and so would be stuck with whatever templates were readily available on the site. About 5th on the list was this lovely rose-colored alternative, and that made it simple. My fascination with roses? It actually started with my garden (I now have about 40 rose bushes) in a phase of my life when home-based nesting was the best option for mental relaxation from the stress of an active practice and full-throttle parenting of three children.

Then after I wrote the last check for my oldest son's college tuition, I realized there was still some money in the account earmarked for his education, and it was just enough to buy my dreamhorse. (Browse So I took lessons and rode a bunch of nags until I found Rose. Actually named Hilde, the sales barn wisely renamed her in an attempt to find her a home in Northern California. Here is a picture of Rose and me at our very first horse show; she is 6, I am 46 in the photo. The brilliant photographer is my friend Howard Slavitt.

So what does all this have to do with women as leaders in law firms? My point today is that all work and no play makes Jane a very poor and frustrated leader. Yes, the demands of the practice can be all consuming. Yes, family must come near the top of the priority list. But every healthy leader must have a fun, playful, and legal (as in not illegal), outside interest. Whatever it is for you, make the time for it on a regular basis. That may mean some other things don't get done, or don't get done in time. If you are always too tired, too overwhelmed, or too overworked to sustain an outside hobby, something is out of balance. No one is going to fix the balance for you, though, so take control and do something fun.

One final thought: It would be naive to think that just because a healthy person needs balance, law firms and law departments will respect this and make allowances for it. There is much written these days about how diversity among lawyers is a good thing; women bring unique skills and benefits to law firms and leadership; women (at least women with children or spouses) need some personal time; and therefore, the logic goes, law firms must take this into account in designing advancement and compensation systems that reward women who balance their lives in this fashion the same as similarly-situated men. That logic seems a bit utopian to me. Perhaps morally they should, but don't count on it or beat your breast if they don't. Some firms will do so (mine certainly did, and does), some of the time (most likely when economic times are good), but some won't. For good articles and programs on work-life balance, see the Project for Attorney Retention at Hastings College of Law (

Anyone out there have an interesting hobby to share, or comments on how to balance their life?


Next up: Dirty Jobs


  1. I completely agree with the necessity of work/life balance. While it tends to hit women harder (because there is still not generally equal responsibilities at home between the 2 genders), organizations need to see it as positively impacting all employees and the business. When people are balanced, they are happier and are therefore more productive, more creative and make better leaders. What company wouldn't want that? My personal favorite is Bikram yoga (the hot kind) and I see an immediate positive difference in my work life and home life after doing it.

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