Imagine, for a moment, a world in which a lawyer’s work and life are completely separate.
No, I’m serious. Pause and imagine it.
When I try to envision that world, I get deeply distressed. If work and life are separate, and if life has no part in work, what does that imply? Work = no life, and the absence of life = death. So, work = death.
I began thinking about this when someone recently questioned the name of my website and blog (and, for that matter, business): does “Life at the Bar” mean I focus on work/life balance? (An ironic question, since that’s a phrase that I truly dislike and find dangerously misleading.) But no, I focus on a much broader scope of topics, and I’ve never had a coaching engagement that’s centered on or been directed primarily toward work/life balance.
When work and life are integrated, we’re reasonably authentically who we are, whether at home or at work, and rewards flow in both places.
Or perhaps I’m a life coach for lawyers? There’s nothing wrong with that; life coaching can be a valuable service. But that isn’t what I’m about. I work with clients on business development, career strategy, leadership development, among other issues, and we typically address life coaching issues only to the extent that it affects my client’s professional life. In other words, if a client is going through a divorce, we may touch on how to stay focused on work when in the office, even when grief or anger threatens to overwhelm, but I’m not the coach to help with sorting through how to approach friends who stop calling because of their divided loyalty resulting from being friends with the divorcing spouses.
Instead, “Life at the Bar” derives from the concept that, to be effective advocates and counselors, we must be alive — fully present, focused, and all systems go — in practice. While there’s certainly a separation between professional and personal life, it strikes me as sad that work and life are viewed as being divisible, separate domains that must be balanced. And I begin to imagine conference rooms and courtrooms full of zombies citing legal maxims, just waiting to leave the office and return to life. Thank goodness that isn’t true for most lawyers!
I’m moving more and more toward the concept of WorkLife Integration. Integration means that, while professional life and personal life remain separate (as I would suggest they should), there’s life in work, and work and life go hand-in-hand. Work is endowed with passion and purpose and emotion and logic and humor and relationships and all the other things that make life lively.
Most importantly, no one has to spend hours at the office, slugging through the slew, waiting for 5 PM or 7 PM (or later) to begin living again during precious non-work hours, and no one has to attach an ill-fitting mask to survive. When work and life are integrated, we’re reasonably authentically who we are, whether at home or at work, and rewards flow in both places. Of course, there will be times when we’re eager to leave the professional focus at work and to turn to the personal focus at home, or vice versa, but there’s life in both places.
So. How integrated is your WorkLife?
Julie A. Fleming, J.D., A.C.C. provides business and executive coaching with an emphasis on business development, leadership development, time mastery and organization, and work/life integration. Julie holds a coaching certificate from the Georgetown Leadership Coaching program and holds the Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential from the International Coach Federation. She is certified to administer the DISC(r) assessment, the Leadership Circle Profile 360, and the Leadership Culture Survey.