iStock_000000477761Small.jpg The addicts referred to are identified in the title of a Reuter’s story today: Workaholics struggle to say ‘No’ to work Does this sound familiar:

WA [Workaholics Anonymous] identifies workaholics as people who often are perfectionists and worriers, derive their self esteem from work, keep overly busy, neglect their health, postpone vacations and overschedule their lives.

Workaholism seems to be an occupational hazard for lawyers by the nature of what we do and how we do it. I tease in presentations that as lawyers we are perfectionists for whom 100% is a minimum and that is why no document is ever finished – there is simply a point at which we are compelled to let the client sign the darn thing. I believe that lawyers ought to maintain this mindset about their work just as I hope surgeons do also. The challenge is that workaholism is so deeply engrained in our law firm cultures that we dare not even speak of balance without being considered “less”. This is one of the (usually) unspoken reasons why part time work for new mothers is such a controversial subject. We carry this mindset over to our senior support professionals. The Chief Marketing Officer who goes home before 7 PM has their loyalty questioned. Worse, they are often invited to meetings that start at 6 PM without even being asked if that is OK (although too many are afraid to say “no” even when it’s not OK). The real issue is whether workaholism comes at a price. The Reuter’s story has a heading which reads: DESTROYING LIVES

“People think it’s funny… it’s amusing until you hear the stories. There have been many people who have come, and work is destroying their lives.”

MY OPINION: I know from first hand experience that many part time professionals contribute much more per hour at the office than their full time counterparts. Perhaps out of necessity, part-timers develop better time management skills and they are also forced to focus. I am not arguing against billable hours, per se, but many lawyers report that they spend far more time in the office than their billable hours suggest. Many lawyers are spending too much time at the office and getting far less of a return for themselves and their firms (and their clients) than they would if they spent something less but worked more efficiently and effectively. Many lawyers report that they do not capture their real work effort in their billable hours. Imagine if the capturing of billable time became more efficient. The income would be sustained while allowing lawyers to attend the odd family birthday party (when it begins instead of when it ends).