What Strategies Help Attorneys Balance Trial Preparation With Work-Life Balance?

    Authored By

    Lawyer Magazine

    What Strategies Help Attorneys Balance Trial Preparation With Work-Life Balance?

    In the high-stakes world of legal trials, balancing meticulous preparation with personal well-being is a formidable challenge. We sought the wisdom of Attorneys and Managing Partners, asking them to share their strategies. From maintaining mindfulness amidst trial prep to beginning early to manage trial demands, discover the three essential tips they provided for harmonizing professional rigor with a healthy lifestyle.

    • Maintain Mindfulness Amidst Trial Prep
    • Delegate Tasks and Pursue Passions
    • Prioritize Well-Being Over Checklists
    • Begin Early to Manage Trial Demands

    Maintain Mindfulness Amidst Trial Prep

    Although it can seem like a waste of time, I think it is critical to maintain a meditation/mindfulness practice—despite whatever may be going on in your life, including preparing for a trial. For me, nothing assuages the ever-encroaching sense of impending doom of deadlines and life’s demands better than sitting or walking mindfully. Whether it is doing yoga, taking a few psychological sighs, or doing five minutes of 4-7-8 breathing, I find that I can prioritize and execute a plan after such a practice.

    They say that breathing is the bridge between our conscious and unconscious mind/body, so by manually controlling our breath, then simply watching it (and not controlling it), I find that is the best way for me to arrive at the present moment and lower my blood pressure (and likely my cortisol levels). That way, I can get out of fight-or-flight mode and think more clearly, which makes me more effective at preparing for trial. Taking these sorts of breaks, in addition to maintaining a healthy diet, exercise, and family time, I think, are the best ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

    Jared WestAttorney, Childs McCune

    Delegate Tasks and Pursue Passions

    Balancing trial preparation with a healthy work-life equilibrium demands effective time management and boundary-setting. I allocate focused blocks of time for trial tasks, ensuring productivity while safeguarding personal time. Delegation is vital—I entrust tasks to capable team members, fostering collaboration and preventing burnout. Prioritizing self-care, including my passion for horse riding, rejuvenates me and maintains balance.

    Horse riding isn't just a hobby—it's a fundamental part of who I am. The connection with these majestic animals brings me solace and joy, serving as a source of physical exercise and mental rejuvenation amidst the rigors of legal practice. Whether it's a tranquil ride through nature trails or the exhilaration of equestrian competitions, horse riding allows me to escape the stresses of work and immerse myself in the present moment. The bond formed with my horses teaches me patience, perseverance, and empathy—qualities that I bring back to my legal practice, enhancing my ability to connect with clients and navigate complex cases with clarity and compassion.

    Additionally, integrating horse riding into my routine reinforces my commitment to a balanced lifestyle, reminding me of the importance of pursuing passions outside of work. By prioritizing self-care and embracing activities that bring me joy and fulfillment, I not only recharge my batteries, but also approach my professional responsibilities with renewed energy and enthusiasm. In essence, horse riding isn't just a pastime—it's a cornerstone of my well-being, and a vital component of my ability to maintain balance amidst the demands of legal practice.

    Hunter Garnett
    Hunter GarnettManaging Partner and Founder, Garnett Patterson Injury Lawyers

    Prioritize Well-Being Over Checklists

    As a former practicing attorney, I understand the pressure to get everything done, cover all the bases, and have all the things prepped and ready to go for trial. It can be overwhelming, time-consuming, anxiety-provoking, and exhausting.

    Here's the key: No one is good at trial if they're burnt out. No one is good at anything if they've worked themselves out of any sense of well-being. Well-being isn't about being fit or hitting the gym a few days a week. Well-being is our foundation for being great in the world.

    When you're getting ready for trial, the truth is, there is no balance. Sometimes things will be more consuming than we'd like. So, how do you take care of yourself, your family, and other areas of your life when you have so many competing demands for your time?

    First - remember that your commitment is to greatness, not to getting things done. There's a difference. You can be great and not crush that checklist. Maybe it means you delegate, ask for help, or just let things go. Maybe it means that you prioritize meditation and healthy food in the same way you're prioritizing witness prep.

    Second - Write out your non-negotiables and put them in your calendar. If you have kids and they're in a play, put that on your schedule and protect it from everything, including bear attacks.

    Third - Own the impact of your choices. If you choose to work late and it interferes with date night, then be responsible for how that impacts your partner. Of course, things come up, but your partner can understand shifting priorities if you understand how your actions impact them. If you choose to go on the date, be responsible for telling your colleagues when they can expect your work.

    Finally - This is what it looks like to have competing commitments. There's no one commitment above all others, and caring about more than one thing means that you have a full life. That's wonderful! Sometimes we can't do everything and be everywhere, so it's on us to notice why we choose what we choose. If you notice that you are choosing work first, that's something to think about. If you notice you're avoiding the gym, also something to consider. And if you're having a hard time finding a way to keep all of your commitments balanced, working with a coach can help.

    Erin Conlon
    Erin ConlonExecutive Coach & Speaker, EPC LLC

    Begin Early to Manage Trial Demands

    I have found that the best approach is to begin preparation as early as possible. This is helpful for three reasons.

    First, if I begin preparations early, I likely can task out a greater portion of the preparation work. The closer it is to trial, the riskier it becomes to task out preparation. This is because if it is done incorrectly shortly before trial, I may not have time to fix it. Second, if I begin preparations early, I have a better grasp on the amount of work that remains to be completed, with more time available to set aside for it. Third, if the known preparation work is done in advance, I can set aside those few days prior to trial to put out fires during the workday.

    It is when everything is not done sufficiently in advance that unexpected problems come up, and I do not have enough time left to task things out that family time tends to get set aside. This can become the norm in a litigation-heavy practice. However, by completing preparation early, it is more likely that I will be able to stick to a reasonable work schedule.

    Luke Smith
    Luke SmithAttorney and Founder, LawSmith PLLC