We can’t put a price on the blood, sweat, tears, and countless hours that you have put into creating a profitable law practice, but with success, comes more demands.
Clients make up your law firm. The problem is, the more clients you have, the more likely you are to experience burnout or anxiety due to the constant requests of those clients. So how do you set boundaries (like taking time off) and still have a business that you are proud of?
A boundary is a rule or expectation that we set in relationships and to those around us to protect our heart, our peace, and our decision making. A boundary is an action you will take based on what someone else does.
Let’s say a client calls or texts you late at night. Without a healthy boundary being set, they continue to call you late. They disrupt your sleep, they want answers immediately, and you notice in the morning you are drained of energy and not able to do your job the best you possibly can. Eventually you decide to set realistic and favorable expectations and boundaries that benefit both you and the client.
Boundaries set expectations and expectations allow you to focus on things that benefit your law practice. Someone calling late at night will most likely not benefit you or the firm. As you set boundaries you will find yourself being more productive, having more peace in your life, and creating healthy lawyer/client relationships. Protecting your personal time allows you to take a vacation and leave your law practice for a period of time without having to worry about clients or staff members reaching out to you on a constant and mandatory basis. This opens up doors for a healthy work/life balance.
Setting healthy boundaries for your clients is one thing, but setting them for your staff and team is another. When it comes to your clients, it’s important that you communicate upfront, find out their expectations and what your role is when it comes to their case. It’s also important to let them know about after-hour and non-emergency contact numbers.
As for your team, you want to be clear in any direction you provide them, discover who you can delegate to when that time is needed, being able to kindly say “no” and let them know “why” when necessary, and setting clear expectations when you are out of town or busy.
“Understand: everyone—regardless of their age, seniority, marital status and circumstances—has a right to pursue life-work balance and attend to the things that are important to them. Balance is not reserved for those who are married and have a mortgage, children or other ‘serious’ responsibilities. Hanging out with a boyfriend is just as valid as spending time with a husband of 10 years. Tending to your mental and physical health as a single person with no apparent obligations is just as valid as tending to your mental and physical health as an exhausted mother of three. It’s ok to want to go on vacation because vacations are fun—you don’t need to have skipped vacation the last two years or to not have seen your friends and family for extended periods of time in order for your time off to be ‘justified.”
Those in the legal profession face more demands than most on a daily basis which is why boundaries are so important. Although boundary-setting may not be comfortable, here are some ways that you can set boundaries and feel in control of your work and professional life.
*Being uncomfortable is necessary for growth: Even if boundary-setting is uncomfortable at first, eventually you will hold tight to things that matter and remove or avoid things, that don’t provide you with a sense of peace.
*Start with small boundary setting: Start out with one or two small boundaries and see how it feels. Once you get the gist of how boundary-setting works, you can take it to different levels, and apply it to different parts of your life.
*Practice saying “no”: Learn how to say “no” without feeling guilty. It’s okay to say “no” to things that won’t benefit you or your business. You can choose to say “no” with or without an explanation. Remember, you don’t have to explain yourself but, as humans, we desire the known vs the unknown.
*Set boundaries as a form of self-care: Lawyers are prone to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and burnout far more than any other industry. Constantly saying “yes” and meeting constant demands of clients can take a huge hit on your mental health. Consider setting boundaries as a way to protect your peace of mind. Setting boundaries gives you the opportunity to be the best version of yourself.
*Adjust your response: “Your first response should always be ‘let me check my calendar.'” This gives you the space and time needed to determine if you have the capacity to accept the request or take on a new project. Don’t automatically say “yes” to everything that comes your way. Eventually you will realize that you are taking on too much and, by then, it may be too late.
When we operate with healthy and reasonable boundaries, we are able to prioritize the things that are important, focus on self-care and self-love, have a healthier work/life balance, and focus on events and circumstances that provide us with peace.