Work-Life Balance – a Contradiction in Itself?
It is no secret that lawyers work a lot. 60 hour weeks are widely considered the rule and less the exception. Accordingly, the professional profile of lawyers is perceived as being hostile to families and leisure time, especially that of lawyers. In many large law firms, it is good manners to work until late in the evening or often into the night to prove oneself. Again and again, one hears that young women are encouraged by superiors and colleagues not to have children. For a more than a full-time job, you have to be there to work with your undivided time and energy – because that’s the way it is with lawyers. The tenor is that you have to decide: Either you become a lawyer or you have free time and can be there for your family. Reconciling both is currently not possible.
There is a way
The breakout session Work-Life Balance dealt with this hard nut and led to very personal and partly emotional discussions. So one asked oneself whether one should count the family as free time or work. On the one hand, household and childcare are not work in an employment relationship, on the other, they are – and the participants agreed – hard work. The speeches from participants from other countries, such as the UK or Germany, were particularly interesting. Of course, lawyers also work a lot there, but one seems to have found a healthier approach to the job description. One heard that in the UK it is increasingly discouraged for young people to work into the night. It is not healthy and not even productive – after more than ten working hours you make too many mistakes that you cannot afford as a lawyer. In addition, it is possible in Germany to work part-time as a self-employed person or to “dormant” one’s law firm for a while, as contributions to the bar associations can be reduced accordingly. It seems as if the working culture of lawyers is still lagging far behind that of other European countries. The organizer of the Women in Law Conference, Dr. Alix Frank-Thomasser, therefore made a number of demands on decision-makers in Austria on World Women’s Day on 8 March 2019 to bring working conditions in law firms into the 21st century.