Work-Life Balance: The Single Girl’s Edition

BY: Amber James

Get a degree. Pass the Bar. Find the perfect job. Get married. Find the perfect house. Adopt Fido. Have 2-3 kids. That’s the dream for us girls, right? I know it has been mine for the last 10 years or so. But what happens if you add “Make Partner” or “Start My Own Firm” to that list. Does the order change? I know it has for me.

I’ve been work-focused for the past 6 years. Working crazy hours, grinding it out. And so far, it has served me well. I moved to West Texas, made partner in 4 years and get to serve on lots of great professional and community-focused boards—most which bolster my professional existence in this little legal profession of ours. My career is right where I want it. But my personal life, you know that whole “get married and reproduce” part, yeah well, that’s been put on hold for a while (but hopefully not indefinitely).

We hear a lot about all the work-life balance ideas and efforts geared toward lawyer moms. (God Bless those lawyer mommas! Not sure how they do it.) Even in law school, when most of us were in our early and mid-twenties, we had these young partner moms come speak to us about how to balance the demands from home with the demands of the office. But what about us single girls? Where are our work-life balance seminars?

I’m sure making the decision to leave the office each night to catch your kid’s first soccer game, recital, or to tuck them in at night is a no-brainer, but sometimes the only “excuse” I have to go home is so I can squeeze in a workout, or you know, tend to my own personal needs of food and sleep. So I am here to say it, it’s not just married and momma lawyers that have to consciously consider how they are managing their work-life balance—it’s us single girls too.

So what does that look like for me? It means I treat my need for a vibrant social life, frequent travel, spontaneous fun, and even the weekend nap just as if those were the needs of my kids and spouse. And here is the catch, I do it GUILT FREE. The first two years of practice, I didn’t take one day off, not a single sick day, not a Friday afternoon. And on top of that, I worked liked an animal on nights and weekends. I was a machine, living in Houston with plenty of cash, but no time to spend it. I knew there was no reason to keep that little terrible routine up. All work and no play made Amber a dull girl. That’s when I made the decision to move out West, work less, and LIVE more.

But it wasn’t just location that got me to where I am now—which is tipping that balance towards LIFE, not work—it was a conscious choice to put my needs first, and work second. And to do it all without apologizing to my firm.

Now, I mentioned that I still made partner in 4 years right? So what gives? I figured out that balance for me means I have to work like an animal all day and night when I am in town during the week and on the occasional weekends I stay in town so I have time to go have my version of LIFE—which, right now, includes a lot of travel, adventures, visits to hang with friends/family across the State and frequent afternoon naps. I treat those plans to live out my LIFE with the same duty and diligence as my work appointments, keeping in mind that a more satisfying LIFE for me yields a more focused lawyer for my firm. So my charge to you is to figure out what your BALANCE looks like, and go move those puzzle pieces around to get it to work for you too single girls! And remember, no apologies.

Amber James

Amber is a shareholder with the firm of Atkins, Hollmann, Jones, Peacock, Lewis & Lyon in Odessa where she maintains a commercial litigation practice that is heavily influenced by the robust oil and gas driven economy of West Texas. Prior to moving to Odessa, Amber was an associate with the firm of Sprott, Rigby, Newsom, Robbins, & Lunceford in Houston.

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  12. Amen Amber! Your post really resonates with me, especially the part about being guilt-free; that’s the struggle. Not to mention that I feel like I shouldn’t complain around my mommy-lawyer friends because – if I get away from the office, it’s so I can work out or be involved and network/develop business, which seems so selfish compared with balancing motherhood.

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