We firmly believe we are better able to solve our clients’ legal problems when we have time to lead balanced lives and to pursue personal fulfillment as well as professional excellence. How, specifically, do we maintain this culture?
First, we hire people who are already well-rounded, because those are generally the people who have already figured out the work-life balance problem. Second, we clearly communicate our expectation that people at HWG will continue to live rich, full lives even as they provide our clients with legal services of unsurpassed quality and effectiveness. Third, we staff appropriately, with enough capacity within the firm to handle whatever our clients need on very short notice without hollowing out the rest of our lives as spouses, parents, and friends.
Obviously we can’t take the stress out of legal conflict. We solve legal problems for a living, and our clients often have “house on fire” problems they need us to solve quickly. So, like any other good lawyers, we have worked through vacations and burned our share of midnight oil. But eventually, every crisis ends, and it is at that point that we encourage our lawyers to recharge instead of getting back on a treadmill toward some arbitrary billable hours target. And that’s good not just for us but for our clients, because research suggests that people under intense and unremitting time pressures quickly become less productive, less creative, less motivated, and even less ethical.
We also stress genuine collegiality. We know our work is important to our clients, and we find it personally fulfilling to help them achieve their purposes. So we help each other as much as we can, and we know we can depend on each other for that help. That can make a world of difference both in the quality of the lawyers we retain and in the quality of the lawyering we do.
It’s very unusual for a law firm to combine professional excellence and personal fulfillment in the way we do. We don’t see quality of work and quality of life as a tradeoff; we think the balance in our personal lives makes us that much better as lawyers when our clients need the very best legal representation they can get. That may not be unique to us, strictly speaking, but it’s very unusual.