The road to become an attorney can be bumpy. Years of schooling, challenging exams, and competitive clerkships culminate with the expectation of landing an associate position at a reputable law firm. Historically, being an attorney meant 80-hour work weeks, spent in windowless conference rooms pouring over case files.
Until recently, the career trajectory of most attorneys precluded even thinking about attaining anything close to a healthy work-life balance. Many associates and partners alike accepted their fate as an unchangeable reality, believing they simply chose a profession that required a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice.
A new legal vanguard
The work hard, then work harder mantra still dominates at many larger firms. However, this mentality doesn’t align with many attorneys’ personal ethos and life goals and a growing number are forging out on their own or moving to smaller firms.
While the reality of running lean means that attorneys and support staff at small law firms are forced to wear many hats, technology solutions exist today that can significantly improve efficiencies and streamline operations. The payoff? Attorneys and staff have more time to devote to interesting and profitable work—meaning that everyone at the firm enjoys a better work-life balance.
Another way forward
For Ohio attorneys Steve Crandall and Marc Pera, leaving larger firms to strike out on their own has paid dividends—professionally and personally. Both attorneys got their start at large insurance defense firms and eventually moved to midsize firms on the plaintiff side before deciding to forge out on their own. In 2013, they established Crandall & Pera Law, LLC, and today lead a team of two associates and five paralegals and administrative staff who serve clients at seven office locations throughout Ohio.
Remarking on his decision to go out on his own, Steve Crandall said, “I just can’t imagine working for somebody else ever again…there’s certainly a lot of risk, but the reward and flexibility and freedom is just unmatched.” Echoing his partner’s sentiment, Marc Pera remarked that “it’s wonderful being able to spend time with your family or do other things you enjoy…to be able to carve out that time.”
While both are quick to point out the numerous benefits of starting their own firm and being their own boss, they also admit to experiencing challenges, including constantly “keeping an eye on overhead,” as Crandall mentioned and walking the line between having sufficient staff and “having a payroll that is so significant that you’re basically running a practice to pay the bills instead of making a profit and enjoying life.”
Finding balance and fighting burnout with tech
To maintain that balance, the firm utilizes technology and entrusts everything from their phone systems and computers to their website and digital branding to technology solution providers. “We outsource where it makes sense, rather than having someone internally who is an employee yet adds significant overhead,” said Crandall.
This mindset and actively relying on expert technology providers afford attorneys and staff members the flexibility and work-life balance that was previously unattainable at most small law firms. “We always do what we need to do to give the best service we can to clients,” said Crandall, but we also have “the ability to take the time when we need to…to travel and do things that I think you should be doing in life.”
Pera and Crandall understand they are fortunate and that many of their peers don’t enjoy the same flexibility and balance which, unfortunately, contributes to high attorney burnout rates. Discussing the prevalence of burnout Pera admits that “there are a lot of lawyers who are unhappy and there’s big burnout in the legal profession in general.” Discussing their own experiences with managing stress, Pera commented, “I think there’s a lot less burnout doing what we do simply because we have the opportunity to help folks…we’re fighting to give them a better quality of life.”
Taking the next step
The lessons Crandall and Pera impart to their peers are to find meaning in your work and to make time for the people you love and activities you enjoy. Technology can play a key role in helping your firm increase efficiency and automate processes. At small law firms, having the right technology is particularly important.
If you’re ready to see how tech can impact your firm (and help get you home in time for dinner), talk to us.