I have a very traditional job in terms of what my work life looks like. In fact, I’m sure it’s very similar to how judges have worked for a century or more. As I mentioned in my last column, my inbox is no longer an actual cardboard box, but it’s an electronic inbox where I find my paperwork waiting for me. Other than emailing and reading the newspaper online, my life at the office is pretty much what it was 20 years ago for me or 100 years ago for the judges of yesteryear. I’m in the minority of lawyers.
Recently, I got a response to an email I’d sent to a former neighbor of ours who used to be a member of the IndyBar. I asked him why he hadn’t renewed his membership and if there was any way we could earn back his interest in being a member. He responded that he has moved out of town but hadn’t broadcast that information because he wanted to continue to service clients. I thought how wonderful it is for him to be able to construct his life so that it works well for him and his wife. He is approaching the age when he is probably considering retiring and this is a great way to ease into it.
I was at a reception last week where I met a lot of young lawyers and I started talking to a couple of women about their efforts to balance work and family. Both women are new mothers. They shared with me that they take turns with their husbands doing the morning kid chores, alternating who leaves for the office early. Both moms return home to relieve the babysitter and do the normal things a parent does with their children—feeding, bathing, reading a story. Then, it’s back on the computer for a couple of hours of work.
We have a close lawyer friend who has an apartment in the south of France. He and his wife spend a couple of weeks in France several times a year and he’s able to do his work remotely. I called him once, not realizing he was out of the country, and I had no idea he wasn’t in his office until he mentioned the weather and the wine.
All of this is to say that the practice of law has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. It seems to me that it’s mostly for the better. The ability of lawyers to engage in the practice of law as their lives change is fantastic. It must be so liberating. I’m frequently very envious of that control. Control is a big thing to lawyers, I’ve discovered. Discussions between my lawyer husband and I are usually more about control than about substance.
Speaking of control, the IndyBar has recognized that lawyers want to be in control of their memberships in ways they never could before. We started with Plus CLE, which allows members to get all of their required CLE, and then some, for just $60 a year. Next year, we’re moving to an a la carte method of building a membership. If you just want the basic membership, you will be able to pay one price. So, if you want to live most of the year in Sedona but you want to feel connected to the Indianapolis legal community, you can do that for one very low price. If you want unlimited CLE, it’s another price, and so on. We’re hopeful that this kind of control and flexibility will meet our members’ needs now and far into the future.
For me, my last day on the bench will look just like my first day on the bench on Jan. 1, 1997. Some things never change.•