A coaching client recently asked me for advice on staying healthy as a young lawyer and making time for wellness while working in biglaw. My client will soon be joining a large law firm as a first-year lawyer and over their third year of law school and summer of bar studying, developed a regular habit of exercise. They feel great but are worried about fitting in time to exercise once they begin working in biglaw.
As a brand-new associate, your goal is to make a great impression and demonstrate that you are enthusiastic, responsive, and a team player. Your personal life will sometimes take a back seat, especially if you work in a demanding workplace like a large law firm. But you can and should carve out time for the things that make you happy and healthy. Ultimately, you need to decide what is non-negotiable for you while maintaining some flexibility. Here are some tips I shared with my client for staying healthy as a young lawyer:
Identify your sticking points.
What is non-negotiable for you? For my client, one priority is building in daily exercise sessions. For others, it might be taking time to attend a weekly book club or pub trivia competition.
Find and protect a regular time slot.
I always found that a morning workout was key to regular exercise in biglaw. Working for New York law firms, my partners and colleagues didn’t usually expect responses before 9am, leaving me time in the morning to fit in a workout without feeling tied to my phone. My evenings were much more unpredictable in terms of workload, or I just felt too exhausted to think about working out when I got home after a long day. Note that you may need to adjust your time slot once you start work; if you decide to work out in the mornings but find yourself working for an early bird partner, a lunchtime or evening workout may work better for you.
Make it easy on yourself.
If you can swing it financially, live close to your preferred gym or exercise spot. Or rent an apartment with a gym in the building. It’s much easier to find motivation to work out when the treadmill is an elevator, not a subway, ride away.
Get an accountability partner.
My roommate as a first year was another first-year lawyer. We would frequently visit our building’s gym together, and it was a great motivation to exercise. Other ideas: work out with a friend, sign up for personal training sessions, or join a regular group fitness class.
Maximize your weekends.
Consider saving some of your longer or tougher workouts for weekend days when you have greater flexibility, and it is easier to protect that time. Schedule rest days during the week.
Create a backup plan.
A little movement is better than no movement. You may have a busy day at work and miss your training session or favorite fitness class. Have some backup ideas ready, like a YouTube fitness video or a set of free weights in your apartment you can use to get some exercise in your day. Flexibility is key as a junior lawyer, as is planning ahead.
Remember total wellness.
When you’re working hard and working long hours, it can be tempting to treat yourself by ordering in delicious (and often unhealthy) food, or going out for a few cocktails after work. If you overdo it, you may be tempted to skip your morning workout. That can create a cycle of unhealthy habits. I’m not here to judge or rain on your parade; just be mindful about how all of your choices play into your overall feeling of wellness.
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