“His Life Mattered More”

This morning’s ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????article in the New York Times memorializing recently deceased couturier Oscar de la Renta included a quote that resonated with me. The author stated, “(T)hough Mr. de la Renta never took his job lightly, he always gave the impression that his life mattered more.”

Frankly, I find that inspiring. I will not bore you with a lecture on the illusive ‘work life balance’ issue. But I would like to take a moment to suggest that many attorneys, myself included, struggle with an identity crisis. The need to project an image that you are first and foremost an attorney fighting for your client and available at all times seems to be ingrained in our culture. This facade must be maintained when dealing with the partners with or for whom you work, with your colleagues, and with your clients. This career myth whispers to us that if we drop this façade, we won’t make partner, our colleagues wont respect us, and our clients will hire someone who IS the living, breathing embodiment of the job.

Clearly, the fashion industry and the legal profession would seem to be on opposite ends of the career spectrum. However, I cannot help but think that Mr. de la Renta, a household name and the couturier for multiple first ladies, hundreds of celebrities, and the scion of an empire worth over $100 million, clearly worked very, very hard in a competitive field to achieve such success.

If Mr. de la Renta was able to navigate the business world with such success but still embrace and project the idea that ‘his life mattered more’, isn’t there a lesson there for attorneys? If we work hard at being the very best attorneys we can be but acknowledge that our lives, our families, our health must come first, will our careers crumble around us?

Our guest blogger, and author of this excellent post, is Laura Paton. Laura is an attorney at the firm of Carlock, Copeland & Stair in Charleston, South Carolina. She serves on the Board of Directors for the South Carolina Women Lawyers Association and is a member of the South Carolina Task Force on Attorney Wellness.

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