Susannah Pencovich, a newly-qualified solicitor based in Edinburgh and specialising in property and private client work, discusses the benefits to new lawyers of taking up a relaxing hobby.
Here are some words you may likely associate with your working life as a new lawyer: fast-paced, dynamic, challenging, ever-changing, hectic, learning-curve.
We’re all in the same boat and, admittedly, it can do us the world of good to move down a gear and enjoy a slower pace of life.
Your work is really important, it’s true. Even the smallest task you do has an important place in your firm or organisation, and helps to achieve your objectives and targets. However, allowing work to become the sole focus in your life is counter-productive - your stress levels will increase and your problem-solving ability will be affected.
Work has a time and a place in your life and although flexible working patterns may mean that those times and places are morphing, “work” must be compartmentalised to allow your mind and your body time to recover.
What hobbies are on offer?
From woodworking to conversational French and dressmaking for beginners, Scotland’s local authorities quietly offer a myriad of Adult Education Courses which are both economical and informal enough that they can provide welcome distraction and respite from a busy day in the office.
Similarly, community centres and sports centres throughout Scotland, underneath the panoply of protein-powered workouts, host a wide selection of more sedate activities and courses ideally suited to a trainee or NQ looking to soothe rather than provoke their adrenaline levels. Even smaller towns often have a book meet, bakery clubs (overseen by the town’s self-appointed Mary Berry) and sewing or knitting groups – often with a surprisingly young constitution!
Meeting new people
“Variety is the spice of life”, and whilst clients and colleagues can be an interesting and varied bunch, the main thrust of interactions will be work-related. Joining a course or class at a set time each week gives you the impetus to leave the office timeously and engage with new people over different topics.
Einstein allegedly had his best ideas over a glass of red wine (haven’t we all?) or whilst playing the violin, perhaps you will too. For those who moved to a new city or town to undertake their current role, making new friends has well-documented benefits and will leave you feeling more settled.
Maintaining other skills
Generally speaking, lawyers are motivated, competitive and capable individuals – the sort of individual who has previously enjoyed various outlets for that energy. A quick flick through a bundle of traineeship CVs will reveal various levels of fluency in languages, hockey team captains, entrepreneurs, debate team members, piano players and charity workers. Many successful people are discreetly multi-talented:
- Brian May - the guitarist of the band Queen is also an astrophysicist.
- Timothy “Tim” Ferriss - author, entrepreneur, angel investor, tango dancing Guinness World Record Holder.
- Shakira – as well as being the third most awarded female music act of all time and consistently the most popular Latin act since the mid-1990s, Shakira is fluent in Spanish, English, Portuguese, Arabic and also speaks Italian, French and Catalan.
Exercising and maintaining hobbies and interests wards off feelings of depression and can increase your self-esteem by reminding you of your unique skillset and identity.
Just go and do it
For a trainee or newly qualified solicitor at the outset of their career, choosing to undertake another project whilst learning how to manage your professional workload may seem like a daunting if not wholeheartedly absurd idea. Nonetheless, spending time on hobbies or activities distinct from your life at work will enable you to manage and maintain a soothing perspective over your workload.
Exercising other skills and indulging your other interests can help prevent temporary issues at work from being carried over and from becoming permanently recurring issues which damage your health and happiness. Don’t pressure yourself into joining a specific club or class if that doesn’t appeal to you or you really can’t commit – grab a book, oil paints, borrowmydoggy.com or whatever takes your fancy and give yourself a guilt-free break.
If you are really struggling to relax and organise a work/life balance, reassure yourself with the fact that when you are truly rested, your productivity at work will increase.
Some goals are best achieved obliquely.
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