Oklahoma Bar Journal

Young Lawyers Division | Balance vs. Harmony

By Dylan D. Erwin

There are a handful of phrases all young lawyers carry with them into practice like bar cards. “It depends” is one – an oft-used phrase when extended family discovers your new professional pedigree and asks you off-the-cuff legal questions around the table at Thanksgiving. “This isn’t legal advice” is another and one most commonly paired with “it depends.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve begun a sentence with, “Now, remember, this isn’t legal advice; this is just your friend Dylan talking.” Yet another phrase, and one that can seem laughable to some and a nefarious incantation to others, is “work-life balance.” It’s this third phrase where we’ll spend the next 500-or-so words.

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On Dec. 9, 2021, I became a father. In a single moment, my life became simultaneously more complicated and more straightforward than it has ever been. Complicated because on top of all my professional responsibilities, my family life had just received another adorable variable. Straightforward because becoming a parent, I’ve learned, helps cull the unnecessary distractions and focuses your attention. Where I once lived a life of distractions, I’ve now, through the sheer will and brute force of an eight-pound human, begun living a life of intention. Shortly after my daughter’s arrival, that old phrase “work-life balance” came creeping out of my subconscious to take stock of the new emotional terrain.

Young attorneys tend to tiptoe around the concept of “work-life balance.” For many of us early in our careers, we feel as though balance is something that must be earned rather than something to strive towards. I will be the first to admit this isn’t a healthy approach. However, as any good mentor will tell you, identifying a problem is important, but identifying a solution is even more important. As such, being the good millennial lawyer that I am,  I turned to the internet for guidance.

On July 30, 2019, the American Bar Association published an article penned by attorney Gabrielle Pelura titled “Our Work-Life Balance Needs an Overhaul.” This article stands for the idea that in the age of technology, it has become more and more difficult to differentiate between “work” hours and “life” hours. In light of the blurring of these lines, as Rae Steinbach states in her article “Forget Work-Life Balance – Try Work-Life Harmony Instead,” we can “avoid the negative impact of aiming for perfect balance in our lives and competing with misleading social media updates” by focusing on “creating harmony between our work and personal lives, making time for fun, achieving our goals, and acknowledging that the rhythm of our lives.” By way of illustration, Ms. Steinbach states, “Instead of being concerned with how taking a midday break to go to a workout class will affect your performance appraisal, be more comfortable in embracing how this is important in maintaining work-life harmony.” Both Ms. Pelura and Ms. Steinbach stand for the belief that integrating your personal and professional lives and seeing how they benefit one another “creates a healthier coexistence that will let you thrive more easily in both aspects of your life.”

As Allen Saunders advised us in 1957, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” Lawyers of all ages need not forget this. In our seemingly never-ending effort to plan and bill and push ourselves to excel professionally, it’s important to ensure we are putting that same effort into excelling personally. At the ripe old age of 33, I now know the key to a good life is not balance – it’s harmony.


Mr. Erwin practices in Oklahoma City and serves as the YLD chairperson. He may be contacted at derwin@holladaychilton.com. Keep up with the YLD at www.facebook.com/obayld.

Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 93 Vol 2 (February 2022)