How to stay on top of your practice and maintain work-life balance // sponsored content

A new book offers practical advice on managing work, family and extra-curricular commitments in stressful times

By Law and Style Media Inc.

On Wednesday June 24th, 2020


In 1996, Jacqueline King found herself in uncharted legal waters. Only a few years out of law school, she was representing a young mother who wanted to appeal a decision that had placed her child in provincial custody. With little experience in family law, King reached out to more experienced colleagues — including Ian Mang, a founding partner of Mang & Steinberg, a firm with a specialty in family law — to help bring herself up to speed. King spent hours in Mang’s office poring over caselaw and other background materials.

King won the initial appeal (though she later lost at the Court of Appeal). And the expertise she acquired during that case allowed her to co-author, alongside Mang, a resource for lawyers in similar family-law situations. Beyond that, it taught her a crucial lesson: throughout her career, she would need to develop resources and relationships that she could turn to in a pinch.

Today, King is a partner at Shibley Righton LLP. Over the past 26 years, she has practised commercial litigation across Canada while balancing a growing family and a multitude of extra-curricular commitments, such as chairing the Canadian Bar Association’s Supreme Court Liaison Committee. Along the way, she has built an arsenal of professional tricks and best practices. And you can find them all in her new book, 25 Rules for Success … and 10 Tips to Help You Enjoy the Practice of Law.

One central theme of the text is time management. In explaining her eleventh rule — “Cope With Deadlines in Advance” — King advises readers to break large projects into micro-tasks, laying out what additional information they’ll need, what can be delegated and what mini-deadlines stand between now and the final deadline. It’s also essential to build in breathing room. “Imagine you know a limitations period ends in eight months,” says King. “Don’t diarize it for that day, but weeks in advance. This will help you avoid errors.”

The advice isn’t just for young practitioners. In the book’s foreword, former Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie argues that it’s also useful for lawyers with decades of experience. “Order and structure do not necessarily come with advancing years,” he writes. “Jacqueline King’s book provides a succinct checklist for our habits and lifestyle. Who amongst us can deny the potential for improvement?” 

Her book includes a special focus on work-life balance, a topic that’s particularly relevant as the profession grapples with the COVID-19 crisis. As King points out, her professional and family lives — complete with a husband, two teenage sons and two rambunctious dogs — have become deeply entwined since she began working from home in March. “That’s made it more important than ever to put up boundaries,” she says.

For instance, she used to leave the office every day at 5 p.m., drawing a hard line between work and home (even if she sometimes spent evenings answering emails and playing catch-up). But now that she works at home, it’s more difficult to maintain that separation. To prevent work from overwhelming her personal life, King now makes a concerted effort to end the workday on time and set aside parts of her evening to be with loved ones. That might involve scheduling a Zoom call with a friend or having an unrushed glass of wine with her husband over dinner.

Ultimately, King hopes her book will offer a road map to others seeking professional and personal success. “Most lawyers will recognize the truth of what’s in the book,” she says. “But seeing it laid out, and being shown how to develop a plan of action? That’s powerful.”

Jacqueline L. King’s 25 Rules For Success And 10 Tips To Help You Enjoy The Practice Of Law offers everyday rules to help you reduce stress and boost productivity in your legal practice. Order the book from Thomson Reuters today.

Photography via iStock