Name: Paige A. Greenlee
Job Title: Owner, Greenlee Law PLLC
City: Tampa, FL
Number of Children/Other Dependents: 0
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated? Why?
It absolutely is overrated. No one really “has it all” and is happy about it. To women, “having it all” has come to mean working full time, being a full time caregiver to children and spouses, and doing all of the extra-curriculars we want or “need” to do for professional reasons. That sounds miserable. We need to re-define what “having it all” means – and to stop comparing ourselves to others. “Having it all” should be an individual concept – we should all have our own definition of what this means. Of course we CAN “have it all” under the traditional definition of this concept – but do we really WANT that?
What does having “it all” mean to you?
(I didn’t even read ahead when I answered the last question.) To me, having it all means having the ever-elusive “work/life balance”. Being a well-respected, hard working lawyer is very important to me – but over the almost 16 years I have been a lawyer, I have learned it should not be the ONLY thing that is important to me. This was something I lost for a number of years; I put every bit of my energy into “lawyer Paige” – to the detriment of personal relationships and just enjoying my life. Now, having “it all” means the perfect mix of work and life – not something we can achieve every day, but something we must keep in mind to avoid spending 99% of our time on work. It’s the nature of the profession – and our type A personalities – to get “sucked in” to the work.
What is the best advice you have ever received on balancing your personal and professional lives?
It takes a village; to the extent you can afford it, hire someone to take care of the personal things you despise (for me, cleaning my house was the first task I “delegated”) so you have more time each week to do the things you really want to be doing. Take advantage of the things that exist now to allow you to affordably “outsource” things you would otherwise spend time doing: have your dry cleaning picked up and dropped off, order your groceries online and have them delivered, set up online deliveries of commonly used items at your house through Amazon Prime. All of these little things, when put together, save you a lot of time!
If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?
Sitting on my deck with my dog, reading a book – for pleasure – nothing legal!
Looking back at when you started in the profession, and knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?
It may sound simplistic, but YOLO. As noted above, I lost track of my non-professional life for a number of years, concentrating all of my efforts on my job and what I needed to do to become a shareholder at the big firm at which I was practicing. Then I reached that goal, realized it wasn’t that different on the other side, and that I had set a very high bar that my partners expected me to maintain. I realized I had missed out on most of a number of years of my life – lost friends and personal relationships in the process – and that I wasn’t willing to continue to do that. I still want to be a well-respected, hard working lawyer – but I want to enjoy my life too. Take the blinders off; figure out what you really want and how to get there; and remember, we all only get this one life to live, and that each day is a gift, and tomorrow is never promised. You should be able to enjoy this profession AND have a life – don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
Do you deal with guilt in trying to balance your personal and professional lives?
Of course; I would be surprised if anyone answering this survey answers otherwise. Since starting my own firm, this has gotten significantly better for me; letting my law partners down was always my biggest fear, so I answered every phone call and responded to every email ASAP, 24/7/365. I felt guilty for not being “present” for my friends and family when I did that, but I felt at least equally guilty if I wasn’t always available for my colleagues.
What single change do you believe would have the biggest impact on work life balance or quality of life?
Can we go back to a time before smartphones?? This question has me stumped. The biggest issue I have with practicing now is that it really is 24/7/365 – clients expect to have your cell number and to be able to get in touch with you when it’s convenient for them, including after hours and on weekends and holidays. I think you have to set some boundaries with your clients; you have to be able to be present in other aspects of your life, without constantly monitoring your work number or emails. It’s hard to have this conversation with clients without sounding like you do not care about them and their case/legal issues. That is not the case – but we have to care about ourselves too. I constantly tell myself “if I do not put on my oxygen mask first, I will be of no help to anyone around me.” Taking time for yourself is important – and I think it recharges us and allows us to be better lawyers for our clients. Making your clients understand that, however, can be a significant challenge.
What part of “balance” do you struggle with?
See above – the biggest struggle is not being “plugged in” all of the time.
What part of “balance” are you improving at?
See above – managing client expectations to allow me to unplug sometimes.
How important is civic and/or professional involvement to you and why?
This has always been EXTREMELY important to me. At first, I was primarily motivated for client development reasons. However, over time, I have realized that the people who are involved in bar and civic activities are like-minded; we all have similar priorities and are willing to give our free time to provide service to our profession and to our communities. I have made some of my very best friends in the world through my bar activities. It also gives you a sounding board and support system for some of the issues raised in this survey; much of the best advice I have received on how to “balance” it all has come from other women with whom I was involved in bar activities. It gives you perspective and makes you realize you are neither the first nor the last woman who will struggle with these things.
What’s the advice you would give a young lawyer seeking to strike a “balance” between family, self, and the practice of law or achieve better quality of life?
See answer above regarding “If you had an extra hour in your day, how would you spend it?”
Any other parting words of advice?
Make a conscious effort to revisit where you are, where you appear to be going, and where you want to be on a regular basis – maybe as frequently as once a month or once every other month when you first start practicing. During those early years, it is easy to just keep doing what you are doing without any planning or consideration of your future – and it is easy to assume that your goals will not, or should not, change. Do not get numb to the situation; all of this is ultimately YOUR DECISION; it’s your life. If you realize that your goals have changed, or you have gotten off track with them, come up with a plan to make the change you want or need. There are so many options for members of our profession – and nothing is “one size fits all.” Get a mentor; ask for advice, and pay attention to it. Those who have come before you have walked this road – and while we cannot tell you what is best for you – only you can make that determination for yourself – we can tell you about our experiences, regrets, success stories, etc., which should help you in evaluating your position. 99% of the women I have the pleasure of knowing are more than happy to mentor – formally or informally. Take advantage of us; let us reach back and help you move forward, as those before us did for us. One of the best parts of being a woman lawyer is the incredible support system we have built for one another.