Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 24
"In law firms with adversarial
cultures, those pressures may
be higher than they are at firms
like mine that are collaborative
and team-based. I want to work
in a collaborative place."
Courtesy of Alston & Bird LLP
NANCI L. WEISSGOLD
Partner, Alston & Bird LLP
Today, Ehrlich has a thriving and rewarding career in
the law, but she is still in the gym teaching spinning
and yoga classes to another generation of fitness
buffs. The biggest difference? Coaching eager
students helps her to keep balance in her hectic
professional and personal life.
"I think my teaching makes me a better lawyer," says
Ehrlich, a partner at Kleinfeld, Kaplan & Becker LLP
who also teaches six exercise classes a week. "When
I teach at lunch, I'm much more productive in the
afternoon. The fact that I'm physically fit makes me
more prolific and more focused. I actually think that
my clients respect that fact."
She's not the only exercise instructor in the family.
Her husband, Mark Ehrlich, vice president of global
compliance for Hilton Worldwide, teaches yoga and
spinning mostly on weekends due to his busy travel
schedule. The dynamic couple used to co-teach
a boot camp conditioning class.
Mark Ehrlich, who met his wife while studying at
Harvard Law, says his coaching gigs and frequent
trips to the gym weren't a topic of conversation
around the office in the past. It would have been
bad form to have some outside interest beyond
a determined focus on the law. Not so today.
24 WASHINGTON LAWYER
* JANUARY 2018
"There's been a big change in the last few years,"
he says. "Here at Hilton, I work for an employer
who places a huge value on the balance of work
and personal [life]. It's a place where talking about
these kinds of things is a positive, and people are
encouraged to find balance. Teaching gives me
YOU AT WORK?
Finding fulfillment at work can be an elusive and
fleeting enterprise in many occupations, but it's
made more so for attorneys by the excessive
responsibility and enormous stress they carry,
experts say. With such a demanding profession,
coupled with punishing hours, it's no wonder that
many attorneys can feel disheartened.
And in the wake of the 2007 recession and the
resulting seismic disruptions in law firms, lawyers
were even more vulnerable to the traditional factors
that destabilized careers: difficult bosses, cutthroat
colleagues, unforeseen layoffs, failures in advancement, and dwindling salaries.
Recent surveys show that as stability has returned
to the profession, so too have generally higher
levels of satisfaction among associates, partners,
and in-house counsel. The American Lawyer's
August 2017 survey of midlevel associates in large
law firms revealed they were significantly happier,
thanks to salary increases and the quality and
variety of their work.
Furthermore, the 2016 Evers Legal Career
Satisfaction Survey of 223 in-house counsel found
that on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest), 16
percent rated their job a 5, while 39 percent rated
their job a 4. Respondents said they would like their
jobs even more if they had more control over
internal legal decisions affecting their companies.
Even with these promising results, attorneys
still struggle to find fulfillment in the profession.
A Law360 survey of attorneys from September
2016 found that 40 percent of lawyers in big firms
were looking for a new firm, mainly due to their
discontent with billable hours requirements and
modest advancement opportunities.
Of course, the law is different from a number of
professions because its members are called on to
"help" or serve clients. Certainly, there are financial
rewards that make practicing law more gratifying,
but often the determining factor has more to do
with the right internal motivation, whether in the