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Julie Fleming Brown

Stephanie, thanks for directing me to this post. The hot worm analogy is a terrific one, and I think it's an underappreciated issue in the work/life balance conversation.

I agree with your points entirely. It seems to me that work/life balance has by common usage come to mean working less, when what I think it should mean instead is finding the individual's proper balance between work and life. That's certain to vary from person to person, and it's likely to vary over time, depending on what's going on in a lawyer's practice as well as her personal life.

Where it gets really difficult, I think, is when a cold worm lawyer (sounds like the punch line for a bad lawyer joke...) gets into a hot worm firm, vice versa, or when a firm of either kind presents itself as a one-size-fits-all firm but actually has cold or hot expectations.

I don't know the answers to work/life balance issues, but I agree with David Maister's idea that firms may be unable to offer a range of options for work intensity, that the ideal is to have firms composed of individuals with shared work intensity desires. That's why I call for more transparency in hiring rather than the pat (though appealing) promise of a range of options.

It's a difficult question, but fascinating. I look forward to reading more of your ideas on this!


I came here from David Maister. I'm not sure that I disagree, but I wanted to put in a word for the cool worms. I don't think the hot worms are in much danger at the moment. Most firms are happy to employ them and make things work for them.

The cool worms tend to be shuffled off into in-house teams, and treated with contempt. I suspect that they have more to add to the world than that.

Anyway, the metaphor is probably breaking down (particularly for a non-lawyer), but thanks for a great post.

Young Guest

How many hot worms have joyous marriages? How happy are their children?

I am in my mid-20s and met a number of children of "hot worms" in college. Children of the C-suite who got every material good their hearts desired, but felt that they never had daddy/mommy's love and therefore tried to fill the void with drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, psychiatrists, etc. I became close friends with a number of hot-worm offspring, and at first I envied their wealth...but after really getting to know them, I ended up with enormous pity for them.

Maybe, as you point out, terms like "balance" may be ambiguous for the hot worm professionals themselves, but I can assure you that their *children* have issues that are quite easy to identify. Go to any Ivy-League or elite campus and I guarantee you that the spoiled, empty, emotionally-needy children of hot-worms stand out like a sore thumb.

Perhaps this is why, as another article on the subject noted, many recent "Generation Y" graduates are eschewing this life, or demanding better. We are one of the first generations to have had the chance to have *both* parents as high achievers, and we've seen the results on our classmates and their families.

Good luck to you all.

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