By Eric J. Stark, Esq., The Legal Intelligencer
If I were to sum up my impressions and observations about being a young father while also managing a busy legal practice, it would be a simple phrase–challenging but rewarding. There are several different aspects in which that sentiment holds true in my daily life: my interactions with my family at home, my ability to coach my son’s baseball team, my relationship with the clients we serve and the impact that my work ethic has on my children. In my opinion and experience, the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
Being a young father and managing the demands of a busy legal practice is somewhat of a balancing act. Prior to having children about 8 years ago, I thought that the best feeling in the world was winning a hotly contested case through a favorable decision from a worker’s compensation judge. Since I had my son, and then subsequently my daughter, I can say definitively that the best feeling in the world is receiving big hugs from both when I walk in the door from a busy day. They do not care whether I had a good day, a bad day, or most often something in between. They just want me to focus on them and vice versa for the rest of the evening. Because of that, my most productive work hours at home are late at night or early in the morning, so I do not intrude on our family time together. Fortunately, I have a very understanding wife who appreciates that this life is the one that we both signed up for together almost 16 years ago.
That balancing act came into clearer focus this spring as I served as the head coach for my 8-year-old son’s baseball team. To make that feasible, not only did I have to sacrifice from a time-commitment standpoint, but so did my firm. I am fortunate and grateful that Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano has been very supportive of my efforts as a baseball coach, as they recognize both the personal benefits to me as well as the business benefits of having employees who are also leaders in the community. With that said, I would be lying if I said that I went to the baseball field every game or practice without thinking about work or worrying about a client’s needs. However, serving as a volunteer baseball coach is most often a “release” from the stress and grind of the day-to-day world of law and business. By the time the umpire says, “play ball,” I have changed my focus to helping our team succeed on the field.
Being a young father has also shaped my perspective on the clients that I work with and help daily. I represent injured workers, many of whom have experienced the devastating financial and/or physical toll of a work-related injury and all the uncertainty that goes along with that. Such uncertainty includes concern regarding the replacement of income and the payment of often exorbitant medical bills for treatment, especially in the case of an injury requiring surgery. It has also made me realize that we are all in the “same boat,” so to speak, in that fathers try their best to provide a better life for their children. Seeing young parents deal with the loss of income due to a work injury hits home for me now more than ever. It causes me to want to fight zealously and thoroughly to protect their interests and help them secure the wage loss benefits and medical coverage that they need. That is an element of legal practice that did not come into focus as clearly until I became a father myself.
Another rewarding aspect of being a young father while also managing a busy law practice is that the term “role model” takes on new and added significance on the home front. My children, ages 8 and almost 6, are too young to know or understand the specifics of what I do for a living. However, I believe that they know that I am dedicated to my craft, that I receive real enjoyment from my job and that I take my job to support my family from a financial standpoint very seriously. Those observations, and their own interpretations of them, will hopefully serve them well when they enter the “real world.”
As I noted above, a supportive spouse or significant other is critical for surviving the demanding roles of father and lawyer. For nearly 16 years, I have been blessed to have the full support of my wife as I pursue my professional endeavors. In fact, when our son was born, she quit her full-time teaching position and sacrificed her own career for the benefit of our family. She thanks me quite often for my hard work and dedication to both my craft and the family as a whole.
While being a young father and busy practicing attorney is undoubtedly a big challenge, the numerous rewards that it presents for both me, my family, my children and my clients draw me to this conclusion—I would not want it any other way!