Work Life Balance

31
Oct
2016

Work-Life Balance:

Lawyer coach readjusts the scales of work-life balance

OSBA Staff
Columbus, OH

For centuries, the legal profession has been depicted with a single icon: the scales of justice, a symbol of judicial fairness that underscores the importance of balance in law. While striving for such balance in their work, however, many attorneys also struggle to find a work-life balance.

Work-life balance is hardly a novel concept for professionals, but many—those in the legal field, especially—struggle with this concept, and do not know where to look for help. Enter Pat E. Snyder, Lawyer Coach and Positive Psychology Practitioner.

Snyder is a certified coach who previously practiced law for 28 years. Now she works with attorneys who seek to improve the quality of their lives while taking their practices to the next level. Motivated by the desire to give back to the legal profession, Snyder launched her coaching practice, I Can Fly, LLC, in 2011.

Snyder's interest in workplace wellness began long before she created her coaching practice, when she worked at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as an investigator.

Snyder's experience at the NLRB was a turning point in her professional career, igniting her passion for advancing workplace wellness and job satisfaction. "Employees would come to the National Labor Relations Board, and they were distressed about their working conditions," she recalled. "I began to think about how workplaces might become more functional and creative." Workplace well-being continued to intrigue her when she headed an in-house legal department at the Ohio Department of Commerce.

In 2011, Snyder returned to school to earn her Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed her degree under the guidance of Martin Seligman, a notable professor frequently referred to as the "Father of Positive Psychology." After obtaining her degree, Snyder began to incorporate what she had learned in school into her coaching strategies. "Studying positive psychology has had an enormous impact on the way I coach," Snyder said. "From my studies, I became aware of the importance of following natural strengths and developing ways to create positive emotion." 

Encouraging positive emotion and following natural strengths are the cornerstones of Snyder's practice. She noted that thinking negatively can be an occupational hazard and sometimes a benefit, but positive emotion is the key to thinking more creatively. 

To create positive emotion, Snyder recommends engaging in simple practices of gratitude, or on a more basic level, ensuring that you take care of yourself. "Make it a priority to focus on good nutrition, exercise, and sleep," Snyder said. "By that, I mean block out the time these take on your calendar as if they were appointments. If something out of your control derails those appointments, immediately re-schedule."

Of course, these recommendations are much easier said than done. "It's easier to talk about wellness than to practice it because the legal profession is deadline-oriented and the emphasis on winning over losing can lead to a zero-sum mentality at work," Snyder admits. "Yet, wellness is critical for attorneys who wish to maintain their resilience and stay in the profession for the long haul."  

To build up her own positive emotion and resiliency, Snyder channels her energy into several different avenues. The first is a monthly column called "Balancing Act," which has run in Columbus suburban papers for 18 years. "I started writing 'Balancing Act' as a way of relieving stress when I was practicing law and raising a family," Snyder explains. "The gist of the column is that humorous things can happen when life gets out of control, and learning to laugh at them can de-stress us."

Each month, Snyder comments on a recent life event that has thrown her off her game, such as technology glitches or family holiday chaos, confessing that she has no shortage of examples to give. "It may seem counter-intuitive that someone who coaches in this area would share her own missteps, but the truth is that we all have them and we spend way too much time blaming ourselves when some self-compassion and humor would help." She adds, "I'm setting an example!"

In addition to creating her column, Snyder serves as chair of the Ohio State Bar Association's Women in the Profession Section, which she believes offers great opportunities for personal and professional development through relationship-building. "Women can share best practices for flourishing in a sometimes-challenging profession and know they are not alone in experiencing these challenges," Snyder said.

Snyder earned her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh, her law degree from the University of Akron School of Law, and her Master of Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Before attending law school, Snyder worked as a reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal.