Patrick Hicks | Crain's Las Vegas

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Patrick Hicks


Littler is the largest employment and labor law practice representing management in the world, with more than 1,300 attorneys in over 75 offices worldwide. The Las Vegas office was recently given a Tier 1 ranking for Employment Law-Management Practice in the 2018 U.S. News - Best Lawyers' "Best Law Firms" list.

The Mistake:

The biggest mistake I made, early in my career, was failing to appreciate the importance of work-life balance. Specifically, I was so focused on learning my craft and becoming a good lawyer that I ignored the importance of spending time with my wife and my young son at the time.

Fortunately, I had a good friend who gave me a wake-up call and I made a course correction. It was blunt. It was, "Hey Pat, I know you really love your job and you spend a lot of time on it but life is really passing you by." And I said, "What are you talking about?" And he said, "You never go to your son's practices, you never go to the games, you're not part of [his life]." He was very involved with coaching [his own sons]. He said, "I know you're a good dad but you're going to be sorry if you don't wake up."

That was a wake-up call and I didn't need to be told a second time. I threw myself into volunteering, and I'm really glad I did. [We had another son and] I coached both of my boys' soccer teams and baseball teams. Most importantly, it made me a better father, but it also made me a more effective attorney.

"Employees who are personally happy and fulfilled are generally better employees."

The Lesson:

In addition to reducing stress, I just think those sort of outside activities help us clear our minds. When I would go back to work the next day, after spending a couple of hours coaching my son and his teammates, it gave me the ability to have a fresh perspective on things. It's easy to get burned out on this job and get overly stressed and lose perspective and balance. Having that kind of balance has absolutely made me a better lawyer and a better employee, in addition to being a better person.

The oldest son who I'm talking about is 30 now, so it worked out really well. We have a great relationship, but I think we would have had a very different relationship had my friend not slapped me upside the head.

Newer associates are sometimes surprised when I encourage them to pay attention to their work-life balance, and the truth is I want attorneys working on our clients' matters who bring energy and enthusiasm to the table, and my experience is that employees who are personally happy and fulfilled are generally better employees.

Fortunately, Littler has been very good about recognizing that importance and has been pretty proactive about introducing options to work remotely and have flexible hours – things that allow our attorneys to balance their work and life. In addition to making them happier, they bring that positive energy and enthusiasm when they turn their attention to our client's issues.

I would say there's a spin-off benefit too. It wasn't one that I planned and wasn't at all in my thought process, but as a result of being involved in those kinds of personal off-hour activities, I have met clients and prospective clients. I've actually developed business by meeting parents, friends of parents, and family of parents, so it's been good that way too.

For me, having a satisfying career is a marathon. It's not a sprint. In order to run a full marathon, you have to pace yourself, and part of that is keeping a balance between your work life and your personal life. And it has worked.

Follow Littler on Twitter at @Littler.

Photo provided by Littler.

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