As the old saying goes, time is money. And in the land of law firms, where the billable hour is king, the saying is literally true. The pressure to
churn that bill, baby rack up thousands and thousands of hours is one of the toughest aspects of legal practice. It drives lawyers towards drink and away from their families. (See reasons #7 and #8 of the 10 Reasons To Leave Biglaw.)
But what if you have the opposite problem? In some ways, not having enough in terms of billable hours is worse than having too much. If you’re billing, say, 75 hours a month as an associate, you could find yourself in the breadline before too long. (Partners have more leeway, but even they are hungry for hours nowadays.)
If you’re stuck in the office with nothing to do — and this applies not just to lawyers but to support staff, who are getting laid off partly because there’s not enough for them to do — how should you pass the hours? Here are seven suggestions….
1. Clean up your desk or office.
This is the low-hanging fruit. After that trial ends or that deal closes, you can do something about this:
2. Catch up on your email.
This is the virtual version of office cleaning (except more important; mistresses probably aren’t leaving lipstick-covered redwelds in your office, but it’s always good to delete “I’m free tonight” emails from “firstname.lastname@example.org”). With enough time and effort, maybe you can finally hit inbox zero.
(My Above the Law inbox currently contains 14,868 emails, of which 8,225 are unread. If I owe you an email response, I apologize; unfortunately, due to the volume of mail I receive, I can’t respond to all or even most messages. My personal Gmail inbox is a bit better — 132 emails, 11 of them unread — but it’s still over my goal of no more than 100 at any given time.)
3. Do some online shopping.
Everyone does it (not just secretaries, a longstanding stereotype). It’s already October, so you might as well get an early start on your holiday shopping. But since you’re on your firm computer, wait until you get home to order that vibrator. Instead, why not buy something from our friends at Bonobos (affiliate link)?
4. Do some online dating.
Think of this as online shopping too, except for people instead of things. Your demanding legal job doesn’t give you much time to hit the bars, so you might as well go digital. Personally I’m a fan of OkCupid, which is how I met my significant other of several years, but you might also try eHarmony, the folks who brought us the 15 stupid reasons to date a lawyer.
5. Take a class.
Now we’re getting into more advanced territory, requiring a larger amount of free time, not just a few minutes here or there. Legal secretaries might want to take some online courses so they can develop new skills in case they get laid off. Lawyers, maybe you can pursue an LLM in tax — some firms will pay for it — and use your downtime to do your homework. (Or you could even help your kids with their homework; Lord knows they need it. You can still recognize your kids, right?)
6. Write a book.
People still write “books,” right? And writing a book is the perfect activity for underutilized people in Biglaw: nobody is likely to bother you as you stare at a computer screen and type furiously. If you’re an aspiring academic, you can also use your free time in the office to work on law review articles. Lawyers thrive when working on something nobody will ever read.
7. Pleasure yourself.
As Juggalo Law observed a few months ago, few things take the edge off Biglaw like masturbation: “Partner drops a big ol’ pile of suck on your desk at 5 p.m.? Might as well ‘bate. Judge says your motion is denied? ‘Bate.” After all, what’s a handicapped bathroom for? (Besides handicapped people and partners doing #2, of course.)
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So there you have it: our seven recommended ways of staying (or at least looking) busy, while you put in your Biglaw face time. What brilliant methods have we missed? Feel free to let us know in the comments or by email (subject line: “Killing Time”).
UPDATE (10/17/2013, 2 p.m.): Thanks for your feedback; we’ve done a follow-up. Here are 7 more ways to pass the time while working at a law firm.
Earlier: 10 Reasons To Leave Biglaw
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