The calendar says it’s spring. Though the schizophrenic weather we have had this year probably has you questioning even that basic principle of time-telling, it’s time to make plans for post-winter 2014. We are in the long stretch between Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day, and when work is getting you down thoughts drift to the siren’s song of summer vacation. Now that you’re no longer in school, that phrase doesn’t dominate your life quite so thoroughly, but planning to spent time sitting on a beach drinking something tropical can really get you through a tough day.

But how can you relax on a beach when you know you’re losing money by being there? Not just because that cocktail is an absurd $14 but because there’s no paycheck getting automatically deposited into your bank account while you lie on the beach. And while you know, intellectually, that as a temporary worker you are not afforded benefits like paid time off, the reality can still be a bit startling as you wonder how to relax while worrying about making rent.

So how do you enjoy your time off as a contract attorney?

Be Flexible

We all know that document review projects can (and do) end at any time and frequently without notice. And it is easy to be angry about this (as I often am) but it can also be liberating. Yeah, it sucks to not get paid but all of a sudden you have a Wednesday off so maybe a day trip is in order. Or maybe you’ve been on a project for a few months and you know it is winding down. The exact timing of the project’s end isn’t clear but it will be within a few days. My advice is to work as much as possible until the docs run out then take time off. This may not seem relaxing to a type A personality that needs everything planned and organized months in advance, but you can plan a nice getaway scoping out the last minute travel deals.

Be a Weekender

I do not think I worked a full 5-day work week for all of August last year. There was work to be had, and I was on a couple of projects but I also had a life. I planned a series of weekend trips throughout the summer and I found it quite easy to take a Friday or Monday off in order to make the trip last a little longer. With only short amounts of time off it was also easy for me to jump back into ongoing projects I was trained on without the project managers forgetting about me. And getting 4/5ths of my weekly salary made it easy to ignore any money issues the trip may otherwise have caused.

Take Time For You 

We all have breaking points, and time off, even if you aren’t getting paid for it, can really have restorative properties. Maybe you just finished a crazy project that had you working 12 hours a day/7 days a week or you’ve been on the same monotonous redaction project for two months. You know when you just can’t take it anymore and it’s okay to take time off. Yes, that means you may not be making as much money as possible but it is a quality of life issue. And at this point of the year you’ve finally paid off all of your Christmas expenses and your tax return is just burning a hole in your pocket. So go ahead and Do You — there will be more documents to review another day.


Alex Rich is a T14 grad and Biglaw refugee who has worked as a contract attorney for the last 7 years… and counting.  If you have a story about the underbelly of the legal world known as contract work, email Alex at tips@abovethelaw.com and be sure to follow Alex on Twitter @AlexRichEsq


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