Travel / Vacation

July is turning into a cushy month for me in ATL Land (not a real place; more of a state of mind). The first Monday of the month was the Fourth, meaning a much-appreciated day off for my colleagues and me. Then there’s this post today, which is nearly half done and I haven’t even said anything yet. Then I’m off for two weeks on vacation, and back the last week of the month. Two more posts and another month in the books. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. (Yeah, I don’t know what that means either.)

Good thing I don’t get paid by the post. Wait, what? Really? Huh. OK, apparently I do. I’ll try and make this one count then.

It occurs to me as I pack for two weeks off that vacation is a difficult issue for small-firm lawyers. It’s easier at Biglaw: You get your four weeks a year, and there are armies of other lawyers to cover for you while you’re away. (Actually, that’s only half true; many big firm lawyers struggle to take all of their allotted time.) But in small firms, it’s much harder to take vacation or to get adequate coverage while you’re away.

It took me some time, but I finally figured out how to do it. Here then are my vacation-related tips for small firm lawyers, including the most important thing you can do to protect your vacation time….

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Tyler Coulson's dog, Mabel.

Do you remember our Lawyer of the Month for March, Tyler Coulson? In case you don’t, he’s the former Sidley Austin Chicago associate who decided that he’d rather take his dog on a cross-country walk than do another day of lawyering. Before leaving, Coulson sent what was described by a fellow Sidley source as the “coolest ‘f**k you I quit’ email” ever:

Today is my last day at Sidley. You may keep in touch with me at [email protected], through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tyler.coulson, or via Twitter, @ibuildnosystem.

Beginning next week, I am walking from Delaware to California with a tent and my dog, Mabel. I will have limited access to email, but will check messages frequently.

Geo. Tyler Coulson

On March 9, 2011, Coulson began his journey in Delaware with his pooch Mabel, in the hopes of making it to California by September. So, inquiring minds at Above the Law want to know: What the heck happened to Coulson and man’s best friend?

Did he have to pull any crazy Bear Grylls maneuvers, like creating his own “sheeping” bag for warmth? Did he have to hack off his own arm with a dull blade, like in 127 Hours? To find out if Coulson’s story turned out anything like Into the Wild, read on….

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It’s that time of year. The never-ending winter is finally retreating and we’re getting the few weeks that pass for spring in New York, before the city turns into a humid swamp for four months. The lucky ones who pocketed spring bonuses want an excuse to spend them. Minds drift to thoughts of vacation — a temporary escape from billable hours and fleeting chance to remember what sunlight feels like. If only it were that simple.

Fact: Americans on average get far fewer paid vacation days than workers in other developed countries, including Japan, which invented the concept of karōshi (death by overwork). Sadder fact: most Americans don’t use the precious few vacation days that they have.

Lawyers are particularly bad about this. Biglaw attorneys are lucky enough to get four weeks of vacation each year, but most don’t use them. These 20 paid, get-out-of-jail-free days are part of your compensation package. Refusing to use them is essentially giving your firm 20 days of free labor. I don’t know anyone who negotiates a lower salary or feels guilty about taking advantage of the firm health plan. Why should vacation be different? The Firm has no qualms about taking up all 24 hours of every one of the other 345 days of your year. Why wouldn’t you use your vacation days?

Associates whine that taking vacation from Biglaw is impossible. No it isn’t. Sure, it may be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible.

All it takes is little common sense….

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A view of Kathmandu (via The Kathmanduo).

On Wednesday we wrote about the great departure email sent out by Brian Emeott, a former corporate associate at Skadden in Chicago. Emeott, a 2004 graduate of Harvard College and 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School, picked up and moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Brian’s wife, Claudine Emeott, resigned from her own job in December and moved to Kathmandu in January. She’s in Nepal to advance a worthy cause: as a Kiva Fellow, Claudine is working with a local microfinance institution for three months.

In our original post, we applauded the Emeotts for their sense of adventure. You can follow them at their (excellent) blog, The Kathmanduo, as they “work, write, and photograph [their] way through beloved Nepal.”

Some of our commenters, however, were more skeptical. They wondered (and so did we): How are the Emeotts making this work, in financial terms? Are they trust fund babies?

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Chicago looks nice -- why is everyone fleeing?

Young lawyers of Chicago: What the heck is going on with you people? You seem to be losing it. Has the brutal Chicago winter driven you crazy? Do we need to put The People’s Therapist on the next plane to O’Hare?

Let’s look at the evidence. You’re quitting prestigious and lucrative law firm jobs to hike across the country with dogs. You’re getting involved in embarassing litigation with your ex-fiances (after allegedly hooking up with shady Vegas ladies named “Danielle”).

And you’re leaving Chicago — a city with excellent shopping and superb restaurants (I was at Alinea a few weeks ago, and it was amazing) — to go “find yourselves.” In the Himalayas.

Check out this latest departure memo, from an associate who just left Skadden….

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As regular readers know, this is usually the time of year I go to Vegas, blow my bonus, and come back to work a week later angrier than ever.

Well, this year, it’s going to be different. Oh, don’t worry, when I return to Above the Law’s pages on March 14th, I’m sure I’ll be all kinds of pissed off. It just won’t be because a security guard prevented me from committing suicide by MGM lion enclosure.

No, for my vacation — which begins now and ends a week from this coming Monday, in case you’re wondering — I am going to start the process of quitting smoking….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Elie’s Vacation Memo: Time To Turn Over a New Leaf (And Try Not To Smoke It)”

– A Parisian lawyer who knows the true meaning of work/life balance. Check out Roll on Friday to find out what firm this guy works for and to see his snazzy picture.

Wake up, Mabel - it's time for your walk.

Reading law firm departure memos is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get.

Sometimes you taste bitterness. Sometimes the flavor is spicy hot. Sometimes you get a little Costa Rica crunch.

And sometimes you get… this, which was sent to everyone at Sidley Austin yesterday by an associate leaving the Chicago office:

Today is my last day at Sidley. You may keep in touch with me at [email protected], through Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tyler.coulson, or via Twitter, @ibuildnosystem.

Beginning next week, I am walking from Delaware to California with a tent and my dog, Mabel. I will have limited access to email, but will check messages frequently.

Geo. Tyler Coulson

The Forrest Gump translation: “Once was a time when me and Sidley was like peas and carrots — not anymore. I’m not a smart man, but I do know what quitting is.”

One Sidley tipster had this reaction: “[T]he greatest reason to leave big law ever. Please keep my name and email anonymous, as I have no ambitions to leave my firm to walk across the nation.”

Said a second Sidley source: “Coolest ‘f**k you I quit’ email…. Note the ‘High’ importance.”

But is it really a total “f**k you” message? We reached out to Tyler Coulson, and he had a perfectly reasonable explanation….

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Chubbs Peterson

* Professor Rick Hasen thinks the Illinois Supreme Court is leaning towards letting Rahm Emanuel back into the race for Mayor of Chicago. Hopefully this means that Emanuel’s lawyer, Kevin Forde, will get his family back really soon. [Election Law Blog]

* Have you ever seen a notary in a bar, drunk, with her notary kit? It’s actually kind of hot. [What About Clients?]

* David Freedman, the unemployed Chicago-Kent law review editor recently featured in these pages (with his permission), describes his day on Above the Law. [The Law Movie Review]

* Noorain Khan, a former student of Amy Chua at YLS, interviews the Tiger Mother herself. Chua sounds a bit hurt — but a high-six-figures book advance has great healing power. [Jezebel]

* We’d like to dedicate this blurb to Chubbs Peterson. Alligators on golf courses are dangers to all of us. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Lawyers travel a lot. Here’s what you can do with all of those hotel toiletries (which Lat has confessed to hoarding). [Ross Fishman's Law Marketing Blog]

Julia Neyman paid for this drink.jpgLast time we checked in with Columbia law student Julia Neyman, she was sweating her way through a year-long exercise regimen. Her new year’s resolutions were similar to many: she resolved to exercise more and spend less money. Her unique inspiration, though, was to combine these two resolutions into one: she spent 2010 working out at gyms around Manhattan — gyms that usually charge a pretty penny — for free, taking advantage of promotions and trial memberships. She then blogged about her adventures on Buns of Steal.

We thought it was a brilliant idea. (If nothing else, it seemed like a clever campaign to shame Columbia into upgrading its “dark and dank” student gym.) Others were more critical, calling her a “mooching” “gym grifter.” Neyman says, though, that gyms were “actually really on board with the project.”

Other potential grifters, we advise you start blogs. Neyman says: “I’ve consistently gotten emails and offers from gyms offering for me to come in and work out for free. It was a win-win because for the gyms, my blog was like free advertising.”

Well, now the year is up. Neyman had planned to buy a membership to her favorite gym — revealed after the jump — but instead she has fled to Paris for the semester, where she is helping to turn Frenchmen against lawyers…

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