Work-life balance

As any practicing lawyer learns within about a week of beginning her career, the concept of the work/life balance is sort of a fiction. Practically speaking, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to achieve any sort of actual, equal balance between your life and your work. Think about it: assuming you spend at least ten hours at work each day and seven hours asleep, this leaves only seven waking hours to accomplish everything else in your life — feeding yourself, commuting, spending time with your family, brushing your teeth, exercising, reading Above the Law, and pursuing other hobbies, like making crayon drawings for your office.

Although seven hours sounds like a lot of time, we all know that it goes by way too fast. At least for me, after I have taken care of my major life necessities, I only have about an hour left over at the end of my day to enjoy my “life.” Sadly, this time is usually spent complaining about the fact that I have to go to work the next day and do it all over again — is there no rest for the weary???

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Want A Better Work/Life Balance? How To Spend More Time Chilling When You’re Done Billing”

Ed. note: Please welcome Elizabeth Adams, who will be covering health and wellness in the legal profession. You can read her full bio at the end of this post.

It’s virtually impossible to get decent advice about whether to go to law school.  On the one hand, you have advice from non-lawyers, like your mom, who will promise you that even if you don’t like it, you can do anything with a law degree.  On the other hand, you have advice from actual lawyers, who will tell you the exact opposite.  I, like many others, made the decision to listen to my mom rather than the many, many practicing attorneys who warned me about the realities of the profession.  Although this somehow seemed like a rational choice at the time, I realize, in retrospect, I should have taken the advice of counsel.

It’s true, being a lawyer is hard. Even on a good day it is both extremely boring and highly stressful — a unique combination found in few other jobs.  Equally troubling to me, however, is the toll it takes on your body. Indeed, recent studies have shown that sitting as much as lawyers do is bad for the body, and the physical effects of sleep deprivation are well documented and pretty serious.   Of course, I don’t need scientific studies to confirm what appears obvious to me on a daily basis.  Many lawyers I encounter seem perpetually exhausted and sort of sickly.  Some are much worse than that, appearing as if they are in need of urgent medical attention.   Lawyers, it seems, are literally dying at their desks…

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get a dogEd. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Megan Grandinetti explains how getting a dog helped her leave Biglaw behind.

Are you unhappy as a Biglaw attorney, but terrified to leave the salary, the comfort, and the prestige of Biglaw? Have you ever uttered the phrase, “I would love a dog, but not with my schedule…”? If you answered “yes” to both of these questions, a furry little friend might help you make your transition out of the stressful, awful time-suck that is your job and into something a little more humane.

I was able to leave Biglaw behind, and with the power of hindsight, I realize that adopting my dog was a great first step to walk out the door. Of course this sounds a little crazy, but I’ll tell you a few reasons why getting a dog can help you leave.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

Ed. note: Please welcome our newest columnist, Gaston Kroub of Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov PLLC, an intellectual property litigation boutique here in New York. He’s writing about leaving a Biglaw partnership to start his own firm.

For some reason, while in Biglaw I always seemed to find myself working late in the office on Christmas Eve. Whether it was getting deposition notices out, or making sure that a brief would be ready for filing right after the turn of the year, there were always more billable hours to crank out (even in those years when I had already made it into the next bonus category as an associate, and was not one of those people volunteering for an end-of-year document review in order to make my hours). Particularly as an associate, the end-of-year was usually a peaceful time, as partners left for their year-end vacations, and normally compressed litigation schedules slackened a bit.

In many ways, Christmas Eve was always one of the most peaceful days of the year in Biglaw. For starters, many of the attorneys and a good percentage of the staff were usually out. And those who showed up for work started to trickle out immediately after lunchtime, with a mass exodus around the time of office closing, usually around 3 p.m. I always enjoyed the four or five hours afterwards immensely, where the normal hustle and bustle of the office got replaced by a more serene atmosphere. I was never one to stay in the office unnecessarily, so when I would finish whatever needed to get done, I too would leave. But there was usually at least one project that needed seeing through, and Christmas Eve afforded the luxury of focusing on getting one thing wrapped up without the usual workplace distractions….

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Keith Lee

Ed. note: Please welcome Keith Lee of Associate’s Mind, one of our new columnists covering the world of small law firms.

Being in a small firm has repercussions on your existing activities and relationships. Going out, hobbies, spending time with friends and family and the like are often going to have to take a back seat to maintaining your practice. You simply won’t have the time for people that you had in the past. If you aren’t careful, this shift in priorities can cause resentment and ill will.

And despite lawyers complaining that they feel as though they can’t start families, I would imagine that most people do desire to start families or already have a family. Is it hard to balance time spent with family and friends while maintaining and growing a practice? Absolutely. Are you going to be able to have some vague, idyllic “work/life balance”? Nope. But can you have a family and be a lawyer? Of course; it’s ridiculous to suggest otherwise.

It comes with some caveats and difficulties, but it can be done. It’s important that the people in your life understand these difficulties — and it begins with managing expectations….

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ThanksgivingEd. note: This is the latest post in our series of ATL infographics — visual representations of our own proprietary data, relevant third-party data, “anecdata,” or just plain jokes.

Elie here. My first “Black Friday” (that’s the Friday after Thanksgiving for those who reject consumerism in all of its forms) while working in Biglaw, I went into the office. My second Black Friday, I went to the therapist. I didn’t make it to my third one.

Thanksgiving is next week, and while you certainly shouldn’t have to work on Thursday, Friday is a different matter. So, we’ve put together this helpful decision matrix to figure out if you actually have to drag yourself into your Biglaw office on Friday… or if you can sleep off your turkey hangover surrounded by your family and/or the escort you paid to make your holiday feel less empty…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Biglaw Holiday Decision Tree: Do You Have To Work The Friday After Thanksgiving?”

Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

On Friday, you voted on the finalists, and now it’s time to announce the winner of our caption contest…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Caption Contest Winner: The Babes Of Biglaw”

Earlier this week, we asked readers to submit possible captions for this photo:

Let’s have a look at what our readers came up with, and vote on the finalists…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Caption Contest Finalists: The Babes Of Biglaw”

Sorry to disappoint you, but no, we didn’t mean “babes” as in “gorgeous men” or “beautiful women.” (Besides, as we’ve been told by readers multiple times, those are like unicorns in Biglaw.)

For what it’s worth, we meant babies. People working in large law firms are always complaining about a lack of work/life balance, so we imagine it must be awfully difficult for them to get in quality time with their young children. Even being able to change a diaper or two would be a welcome change for some of these folks.

From the looks of it, at least one considerate law firm is trying to help its attorneys do just that…

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About a month ago, I read an article about a new position available for experienced attorneys at a certain Biglaw firm. The firm? Kilpatrick Townsend. The position? Something called a “department attorney.”

Before we get into what that is, and some of the implications for Biglaw if this new kind of position takes hold, let’s take a look at the listing of open positions on Kilpatrick’s website. Currently, the firm is advertising for nine associate positions, six of which are in the patent area (including two for patent “prosection” (sic) associates, who hopefully will be better at including all the letters in a word than the firm’s recruiting staff).

Want to be a department attorney? Well, for you there are ten open positions. The breakdown? Eight in trademarks, two in patent prosecution. The common denominator of those disciplines? Shrinking margins for Biglaw, in the face of competition from IP boutiques specializing in volume work, and bulked-up in-house departments doing more on their own. In light of those shrinking margins, the firm’s desire to hire more department attorneys than full-bore associates is understandable. At least they are hiring….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “A Biglaw Innovation, Or Department Of Disappointment?”

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