No Time To Die: Lawyers and Sick Time

Hey! I’m back! Sort of. To describe the current situation, let me put it like this: Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but I left a piece of my hip on the roadside, my cognizance of situations in a bottle of painkillers, and my snark and wit in a goddamn bedside commode chair. So bear with me today as I shift uncomfortably from side to side and start talking about a recent realization that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone in the business of being legal: Namely, even when you’re ill, injured, or dying there’s no such thing as a day off in the life of a lawyer.

And that, folks, can fucking suck. Because, in the past, I’ve written about how the work-life balance for attorneys is a thing that we talk about, normally somewhere around the time we discuss our belief in fairies and how the government is turning the frogs gay. This is the sort of shit people search through law libraries for, hoping to take a blurry photograph of the attorney that somehow found a way to preserve his sanity and health while being reasonably successful at his job. Frankly, as my good friend Jeremy Richter pointed out yesterday, we simply are not a profession that rewards people for deciding they want to take a vacation, spend time with family, unwind with a movie, or enjoy the fucking holidays without worrying about what others may think.

And we are definitely not a profession that believes in the concept of being sick or injured and needing to recuperate.

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How to Be A Lawyer Dad: A story of my father.

Yesterday there was no post because the weatherman was calling for six to ten inches of snow, which for me is “the office is closed” weather.  That meant that every deadline I had to meet today was unexpectedly bumped up 24 hours to be dealt with yesterday in case the courts followed suit and locked their doors.  However, on waking up this morning to two inches of snow and a flurry of emails from my boss and office staff, I find myself the only one seated at his desk this morning while the doors are unlocked and the phones are turned on.  Everyone else will “be in after they shovel,” which is code for “I may just stay home in my pajamas today.”  Yes, that is an option that I wish was open to me as well, but I’ve got three solid weeks of hearings and depositions coming up next month, and that means there’s no such thing as a day off in my little corner of hell.

This got me thinking about the nature of our jobs in general.  Most people I know bitch about work and live for the weekend.  They head in, do their 9-5, then they go home.  Their off time is their own, something that I haven’t experienced in a long time because there’s no such thing as fucking time off for a lawyer.  Even had I been snowed in today, it isn’t like I’d be sitting at home in my pajamas (which are awesome, by the way) watching Netflix and playing video games.  I keep backups of my active files on a secure online storage system so I can work on them from anywhere.  I even have Microsoft Word on my cell phone and a portable bluetooth keyboard in my briefcase for work on the go.  If the world is ending tomorrow, while everyone else in the shelter is weeping and clinging to their families you can damn well bet I’ll be sitting on my phone with the keyboard perched on my lap working on revising the Johnson letter one last goddamn time.

That’s how this job is, and really because it isn’t just a job, it’s a profession.  Or maybe that’s just me for the most part.  See, I grew up in the home of a trial lawyer, and as a result my view of what is appropriate and isn’t appropriate may be a little warped.  We tend to prioritize our work over damn near everything else, telling ourselves that we have clients that need our help.

For example, this morning my mother, who has now been married to my father for a little over 40 years, sent me a text message:  “Have you talked to your Dad lately?”  I hadn’t.  I talked to him a couple weeks ago about a case he may have that would reach into Pennsylvania, but outside of that it had been a while since I called him just to talk.  I told her that, and her response was “You need to.  He’s just so tired, and your brother (who manages Dad’s office) is so worried about him.  Don’t tell him I told you.”  It hit me harder, I guess, because I realized Dad’s getting old, but every time I could call and talk to him, I was always too busy and would “do it tomorrow night.”

Continue reading “How to Be A Lawyer Dad: A story of my father.”

Captain Eyebrows Needs A Life: Creating a Work Life Balance

Let’s talk about creating a work-life balance.

Look, being a lawyer is an exhausting job, unless you’re one of those namby-pamby “in-house” guys who spends his days sipping lattes placed on the backs of interns that are brought in by the company for course credit.  By and large, lawyers are responsible for their own practice and case file management, and are responsible for their own time management, and everything about firm life, be it small, mid, or big, is geared to encourage that.  Take me for instance.  I spend about thirty-forty minutes a day working on this type of shit, a blog post.  However, if you’re a frequent reader you’ll have noticed there are days where my post consists of “Too damn busy, will have something up tomorrow.”  Part of this is because posting substantive content three times a week as a practicing lawyer is incredibly ambitious for me, but another part of it is the fact that, when weighing shit against my case load, the blog comes in second every time.

That’s something every lawyer is familiar with:  “The X comes in second place to my cases.”  X could be video game time, it could be going out to dinner with friends, it could be that vacation you’ve been planning, it could be the birth of a child.  “X” is the real world that exists beyond the confines of our law offices, where people rarely use Latin and never use it correctly and where time isn’t measured in six-minute increments.  You know, the world that exists outside your office window.

The problem comes because some lawyers, myself included, don’t know when to hit the off-switch on lawyer mode.  That’s fucking sad, because the end result is many attorneys  burn the fuck out way too soon to reach their full potential.

Alright, story time.

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