Job Tips: Post-Covid Vacations

  • Law

A blog topic we have revisited frequently over the years is vacation. Now, in this new post-Covid era, we figure it is as good of time as any to touch on it again. The twist this time is how are your vacations being impacted by the newfound ability to work remotely? What are your recommendations for new associates who are trying to figure out how to take a vacation and still make up all the hours? Is it possible to have a work-free vacation these days? Are you planning big vacations this year or are you waiting until next year? What kind of places are you hoping to visit soon? Any other tips or tricks on how to pull off a successful vacation while not destroying your career?

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Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 5:05 pm

Find a new career. This one is a soul-sucking hellscape. In other news – I did a bluejeans hearing while I was on vacation. Business as usual.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 5:27 pm

Agree with 10:05("find a new career", if vacations are a major priority). Don't mean to sound like a Scrooge, but this is not a career for those who wish to be able to take even the average amount of vacations that the average worker can take.

The topic header, above, hints at this dynamic when it states "Any other tips..to pull off a successful vacation without destroying a career."

People will argue that one needs relaxation, to get re-energized, avoid burn out, plus to have balance in their lives

But let's say you are a young associate in a prominent firm, and all the young associates and yourself are swimming in shark infested waters. You better forget the word "vacation" the first five years, and no, the firm partners are not impressed with young attorneys that have proper work/personal life "balance." They want to own your soul, and you better be real worker bee, and billing machine.

I should know. I paid my dues in such fashion as did many reading this. I was pretty effective with the billable hours. I did get away for a few two or three day excursions now and again(or I would have lost any remaining semblance of sanity) but I knew that none of us dared take a couple weeks of continuous vacation.

And things don't necessarily change years later in the solo or small firm setting. Indeed, if you are a solo, middle-aged practitioner, you generally have even more trouble getting away than you did years earlier as a young, larger firm associate(wherein at least there would be some ability to have some coverage of your cases while you were gone).

Now, there are some senior partners of successful forms that have finally gotten to a point in their career wherein they can get away, as they are now in a position to delegate most of the substantive work. Such individuals have reached the point where their main function is as rain makers, and serving as the PR face for the firm, etc. Such highly successful individuals, who have paid their dues over the years, are often able to get away quite often.

But, again, for the large percentage of young associates, and somewhat older solo or small firm practitioners, long vacations are a virtual impossibility.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 7:14 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

Yes, it is important to build the talent stack the first five to ten years. Vacations are overrated. However, to each his own. As a smart attorney once said: until you are about 10,000 hours in, you are zip, nada, nothing. After about 10k hours you might know something. Can't get 10k hours fast working fucking 40 hour work weeks.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 8:13 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

When I was young I went to a big-name New York firm, and absolutely killed myself. I reached financial dependence very early, and had no loans and over a million dollars in the bank as a mid-level associate. I took no vacations for years and was thought of as a hard-working associate. But you know what? It fucking sucked. I realized that working till 2 am several times a month sucked, and that it's all for naught if I fucking die in my office without living my life. And the career I thought I was building by killing myself at work was all temporary; absolutely no one remembered who took what vacation by the end of the year.

So I left that firm, and I doubt anyone I worked with, or slaved away for, still even remembers my name despite all the miserable nights I spent there. So I couldn't disagree with 10:27 more. Enjoy your life. Your shitty boss might not like it, but fuck him/her. It's an employees market right now, and you can find one that will be fine with it.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 8:17 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

lol. financial INdependence. I wrote that fast. Maybe I should go on a vacation 🙂

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 10:19 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

1:13–you say you totally disagree with 10:27, but I believe a more accurate statement(based on precisely what you wrote) would be you agree with 10:27 that such is the way things are, and your point is that they should not be that way, and that our priorities should be re-ordered.

Please re-think your logic. You can't totally disagree with someone when you both made the exact same point, and in almost the exact same language. 10:27 says that the people who make more money, and earlier on, with such billing mill firms, tend to take very few vacations and work brutal hours.

You then indicate that that such is exactly how you made a lot of money relatively early on–not taking vacations and working brutal hours.

So, it seems you and 10:27 agree that such model is the one that produces the result of a lot more money, and earlier on in one's career.

But your point appears to be that that can be a f***ed up set of priorities that we grow to regret, and I totally agree with you on that.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 10:54 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

1:13 here. Especially now, I think associates don't have to put up with it. I'm at a different big firm now that recruits for some of the same pools of associates as my last firm, and we're all in a pinch trying to get talent. I definitely let my bosses walk all over me when I was a junior in a way that associates now really don't need to.

I guess I agree with some of what 10:27 says, but I disagree with this: "You better forget the word 'vacation' the first five years." Particularly now, when firms are tripping all over themselves trying to hire people, and are raising salaries and bonuses. If you're burnt out, then tell your employer you need a vacation. If he or she has a problem with it because the group is too busy, then the answer is to hire more people so people can live a life.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 11:21 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

3;54,Is that true? That it's really a seller's market for attorneys seeking jobs at this time?

I ask because I am far removed form ever again needing to hire anyone, and far removed from again having to be re-hired at anything.

And I also ask because, although I am aware of whatever current economic and employment trends are, the dynamics of something as specialized as the attorney market is not always consistent with such current general economic and employment trends.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 11:50 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

3:54 here. In my experience it is. I'm not sure it's touched every sector of the legal economy. But big name firms are paying big bonuses and hiring from small firms to help with deal work. Everyone I know at a bigger firm is totally swamped. Again, I don't know what's going on in more localized areas of the law. Here are some links that really match my experience over the last year:

https://abovethelaw.com/2021/06/biglaw-firms-forced-to-raise-salaries-deliver-huge-bonuses-due-to-hot-lateral-market/

https://abovethelaw.com/2021/06/biglaw-bonuses-are-making-it-hard-for-in-house-recruiters-lure-associates-away-from-their-firms/

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 5, 2021 3:32 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

CPA-JD here. Public accounting is the same way. We were actually TOLD not to use all our vacation time.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 6, 2021 9:31 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

3:54 here. Here's another article that matches my observations of the market for corporate attorneys: https://abovethelaw.com/2021/06/no-t14-degree-no-peer-firm-work-no-problem-biglaw-firms-change-hiring-criteria-in-white-hot-market/

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 8:39 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

While you are correct on the Big Firm Perspective. You are dead wrong on the Solo track. As a 19 year solo, I take between 6-8 weeks vacation a year (more if I wanted to), I close my office at noon on Fridays and take the cases I want to take.

I have made between 350-500k per year for 17 years running (with three stellar (7 figure) years with BIG PI verdict/settlements) and haven't worked a Saturday or Sunday, except in trial preparation ever.

I have never missed a play, sporting event or PT conference for any of my 4 kids, unless I was fishing on my annual "guys" trip.

Being a solo was 100% the right move for me and the best move for my family. Big Firms suck and small firms suck slightly less.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 9:18 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

Good for you. Do you think you're an outlier? I know lots of PI lawyers and lots seem to be struggling. I wouldn't ever ask their earnings, but I doubt they're near what you say in your post.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 10:23 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

139pm here. I don't expect that I am an outlier. Though I may be. PI isn't my primary practice its about 10% (although its about 50% of my income).

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 5:31 pm

10:27, you generalize too much, while ignoring all the attorneys, in the different categories you discuss, who are able to take consistent vacations, and still be successful.

But if we are going to paint with such broad strokes as you have, your generalizations have some real validity.

If lengthy vacations, at consistent intervals, are a major priority, this is not a career someone should select.

Instead, teach Third Grade, Public School.

Pay sucks but can't beat the amount of time off during the year.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 5, 2021 3:41 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

The line: "You want vacation time? Go teach third grade, public school!" – Ben Affleck, Boiler Room. He talks like a lawyer. "[Grinninu] ear to ear, baby!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfIKzReNDF4

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 6:15 pm

You have to prioritize yourself at times. Yes, you can put in a few years of hard work at the beginning, but you will go crazy without the downtime. I think that if you plan it out ahead of time just like you did before, you can minimize the number of disruptions that work imposes on your time off. But, even if you have to make a remote appearance, it's still better to do that one thing during vacation than take no vacation at all.

For young associates, remember you are a fungible billing unit. Yes, you are important and valuable, but you are also highly replaceable. All of us are. When you leave a firm, the firm will pick up your slack and carry on without you. Remember that and put yourself first a few times a year. Let the blowhard partner complain and give you a hard time. You will be better off in the long run if you work to live rather than live to work.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 6:41 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

I remember a line by Goldie Hawn something to the effect that be a movie star is not a lifestyle, but being a movie star allows you live the lifestyle you want.

Ben Nadig
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Ben Nadig
June 4, 2021 6:41 pm

As a middle aged solo married to a third grade teacher, I can tell you that you can take a vacation… once you put the work in and develop a solid network of people to cover for you if need be. I try to take two vacations a year, one with the kids and one without. Obviously COVID F-ed that all up, but I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things. The unfortunate aspect of our jobs is that we have to put so much time in in the beginning that it is hard to get away from that. Some are successful in dialing it back, but if I'm gone for anything longer than a week, I go crazy thinking I'm missing too much shit. Its the type A in all of us. As to teachers having time off, trust me, those folks are always working. The wife is at the school right now getting ready for next year and its her flippin birthday.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 10:30 pm
Reply to  Ben Nadig

11:41–your post encapsulates what the basic issue is.

We all say that we cannot have a healthy, well-balanced life without decent vacation and down time, yet we all acknowledge that this profession is not really conducive to such down time.

I'm like 11:41. In fact, probably a lot worse in that I didn't just worry about all the shit happening in my absence, but I openly bitched about it, and incessantly to the point where it was interfering with my wife's enjoyment of the vacation.

So, I finally shut my anti-social, Type A, dysfunctional loud-mouth, but I was still worried as all Hell.

And as it turned out, the worry was for good reason, because as 10:27 points out, it's even more difficult for middle aged solo practitioners to get away, than it is for young associates working at billing mills(whereby, there's the possibility of some coverage on their cases when they are gone).

But, as a solo, it's hard to line up really effective back up coverage,among attorney friends, to cover our asses. So, if gone for a full two weeks, unpleasant shit can and does occur.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 5, 2021 12:36 am
Reply to  Ben Nadig

And since a lot of California attorneys have joined our bar, you know damn well that if you are a solo and announce you are heading out of town for a week, they will file some motions on OST. I had this shitbag Cali refugee do this to me. Even timed it for when I was boarding my 10 hour flight to ensure maximum pain. A big middle finger you!

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 6:51 pm

11:15–I don't know. When you say work to live, rather than live to work, and let some blow hard partner complain about it, that does not really apply to the young , recent grad. associate you discuss. If they don't, at least during the first few years(if they choose to work for some highly competitive billing mill as their first job)live to work, which entails avoiding much time off, they wont survive.

And a young associate is not too marketable if they go to work for places like that(that do tend to pay relatively well for recent grads in exchange for those new attorneys for being a billing machine/slave the first few years), and lose their first two such jobs because they "stood up for myself by demanding all my vacation times and sick/personal days".

So, I tend to agree with 10:27 and 10:31.It's a farce to insist on a healthy work/personal time balance, while at the same time going to work for one of those highly competitive billing mills, wherein the one poster accurately describes it as the young associates all swimming together in shark-infested waters. The first one to slacken off with the billing, and/or a take a bit more time off than the others, is the first one devoured by the sharks.

So, a couple of the comments have suggested another career if regular vacations are a consistent priority. They are right. Hopefully, most of us get to a point after a decade or two(or even three) where we can take some real time off, but those initial chunks of years, when we are getting established, is somewhat brutal for most of us.

Now an exception may be the pubic sector. I assume young D.A.'s and P.D.'s, and other attorneys in public/governmental offices, probably can take more regular vacations, without undue worry, than their young counterparts in the prvate sector.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 7:01 pm

All this discussion reminds me once of a speaker who asked the audience to name traits of people who are highly successful in their given field of endeavor.

Each time someone called out a trait the presenter found as valid(to be highly successful), he wrote it on the board.

They included words and terms like: great drive, tenacity, incredible focus, great perseverance, being creative and thinking outside the box, willing to sacrifice and willing to risk, great self-confidence, etc.

Someone then called out the term "balance."

The speaker rejected that and refused to write it on the board. The audience member then argued that proper balance, including work/personal time balance, creates a better likelihood that someone is going to be a healthy, happy and well-centered person.

The speaker agreed with that but explained that his question was NOT "what are the traits of a happy, well-adjusted people, BUT the question was what are the traits of people who gain great success in their given field."

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 9:03 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

Exactly. Be an antisocial workaholic and you'll do great.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 9:07 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

I am anti-social and I am not a workaholic. I am not doing "great" but I would say I am doing pretty well. But I dont have any kids or ex-wives. /s/ ID FBU.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 10:09 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

2:03–12:01 here. I didn't suggest that people should follow that speaker's model.

But he is right to an extent. Driven people who really succeed in a given field are often not that well-balanced, but are the anti-social workaholics you mention.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 10:16 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

Priests cannot marry because they are married to the Church. The best attorneys are married to the law. What right-minded CEO would hire attorneys with a "balanced life" for big projects? I want the attorney who lives and breathes the law to the exclusion of most else. I don't want to compete for the attorney's time and energy with spouses, kids, pets, friends, or anything else.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 9:21 pm

I'm not saying these posts are wrong, but they are certainly troublesome. Sure, some/many of us had to slave away for others because that's what was expected. All these posts are doing is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assuming those writing the posts are not young associates, they have the ability to change the system-make it easier for themselves and therefore the young associates to take those vacations.

I am 11 years out, and I take vacations several times a year, plus several long weekends. Sure, I check my email and return some calls and things, but generally not a ton of substantive work. I run my own firm so I schedule the time off, let me clients/opposing counsel know I won't be working, and then enjoy my vacation. My spouse works at a bigger firm and he does the same thing. It can be done.

So many of us are so wrapped up in "being an attorney" that we forget to be normal people. Also, being "busy" is just an excuse. If you're too busy to not take a vacation for years on end, you are not being efficient, or you need to learn to say no. Take the vacation. You'll feel better. And you'll do better work when you return. Life is too short. Failing to find any sort of work/life balance is what leads so many attorneys to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms and to die young.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 4, 2021 11:07 pm

2:21–my apologies 2:21, and I really don't mean to be disrespectful.

But you discuss about how we need to aspire to be more normal people,and get some distance from the law and the legal community.

But you then announce that you are married to another lawyer, which by very definition means you constantly discuss your days at work, matters and people in the local legal community, etc.

And if you insist it is not like that and that you keep all shop talk to an absolute minimum and instead spend most of your time discussing other things, that is what every married lawyer couple I have ever known claims.

Yet the reality is that all I ever see such couples discuss is the law, the local legal scene and the people in it, etc. When I, others, try to change the topic, it all comes back to the law

Now, of course I need to qualify my remarks by pointing out that when I see them interacting and discussing things, it is usually in the social company of other lawyers, so such legal talk is expected.

But the mere fact that they primarily socialize with other attorneys is what causes such insolation and narrow world focus.

Most readers on this blog will agree that the married lawyer couples they have known have, generally speaking, had very few close non-attorney friends, and that they tend to hang with other lawyers.

But the same is not true of attorneys married to a non-lawyer as such spouse would not tolerate only hanging out with attorneys, and would be bored to tears by all the shop talk that means nothing to them.

Now, that all suggests a broader point that attorneys tend to hang with other attorneys and not have a lot of close non-attorney friends.

But, fret not, as we are not as bad, in that regard as, some other professions. Ever been to barbecue consisting primarily of cops? They go off in their little groups with their beers, and regale each other with their war stories. Good luck approaching that group and trying to change the topic.

And sometimes active military personnel are even worse. Go to a party consisting of people currently serving at Nellis, and see what the conversation is dominated by.

In fairness, my point is true of all professions if you get them together among themselves. But lawyers are particularly bad this way, and I believe police are even more insular.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 4:59 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

2:21 here. Your points are well taken. There are certainly days that we engage in far too much shop talk. And several of our friends are other attorneys. But our closest friends aren't. It hasn't always been this way, and we've had to really work at drawing lines on the amount of work talk at home. Some days are better than others. However, on most days, our conversations about work are less than 50% of the conversations. Having a kid and pets helps with that, as does having interests/hobbies outside of the law. Are we the most successful attorneys in our respective fields? Probably not. But we're ok with that. We have decided other things are more important than being married to the law. That decision may not be for everyone. I'm just saying that it can be done.

All that said, there are some benefits to being married to another attorney. It's much easier for my spouse to understand the sometimes necessary overtime and the super stressful days. And if there is an issue in my practice that I haven't dealt with, I can lean on my spouse for help and vice versa.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
June 4, 2021 11:11 pm

4:07–you are too diplomatic, and far too lengthy.

Let's put it all more succinctly. 2:21 sounds like a nice person, but their advice(about getting some distance from the law and the legal community) falls on deaf ears once they reveal they are married to a fellow attorney.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 5, 2021 5:53 am

I cannot even work with this little bitchier in my downton office anymore. She is such a fucking liar, I cannot even be her paralegal anymore.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 5, 2021 2:45 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

You sound lovely! Would you like to be my paralegal?

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 5, 2021 4:59 pm

Toothpick, I seemed to have lost my morals between fourth street and third street. I need some help from my legal Eddie Monster.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 6, 2021 3:46 am

Meanwhile, the geniuses at the ABA are recommending that since minorities can't bill or bring in clients, firms should "look at processes of partner advancement in relation to more than rainmaking, billable hours…" Right, so the ABA is saying don't hire diverse candidates because they will never bring in clients or bill time, so you will have to advance them based on the color of their skin or shape of their genitals, not the content of their character.

They also recommend ideological testing and reeducation. True. Check it out. Page 29 of our state bar glossy monthly. It is, you see, a manifestation of implicit bias to expect associates to work long hours and generate business!! If I was a member of the protected class I might take offense that it is implicitly assumed I can't work full days and generate business. Then again, I would milk this commie cow for every last drop of free milk, and file complaints against everyone, all the time, and seek raises and promotions for each complaint.

Thanks, wokesters at the ABA!

Oh, implicit bias means not allowing generous vacation time, too. In fact, just do what the Europeans do: either pay a huge fine or hire a bunch of no-show minority employees. At least the calculation can be performed more efficiently. The bias tax, if you will.

My caustic tone aside, this does not end well. I henceforth identify as a trans black undocumented lesbian. Pay up, bigots!

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 6, 2021 9:29 am
Reply to  Anonymous

This is a great idea.
While billing using CPT, .1 hour becomes 1.1 hour. And, instead of ignoring invoices, the clients of wokie,esq. will come by and pistol whip the partners.

Sounds like win win.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 2:54 am

What do lacrosse pizza tires have to do with the prom? Just asking.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 2:55 am

Pictures

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 4:17 am

No pot lounges.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 3:18 pm

Anyone know if the EJDC will continue to allow me to appear by phone for the summer? I plan on hitting the road and very much appreciate not having to go downtown, especially on account of all the construction.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 7, 2021 3:56 pm
Reply to  Anonymous

Yes they will.

Jordan Ross, Principal, Ross Legal Search
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Jordan Ross, Principal, Ross Legal Search
June 7, 2021 5:28 pm

Obviously this topic pushed a lot of buttons.

June 4, 2021 at 10:27 AM – Until some serious institutional change occurs, yeah, this is going to continue to be how it works. It has been for decades. Rough, but true.

The comment by June 4, 2021 at 11:15 AM about being a fungible billing unit is not far from the mark. Most employers in my opinion would like to do the right thing in managing their employees work load, but the bottom line comes first.

Both June 4, 2021 at 1:13 PM and June 4, 2021 at 4:50 PM talked about how it's a employees market right now, but I would qualify that. It is an employees market but really only for those 10K hour plus people that June 4, 2021 at 12:14 PM mentioned. For juniors, and to a lesser degree, mid-level associates, the law school factories keep stamping out new ones every year. There is a demand right now for experience; with almost no warning over the last three or four weeks I find myself with several clients seeking both senior litigators and transactionals, some not even wanting books, both here and up north. But I can assure you, they want to see the people who have logged in the hours.

June 4, 2021 at 3:19 PM – Very nit picking argument on both logic and style. Really wish I had said it first. Spot on. Arguments need to be cogent.

June 4, 2021 at 12:01 PM, I used to give those kind of lectures at Boyd, just in a blunter form. The reception was largely the same as well. I told the 3L's that the competition for new associates was brutal and that they would be judged heavily on their school work because that's all they really have when looking for a first job. When someone asked what he could do to better their chances, I randomly pointed at another student and said, make sure your class rank is higher than this guy. Could have heard a pin drop.

Honestly, I'm astounded at the work load all you folks carry; it's not just intellectually demanding, but psychically and emotionally exhausting as well. Just saying.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
June 8, 2021 3:14 pm

I learned this from an older associate when I was first starting. Take a couple days off close to a weekend (ex. Thursday and Friday or Friday and Monday). It's not a huge deal hour wise and it will give you a 4 day vacation while only missing two work days. Also travel on long weekends. I plan on traveling to Central America later this year and will only miss a few days of work. Of course, I will have my laptop with me just in case.