Friday, November 18, 2005

lazy lawyers? not so much

Sometimes I wonder what life is going to be like when (if?) I become a lawyer. I had lunch with a lawyer who is a partner at a Huge Firm and also chair of that firm’s nationwide practice area in something. He said he worked 3,600 hours last year, including billing, non-billing and the hours spent being the boss of this practice group.

He has a wife (who is a partner at another mega-firm) and three kids. I figure based on working 50 weeks a year, assuming he takes an occasional family vacation and a few days off here and there, he works 72 hours a week. He said he loves his job and his lifestyle and can’t imagine doing anything else.

72 hours a week doesn’t seem too crazy until you figure that 72 hours a week means working 14.4 hours a day Monday through Friday or maybe 10.2 hours a week if you work every day. And we’re not talking about an occasional 72-hour week when things get busy. I’ve done that in my previous career at times and it was fine because I knew I wasn’t doing it week in and week out. We’re talking about averaging 72 hours a week every single week.

So what kind of life does someone like that lead? I’m not averse to hard work (Hey, I’m in law school; I put in a lot of hours) but working 72 hours a week every week? When does he see his kids? When does he see his wife? I’m speculating wildly here but I figure between the two of them they probably make close to $1 million a year, give or take $200,000 (maybe they make $400,000-500,000 each?). So when do they enjoy spending that hard-earned money?

Being rich would be great. No doubt about that. But how fulfilling is a life in which you work 14.4 of the 17-18 or so hours you’re awake on weekdays -- or more likely, work 72 hours spread out over seven days so you almost never get an actual day away from work? How do you take time for yourself if you devote so much time to work and presumably, what little other time you have, to your family? Is this considered a sacrifice so he can give his kids the best of everything they want? Is that a good way to raise kids? Do his kids ever see their parents? Would I be happy with that lifestyle? Well, I’d be happy with his salary but it makes me wonder.

Does it come naturally to work that hard if you have an intense passion for what you do (and how much you earn)? Does it mean I’m lazy if I don’t want to work that hard every week for the 35 or so years I’m going to work after law school? Does my attitude mean I’ll never be a partner in a Big Firm?


At 5:36 PM, Blogger Bricklayer said...

Don't take offense, but I am always amused how late into their studies law students explore the "real" world of working as a lawyer. Prudence counsels that this should have been explored before comitting to this $100K, 3 year adventure. Perhaps then the % of lawyers abandoning the profession after 5 years would be less than it now is (over 20% last I heard?)

However, your blog makes it clear that one way or another you'll find happiness in the legal profession. I wonder if so many of our classmates will be so lucky.

May I suggest two books for your holiday reading:
The Soul of the Law, Benjamin Sells. The author is ex-lawyer turned therapist for burned-out lawyers.

The Lure of the Law, Why People Become Lawyers and what the Profession does to them, Richard W. Moll.

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

72 hours a week is crazy. You're totally right, that is ridiculous, and I'm not sure I believe Mr. Big Shot either. Maybe he bills time outside of the office, thinking in the shower, or during a baseball game.

Or maybe he's one of these people that compulsively exaggerates (like people who say 'I never sleep more than 5 hours a night.')

If he's telling the truth, I'd hate to be one of his kids. Who needs a dad that can pay for college, when he's never around, knows little about you, etc? That's not the kind of father I want to be.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger some guy said...

He might be exagerating but I tend to believe him if only because lawyers, as opposed to people in other desk bound professions, keep good track of their hours so they can bill clients. And then they go around bragging about them (their hours). So maybe he's exagerating to the extent that all lawyers exagerate how much they bill clients. And he wasn't saying it to show off. Or maybe I'm just naive...

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Post!

At 7:31 PM, Blogger Tortious Inference said...

I wanna be a good father too...

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Klio said...

I plan on using my degree to make a life not end one. Just takes some 'do your own thing' planning that's all . . .


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