Sunday, June 30, 2013

Pause

The dust is settling after a fast-paced week that pushed me to my limits.  It was all work, no play and almost no sleep.  Let's add to that no consumption of food of nutritional value.

It's weeks like this one that I absolutely cannot believe that it's possible to be a parent and a biglaw lawyer at the same time, unless you have a very understanding spouse with a flexible, less demanding job and your conscious is not bothered by checking out from parenting for a week (for the record, I'm not necessarily saying that is a terrible thing, my dad did that all the time and I don't begrudge him for it, which was possible because of my Mom).  Having said that, not every week is like last week.  Thank goodness.

So what did it take to have this sort of week?
  • Supporting a partner and two senior associates on the sign and close of an asset sale scheduled to occur over the weekend.  
  • Finishing a 50-state statutory research project, which I worked on alone (I did the case law research a few weeks in advance was focused on cleaning up the statutory research this week).
  • Starting and finishing a diligence project that required review of more than 3,000 documents and drafting of a report (48 hour window; team of four attorneys).
  • On a different matter, preparing a chart summarizing contractual restrictions on a specific issue that was identified during diligence review.
  • Getting a summer associate started on a drafting project for a pro bono client.

I'm not sure if that will sound like a lot of work to a non-lawyer.  Here's how it played out from a practical point of view.  I was at work:
  • Monday: 9am until 2:30am the next day
  • Tuesday: 8am until 3am the next day
  • Wednesday: 8am until 11:35pm (caught the last train home!)
  • Thursday: 7:30am through the night with a 2.5 hour dinner break with the summer associates
  • Friday: Ran home to shower and change clothes about 7:45am and got back to the office at 9:30am, worked until 2am
  • Saturday: 9:30am until 1am
  • Sunday: 9:30am until 2:45pm

When things wrapped up Sunday afternoon, I envisioned going out for a good meal (except for pizza with the summers on Thursday night, I subsisted on Coca-Cola and Starbucks/convenience store food last week... I know... I felt as crappy as that sounds), taking a long bath, and watching a movie downloaded from iTunes.  Instead, I fell asleep sitting on my couch and woke up at 6am Monday morning.

And, somehow, through all of this week I felt like I was never doing quite enough to meet everyone's expectations.  Cannot imagine the pressure I would feel if I had a family at home that I was disappointing as well.

I don't expect the firm's expectations to change.  No matter how much the firm gives lip service to work/life balance, there is no changing the fact that this is the level of service that must be provided when the firm is charging top of the market rates.  This is the job.  I take the view that the question isn't whether the firm should behave differently, the question is whether I should be at the firm.

(Having said all that, we can see that the move to a different office of the firm has delivered the opportunity to get experience.  In spades.  Feast or famine....)

Weeks like this I have to remember that the Sunday prior, I had time for a trip out to Yokohama for dinner with friends.  It's not always like this.

6 comments:

Metal said...

Oh my goodness! How do you survive such crazy hours? I'd have surely died! Kudos to you! ....may be I'm just getting old, but I really need my time outside of work to follow my interests (which includes sleep and food)else I feel burnt out very soon. I've learnt the hard way that for me work is a slice and not the entire pizza. Go get some sleep!!

Paragon2Pieces said...

You are so right! I'm surviving and paying down my student loans ahead of schedule because of the salary, but my personal life is nonexistent. My attitude has suffered and I find myself becoming a far less interesting person during this time that my life has been all about work. I don't feel like myself at all and look forward to a move balanced pizza... hopefully sooner than later.

CM said...

From your descriptions, your firm seems like one of the worst sweatshops. Not every firm is like that. There are other firms where you can still make good money, but not quite as much, and have more of a life. I sometimes have the types of days you describe, but never more than twice in a week, and not every single week. What would happen if you said you weren't able to do it?

I'm at a large law firm and have kids, but I would not ever do the kind of schedule you're describing. My own schedule is too much for me sometimes, and I'm increasingly willing to trade off money for free time, but it's never been anywhere near as bad as yours.

TP said...

Wow, that's totally insane. I had a 300-hour month earlier this year, but much more level and no all nighters. Your week would have wrecked me.

Paragon2Pieces said...

Thanks CM and TP. I've been wondering whether switching firms might help the problem so I appreciate your perspective.

Brittany Jean said...

Gosh that sounds exhausting!!! I agree with CM and TP. I have friends in BigLaw and sometimes they have lives like you're describing, but never on such a consistent basis. I hope you get lots of sleep here soon!