Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's Worse Than an 80 Hour Work Week?

If you ask a lawyer "how are you?", the answer you are most likely to get is "busy."  Because for most lawyers, "busy" means "good".  In the legal world, "busy" is good because lawyers are paid in six minute increments.  It takes a lot of work to fill up an eight-hour day's worth of six minute increments.  And most lawyers have a billable hour requirement.  In my neck of the woods, that requirement is usually somewhere right around 2000 hours - or eight hours every working day for 50 weeks out of the year.  So, if you are a lawyer here and you aren't busy, you are pretty much screwed. 

Of course, work ebbs and flows.  Often, work is piling up so fast and so high that I could work 24 hours a day and be able to bill most of it.  Of course, I never want to do that.  I would much rather put in an eight hour day and then go home and spend some time with my kids.  But sometimes I have to work those crazy hours to offset times like now - the dreaded slow down. 

It's no secret I worked more than I wanted to last month.  My firm had a crazy busy month with two of our largest sets of cases going to mediation, negotiations being held with regualtors on several matters and a major closing.  All on top of our regular case loads.  All of the lawyers in my office worked a lot last month.  Many of the partners put in more time than I did.  It was a busy, busy month.  And it was a good one.  We settled a bunch of stuff.  We negotiated deals with regualtors.  And, the bank deal closed.  It was a good September. 

But now, thanks to Settlement September, we're into Idle October.  There is not much to do at work right now.  Of course, we all have a few smaller cases floating around that need attention.  And there's always marketing to do.  But every morning I wake up and think of what I have to do today. . . and wonder how I'm going to fill the other 4 hours of my day.  It is not a good feeling. 

I've taken advantage of  my down time, going home early some days to enjoy the Indian summer with the kids.  And I've started my Christmas shopping on-line.  Today, I'm grading briefs for a local law school moot court competition.  And while a little break is welcomed, I can't help worrying about when the next big case is going to come in.  Or how I'm going to get a bunch of little cases to make my billable hour requirement.  Or how my time could be better used cleaning out closests or updating our pictures at home.  I'm grateful for the little break, but I hope that the break stays small.  Because the only thing that's worse than working 80 hours a week is billing less than 6 hours a day. 


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