It’s been a slow last few weeks here on Philly Law Blog — namely because we’ve been on vacation. I didn’t realize that stepping away could feel so good.
I’ve never really had the opportunity before. You see, throughout most of my life, I’ve worked retail jobs, including Starbucks, pizza shops, and clothing stores. And as those of you who’ve worked in the customer service industry know, your time is rarely your own. Vacation days don’t exist. You rarely get to call out sick. And sometimes, if there’s a no-show, you get called in to work on a day you expected to have off. Finally, those days that everyone else gets off — “holidays” — yea, well, those are usually the biggest retail days of the year.
Granted, being a lawyer is pretty damned similar. Your time is not your own. I recall that saying, “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” Well, the legal equivalent of that is “no vacation survives contact with clients, opposing counsel, or a judge.”
This last year, I’ve been working harder and longer hours than at any point earlier in my life. My days were routinely 10-12 hours long, my work-week spilled into my week-ends, and many times I was left to cancel whatever real-life plans I had made to complete work under a client- or court-ordered deadline. The days I worked through the day outnumbered the days I took a lunch break by about 10:1.
I was waking up at 3am, in a cold sweat, wondering whether I had forgotten to file X motion in the Smith matter, if I had included all the necessary affirmative defenses in Y answer, or to pull up Lexis to quickly investigate some legal theory that had come to me in a dream.
In short, I was going nuts.
It was time for a vacation.
So, for about a week, from between Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, I took some time for myself, and tried to go off the grid. My goal — don’t go into the office, don’t check work emails, don’t check voicemail.
Ultimately, I failed my goal to disconnect. I checked my emails at least once a day, made a new calls, and filed a few papers. I ended up going into the office on the day after Christmas and New Year’s Eve, to get the mail and ensure that nothing was going into melt-down down. And I did spend a few hours one day, while socializing with some out-of-town friends, lost in thought about the legal theory for one of motions — which made me a pretty lame party companion.
But the few days I did take out of the office served as a real mental refresher. The time I spent enjoying the company of my wife, dogs, and closest friends really energized me.
My wife even remarked about the distinct change in my personality. It was like a switch — I went from “aloof, head in the clouds thinking about legal stuff while at home lawyer Leo” and changed into an actual human being who was able to relax and socialize without thinking like a lawyer. What a relief!
Even though I didn’t go anywhere warm or exotic, the few days I took lett me spring into the New Year with a renewed vigor.
Now, I understand that not everyone has the ability to take a full week off from work — especially younger attorneys who live at the managing partner’s beck and call, and are expected to show at the office at a moment’s notice. I’m lucky in that regard. But even if you can take just a few days off — turn off the iPhone, don’t check your voicemail, forget your work email — you’ll be surprised at how beneficial it can be.