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Keep Big Law Happy by Avoiding Vacations: Play Hooky InsteadThe Snark warns readers that now is not the time to take a week-long vacation from your Big Law job to celebrate your continued employment. You need to hang in there until the storm passes -- and until you're sure you're not going to get canned. Taking vacations is always frowned upon in Big Law, especially exotic or exciting ones that don't involve family obligations. Instead, to keep your sanity in these anxious times, The Snark recommends playing hooky for a day, preferably in the middle of the week.
Daily Report2009-04-30 12:00:00 AM
Now is simply not the time to take a week-long vacation from your Big Law job to celebrate the fact that you are still employed. Nope. We all want to get away from the stress of layoffs and billable hours, but you need to hang in there until the storm passes -- and until you are sure you are not going to get canned.
This advice also applies to taking a mini-vacation or a long weekend; it could send the wrong signal.
But to keep your sanity during these anxious times, I recommend playing hooky. Just for one day. Preferably in the middle of the week. I know -- it seems more irresponsible to plan a skip day than to take a legitimate vacation, but hear me out.
BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE!
It is tempting to take advantage of the amazing travel offers that keep popping up in your e-mail: "Free companion airfare to Mexico and two nights free lodging at our oceanfront five-star boutique hotel with infinity pool if you just rent three nights and help us pay the mortgage! Please come ... the news is scaring people away and no one can afford to take a vacation. If you are still employed, you owe it to the vacation industry to travel! Come on people -- stimulate the economy! Spend it if you got it."
Airlines, hotels and entire cities are trying to tempt you to take a break from the madness and enjoy a pina colada. Resist. Taking vacations is always frowned upon in Big Law -- especially exotic or exciting vacations that do not involve family obligations.
In boom times, you are walking away from solid billable hours. Instead of earning the firm money, you are taking cash out of the partners' pockets to fund your week of spa treatments, yoga, hiking and fresh fruit breakfasts at Canyon Ranch. Grr.
In slow times, you're selfishly choosing to enjoy yourself instead of sitting behind your desk waiting for the phone to ring or devising a plan to improve business at the firm. It's the equivalent of leaving your sick spouse at home while you go out to dinner with your friends, saying, "Hey, I feel fine, why shouldn't I get a break from all that sneezing and coughing?"
These days it is just not a good idea to do anything that implies you are not willing to take one for the team. The partner two doors down from you just saw his distribution check plummet to levels he hasn't seen since 1999. The last thing he needs to see is some Cog -- who is getting the same amount of inflated salary as she did when the firm could actually afford to pay "market rate" -- skipping out of town for a week of wine-tasting in Napa.
SKIP A DAY AND PLAY
But we all need time away from watching the end of Big Law world as we know it. A break from seeing partners and secretaries crying is good for morale -- your morale. Sometimes you need to stop obsessively checking your e-mails for fear of the "it's your turn to pack your things" message. So take a day off and enjoy springtime. But you must plan this skip day carefully.
You can't play hooky on just any day. You can't actually miss important work -- so no bailing on the day the deal is closing, the brief is due or the hearing is scheduled. That seems obvious, but I say it anyway for those who have a little vein of self-destruction in your bodies.
You have to pick a day when nothing major is happening and if you were behind your desk you would be wasting half the day trying to get Linked-In to as many people as possible and destructively obsessing about what other career options you may have if you are next on the list of Big Firm alumni.
You also have to pick a day when your absence will not be missed -- like maybe a day when the partnership is attending a mandatory marathon meeting/workshop on "Winning When Everyone is Losing." Or maybe a day when that one partner that micro-manages when you get up for coffee will be out at client meetings all day.
STAY TETHERED TO THE MOTHERSHIP
But no matter how carefully you choose your skip day, someone will undoubtedly need to reach you to ask you to resend the e-mail you have sent to them 15 times. So you must have a plan for being accessible at all times. This is really no different than a typical weekend out of the office. Have your office phone calls forwarded to your cell. And always have your BlackBerry fully charged and prepared to respond to the blinking red light -- voicemail messages via e-mail should be returned immediately to avoid detection.
Depending on what you do at Big Law, your absence may not be noticed. People may assume you are at a client meeting, a CLE or some other "out of office meeting." As long as you respond to e-mails and voicemails and take no more than two non-consecutive skip days per year, you should be fine. You also should keep a suit handy and be prepared to be in the office within an hour, if required.
Just don't get stupid and start lying to people. When you immediately respond to the voicemail left by the partner at the client meeting who needs to ask you a question as you sit in Piedmont Park with your black lab, Barbri, and a frisbee, don't pretend you are in your office:
"Cog, it's Partner. Thanks for returning the call -- I need you to pull up that draft memo you did for me and tell me the code section we think client needs to use to build their factory on the cemetery."
"Uhh ... sure partner let me pull that memo up on my work computer, here at the office where I am currently sitting and working hard ... roof, roof ... ."
"You brought your dog to the office?"
If you are feeling like you need to lie, go with something less obnoxious like -- "Sure, partner. I am just running a quick errand of taking my dog to the vet, but can get that to you within 15 minutes."
Big Law skip day is not as fun as a high school skip day because it can't be a coordinated event with all your pals and it requires that you stay sober to respond to e-mails and voicemails. But there is still a certain joy to being in Piedmont Park on a Wednesday at 2 p.m. letting the sun shine on your face while catching up on your novel reading. But you may want to wear a hat and dark glasses just in case someone else has chosen the same spot for their skip day!
Do you have dirt to dish? Do you have a column idea? Or do you just need to vent in six-minute increments? Email the Snark at firstname.lastname@example.org.