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Growing up, I was never one to leave my homework assignments until the last minute. My older brother held that honor in our household. I was also never envious of the negative attention he received from my parents at such times. Perhaps I enjoyed sleeping too much, or perhaps I simply worried more about the consequences of not completing something on time, but I even managed to avoid pulling any all-nighters in college. A couple of nights in law school I came close, but I never saw the sun come up with a treatise in hand. Isn’t it ironic that three small letters after my name – ESQ – seem to have transformed me into somebody who routinely arrives at Reagan National Airport a mere 54 minutes before their business flight is scheduled to depart (knowing full well that there are a minimum of three security checkpoints still to get through), embarks in all-night drafting sessions, and rarely gets anything turned in to a partner or filed with the court until the day it is due. I still relish a good night’s sleep. I still worry about the consequences of not getting an assignment handed in on time and the thought of having to file a hastily-drafted Motion for Continuance (and explaining my actions to the supervising partner) is enough to make me lose my appetite. It makes me wonder what’s changed. Maybe I respond more to negative attention than I thought, or maybe ESQ = Every Second Qualifiable? An associate recently inquired whether writing a column for the NLJ was “fun.” I told her that it would be more fun if I didn’t always seem to be drafting my articles at 3 AM on the Sunday before they were due. She nodded with understanding. I know I am not alone on this. I recently broke dinner plans with a friend because of some work assignment that was taking me longer than expected and was due the following morning. This was probably the second time I’d broken our plans to get together in under a month. She was annoyed, understandably, and commented that she didn’t see why I always had to leave things to the last minute. I professed innocence and explained that I didn’t leave things to the last minute on purpose. As I hung up the phone, the tension between us still lingering in my office, I consoled myself with the knowledge that she wasn’t an attorney. She couldn’t possibly understand. Although I had more pressing things to think about that night – like the research memorandum for which I’d broken our plans and was still in draft form on my computer – as I sat at my desk, I couldn’t help but wonder whether I might be doing it “on purpose” � even just a little. Perhaps I suffered from delusions of grandeur. After all, if my deadline was Monday, I would get it done by Monday. It therefore stood to reason that if I pretended a Tuesday deadline was actually a Monday deadline, there would be no last minute scramble and no breaking of Monday night dinner plans. While my theory seemed sound, implementing it has been harder than I expected. It’s been easy to fall back on excuses. Prioritizing properly means that things only get done shortly before they’re due. My deadline is often outside of my control because I’m operating on someone else’s timeframe. It rarely makes sense to file something early with the court. Something unexpected came up and threw me off my game plan. A partner might take an early submission as a sign that I haven’t given a project my all. And, my personal favorite, last-minute urges to tinker, fiddle and fine-tune are undoubtedly nature’s way of reminding us that we can all do better. Still, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Today is Friday and this column isn’t due for two more days. Although I could probably come up with a more clever example of what ESQ stands for if I thought about it for the next 48 hours, I’m already looking forward to not working on this column at 3 AM on Sunday. Maybe I’ll even call my friend and make dinner plans. Here’s to baby steps. Amy J. McMaster is an associate in the environmental department at Venable LLP in Washington. Her practice focuses on both criminal defense and civil regulatory compliance.

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