The holiday season is definitely upon us. Every other commercial on television has a holiday theme, and individuals have already started wishing people a happy holidays if they do not plan to speak to them over the next several weeks. The holidays are usually a period to take time off from work to spend precious days with loved ones. However, because of the erosion of the work-life balance, many people might work during the holiday season since they need to meet year-end deadlines or accomplish other goals. Nevertheless, people should definitely take some time off around the holidays to rest and recharge, since this can have numerous advantages.
When I worked as an associate at a bunch of different law firms, I had varying degrees of success at taking time off around the holidays. As an associate in Biglaw, it was difficult to take any time off since we were always expected to be on call if a partner needed us to complete an assignment. Since we owed our high salaries to the firm, it was difficult to say “no” to a partner when work over the holidays was needed.
At other firms, it was much easier to take time off around the holidays. The pay was lower, and one of the tradeoffs was that it was much easier to take time off around the holidays or at other times during the year. Indeed, many attorneys and staff would basically take the last two weeks of the year completely off, which was an amazing experience when I tried it. Legal work slowed around that time of year, so it made sense to take time off when expectations from clients, courts, and adversaries were minimal.
After starting my own practice, it has been much more difficult to take time off around the holidays. I largely need to complete all of the tasks associated with my files by myself, and I usually need to use any downtime to catch up on work. Moreover, clients may have expectations of me around the holidays, and there is no partner or someone else who can step in to assist a client if I am out of pocket. In addition, self-employment is much more of an eat-what-you-kill system than working as an associate at a firm, and taking time off around the holidays can impact my bottom line.
However, it is still important to relax and recharge around the holidays. For one, this is the right thing to do for your friends and family. Holiday moments are priceless, and time spent with family and friends around the holidays can lead to cherished memories for years to come. When I was in law school, I did not return home for Thanksgiving and other holidays so that I could get a jump on finals studying and complete other academic assignments. Looking back on it, I would rather have the cherished memories of being with my family than being in a dorm room around the holidays, and any academic benefit I got from staying on campus was not worth the sacrifice. In a similar vein, the memories you make around the holidays will stick with you far longer than any small work advantage you might get by not taking time off.
Moreover, taking time off around the holidays can help lawyers relax and unwind in a significant way. We all know that the legal profession is stressful. Attorney burnout is a huge problem and could be one of the reasons why so many lawyers leave the profession for other careers. Lawyers should remember that their work is definitely a marathon and not a sprint, and it is important to take breaks to recharge the batteries.
Whenever I take time off from work, I come back more energized and relaxed than ever before. This ensures that I can attack my files with a new kind of vigor after returning from a break than I had after working uninterrupted for a long time. The holidays are a nice built-in break that everyone gets to take, and there is definitely less stigma taking time off around the holidays than taking time off at any other point throughout the year. Lawyers should lean into this natural break to take time off to recharge their batteries.
All told, being a lawyer is a stressful job, and many attorneys might feel the need to keep working around the holidays. However, lawyers and staff alike should take days off around the holidays to spend time with family and recharge their batteries.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at [email protected].