The holiday season is by now completely upon us as everyone is preparing to attend celebrations and winding down their operations before the new year. For some lawyers, the holidays can be a busy time, as many law firms try to get invoices paid before the end of the year and finish other tasks that might need to be completed in 2022. In addition, associates who need to bill a certain number of hours in a calendar year may also be busy fulfilling expectations firms may have of them. However, attorneys should not feel obligated to complete tasks around the holidays if they can avoid it, and lawyers should not feel guilty if they take at least some time off next week to relax and recharge before the new year.
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons not to feel guilty about taking time off next week is that many courts are in recess during this time. Numerous courts realize that litigants and attorneys are not available during the last week of the year, and a number of courts are closed to give judicial officers a well-needed break. If the courts are closed, for many lawyers, it is easy to justify taking some time off. When courts are closed, there is less of a reason to be on the grid since there are not court appearances that require the physical or even virtual presence of an attorney.
In addition, some courts have not scheduled motion days during the last week of the year, and at least one court in which I practice is not permitting litigants to make motions returnable during the last week of 2023. If there are no motion days during the holidays, there are fewer papers that need to be prepared, and accordingly, less work that needs to be completed during this time. As a result, attorneys likely do not need to be close to computers, scanners, and printers in order to prepare papers during this time of year.
Another solid reason not to feel guilty about taking off during this time of year is that many bosses will also be off during this period. It is usually really difficult to take time off as a lawyer. Attorneys oftentimes cannot predict when they will be busy and when they will be slow, and this makes it difficult to take designated time off. Personally, I have taken time off on multiple occasions only to be bombarded with unpredictable work while I was away, and the fear that this might occur in the future definitely motivates me not to take time off if I can avoid it.
However, it is well-established in the legal industry that the best time to take time off is during the last week or so of the year. Basically, a holiday truce descends upon the legal profession, and everyone resolves to take time off during this time. Accordingly, many bosses take the last week or so off during the year, or at least this was the case at many of the law firms at which I worked. Indeed, I have ample memories of my time as an associate attorney walking the halls of my law firm’s office and seeing the vacant offices, wondering why I was in the office when all of the brass was gone. As the old saying goes, when the cat is away, the mice will play, and if bosses take time off, associates and staff should feel emboldened to take time off as well.
Perhaps the biggest reason why you shouldn’t feel guilty about taking some time off next week is that resting and recharging your batteries is often important to producing good work after taking time off. Attorney burnout is a huge problem in the legal profession. We all know that being a lawyer is a really tough job, and it involves a lot of conflict and stress. Legal matters are often a zero-sum game, and this can create a lot of tension.
Taking some time off allows lawyers to recover. This can help attorneys bring a new kind of energy when they return to their duties after a break. As a result, lawyers can justify taking some time off so that they can be more productive in the new year.
All told, it is difficult for lawyers to take time off from work since lawyers might have a difficult time predicting when they will have less work to perform and we all have projects to complete. But for a variety of reasons, lawyers should not feel guilty if they take some time off next week for the holidays.
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].