Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

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Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:26 am

I've been reading LateralLink profiles of firms, and I'm a bit worried that the NYC V100 I'm summering for has a high response rate that "weekends are just another workday." This notwithstanding the fact that there are also options with qualifiers like "yes we work weekends but only for a portion" or "yes, but most people work from home on the weekends."

How accurate are these profiles? Is this something that varies too much by group/practice area to really nail down accurately on a website profile? It's just interesting to me that this seems to frame it as some sort of "firmwide" thing. I mean, my firm is also pretty high up on that AveryHours "worst hours" index, so I'm not expecting the best. But then again, it is not too much higher when you look at actual hours than other NYC BigLaw firms.

So first, I'm curious if this really is a firmwide culture thing, and if I should regularly expect to work 9-5 or longer on weekends (and yes I know that things can vary if you have a filing deadline in lit or a deal closing in corp -- I'm just talking generally). And second, I'm curious more generally what the experience is of people working NY BigLaw, and how frequently they actually find themselves in the office on weekends (not just working from home or e-mailing). I'm sure this has been discussed before, but I've had trouble finding the threads. Please feel free to point me to them if this thread is truly duplicative.

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thesealocust
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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby thesealocust » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:46 am

Clients and matters matter much more than "firm." The busiest, hardest working firms are obviously going to have work spill into weekends just by nature of the high-stakes and high-volume business they run.

DC regulatory work, unlikely to consume weekends because the federales shut down and go home. Doc review on a weekend? Not that likely, but kissing your weekends goodbye near a trial seems likely.

I know it's not a great answer to your question, but it's important to realize the thought process isn't about being humane in dolling out assignments. It's not busy work, it's clients needs. People don't assign weekend work for giggles... at least not in my experience.

Also, there's rare and then there's rare. "deal closings" that require weekend work could be happening every other week in some practicea reas.

I know people at NYC big firms who have runs of weekends with 0 billed hours and basically no blackberry activity, then a Saturday in the office for 13 hours with more work to finish at home. Sometimes deadlines and projects pile up and you can't really do anything about it.

If you're just asking specifically about whether that weekend work will require your presence in the office... that might vary by firm. Most of the one's I'm familiar with aren't really face time type places, if you can do the work from home on the weekend (or even most nights) there's little reason to be manning your battle station in the firm.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:58 am

Thanks. Helpful as always. It just seemed strange to me that they would ask that question to associates as if the answer was firm-dependent, when in reality everything I had heard/read was more in line with what you said. It couldn't have been to distinguish BigLaw from secondary market MidLaw because the vast majority of firms on their sites are BigLaw. So I was just wondering whether this was some strong perceptible distinction among NY V100s of which I wasn't aware. But it seems like there isn't in this category.

-OP

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby thegrayman » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:00 am

My impression is that the only difference is in how scared associates are to post the reality of their workplace. If your competition is working on the weekends, you're working on the weekends.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby kryptix » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:47 am

thegrayman wrote:My impression is that the only difference is in how scared associates are to post the reality of their workplace. If your competition is working on the weekends, you're working on the weekends.


There's a big difference between working on the weekends at home vs at the office though. I've been in a 24/7 on call job all through law school but its manageable because I can remote in from class and work from home on the weekends barring internet/power outages. Losing that flexibility would require some adjusting on my part...

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby keg411 » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:31 pm

kryptix wrote:
thegrayman wrote:My impression is that the only difference is in how scared associates are to post the reality of their workplace. If your competition is working on the weekends, you're working on the weekends.


There's a big difference between working on the weekends at home vs at the office though. I've been in a 24/7 on call job all through law school but its manageable because I can remote in from class and work from home on the weekends barring internet/power outages. Losing that flexibility would require some adjusting on my part...


A lot of the BigLaw associates I know work from home on the weekends, though some people like going into the office and sometimes the work will require going into the office.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby dood » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:49 pm

some firms have unspoken code which require associates, especially younger years, to come in on weekends purely for face time. i have a couple friends at those firms and it sucks for them extra hard. huge and hard.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:04 pm

dood wrote:some firms have unspoken code which require associates, especially younger years, to come in on weekends purely for face time. i have a couple friends at those firms and it sucks for them extra hard. huge and hard.


Do any firms actually have an explicit weekend face time requirement? I only ask because I'm pretty sure mine doesn't, but it seems like this might be one of those things like a public "2000 hours requirement" covering up for the fact that people actually usually work many more hours than that.

Do you just judge this unspoken norm by what most other associates do? If you literally don't have any work, you will still be expected to just sit there on a weekend? Could failing to do so actually lead to meaningful repercussions? I'm not looking to make partner.

-OP

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby thesealocust » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Do any firms actually have an explicit weekend face time requirement?


No.

Anonymous User wrote:
Do you just judge this unspoken norm by what most other associates do? If you literally don't have any work, you will still be expected to just sit there on a weekend? Could failing to do so actually lead to meaningful repercussions? I'm not looking to make partner.


It sort of depends, it's all about feeling out cultural norms. You have to take the big surveys with a grain of salt, firms are deeply non-homogenous. Each floor / practice area / partner is likely to have a different rhythm.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:54 pm

This strikes me as a strange question to ask associates since, as others have discussed, weekend work depends much more on practice group, who you are working with, what happens to be going on, etc. than on the firm. In NYC, I wouldn't bother looking for differences among biglaw firms in required weekend work. I know people who work every weekend and I know people who work maybe one weekend a month for less than 5 hours. No real pattern among particular firms. I also don't think any practice area is immune from this btw, even regulatory work (somehow people are still disorganized and send out work to do while the government is enjoying its weekend).

Realistically, unless your group is really slow, doing enough work to maintain your reputation will probably involve working at least a bit on the weekends. I know many people who go into the office if they have to work on weekends because they are more productive that way, but it doesn't seem all that common that you couldn't work from home if you wanted to. I think I've had maybe two occasions where I actually needed to be in the office to work on a weekend. I have never heard of a weekend face time requirement, but if you come across a group that requires this, run. That is ridiculous, even by NYC biglaw standards.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:06 am

You need to realize that you don't own your time anymore once you enter big law, or at least that's what it will feel like. Late hours, weekends are expected if the firm wants you to work them. You'll also be working under people who have lost perspective on the importance of time, family, and relaxation. The few times I was in the office past 8, I constantly heard "it's only 8, so it's not that late. we have time." Became as grating as 'case of the mondays.'

It's a constant struggle to set boundaries and make sure you get time for yourself, and you'll have to enforce those boundaries, even in the face of the inevitable pressure. It's doable, but it won't feel comfortable and you won't make partner doing it this way. Outright telling someone that you will not be working on a certain day, because its a day you set aside for yourself a long time ago, even in the face of deadlines, isn't easy to do, but for the sake of your mental health, you have to do it (if you don't care to make partner).

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:14 am

Deeply appreciate the above posts.

Anonymous User wrote:It's a constant struggle to set boundaries and make sure you get time for yourself, and you'll have to enforce those boundaries, even in the face of the inevitable pressure. It's doable, but it won't feel comfortable and you won't make partner doing it this way. Outright telling someone that you will not be working on a certain day, because its a day you set aside for yourself a long time ago, even in the face of deadlines, isn't easy to do, but for the sake of your mental health, you have to do it (if you don't care to make partner).


This is great/interesting. Since it seems my initial question was already answered, if people want to use this thread to pursue this line of discussion instead, I'd love to hear it. I assume when you say "in the face of deadlines," you mean relatively distant deadlines, right? From what I understood, flat out missing them (at least frequently) was grounds for termination.

- OP

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:27 am

Anonymous User wrote:Deeply appreciate the above posts.

Anonymous User wrote:It's a constant struggle to set boundaries and make sure you get time for yourself, and you'll have to enforce those boundaries, even in the face of the inevitable pressure. It's doable, but it won't feel comfortable and you won't make partner doing it this way. Outright telling someone that you will not be working on a certain day, because its a day you set aside for yourself a long time ago, even in the face of deadlines, isn't easy to do, but for the sake of your mental health, you have to do it (if you don't care to make partner).


This is great/interesting. Since it seems my initial question was already answered, if people want to use this thread to pursue this line of discussion instead, I'd love to hear it. I assume when you say "in the face of deadlines," you mean relatively distant deadlines, right? From what I understood, flat out missing them (at least frequently) was grounds for termination.

- OP


Quoted Anonymous here:

I mean if there's a team of 4 people on a case with a Monday filing deadline, and you had set that Sunday as an important day for you/your family/something else, it's important to stick with it. Whether you do this by attempting to front-load your own work, making your team aware of it in advance, or something else, you need to, at least occasionally, be firm. Obviously, you have to make the deadline, so if the work you're supposed to do is absolutely vital (its your case or you're the only team member) and can only be done Sunday, you're SOL, but that seems rare.

One thing you quickly learn in big law is that when there is a deadline, TPTB will always wait until right before the deadline to complete things, and if everything is completed, they'll make more work. You're only going to be as efficient as the least efficient person on your team, and when you're more than likely going to be working under people who don't have the same definition of efficient or the same perspective of time (since, if they've been there 4+ years, there's a good chance they've either bought in or have been beaten down), that means your own time is going to be encroached upon.

You'll also learn that on a team, the person who sets the least boundaries will be called upon to do the most work for the longest hours/weekends.

If you don't set boundaries for yourself early, they'll keep taking advantage of that.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:31 am

Anonymous User wrote:Deeply appreciate the above posts.

This is great/interesting. Since it seems my initial question was already answered, if people want to use this thread to pursue this line of discussion instead, I'd love to hear it. I assume when you say "in the face of deadlines," you mean relatively distant deadlines, right? From what I understood, flat out missing them (at least frequently) was grounds for termination.

- OP


Right, you should not flat out miss deadlines. I think the question of whether to set boundaries becomes more relevant in the usual situation where there is some relatively distant deadline with a whole bunch of flexible-ish intermediate deadlines that may or may not be as urgent as people insist. In those situations, maybe you can be firm in saying that you cannot work on X day. Just be aware of what this means for your reputation and long-term potential at your firm, and feel out the dynamics of your group before doing this. A lot of times, turning down work or insisting that timelines be pushed means that the work will go to someone else. Doing this once for your sister's wedding is probably not going to be an huge issue long-term, assuming no major pressing work needed to be done, but a pattern of it can start making it difficult to get work (or at least the work you want).

I say this because when I think of people who have not set boundaries to take care of their mental health, they are people who will be in the office until the wee hours of the morning through the week and will be in for almost the entire weekend, and who can be counted on to take on an unanticipated project at 10pm on a Saturday. People like that, who set no boundaries, will of course be taken advantage of (but they will generally also get better work and have a shot at making partner). I think that, even with some boundary-setting, you need to assume relatively crazy hours and unpredictability (and almost definitely some level of damage to your mental and/or physical health), or "setting boundaries" quickly turns into "unreliable." (After all, the people who you are working for, especially as you get more senior, were generally willing to forfeit control of their time and work whenever needed. Those who don't want to do that pretty much leave within a few years.)

From what I've seen, the people who are able to say, without reputation/workflow damage, "look, I can't work on X day because I have this major commitment" or "I can't get this done for you on Saturday, as you have asked, but I can get it to you by Sunday afternoon" are people who are already working a ton. As in, they are working enough that (a) they are heavily relied on and people would rather have them do the work a day late than ask someone else to do it, and (b) they have built up credibility as super hard workers.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby kryptix » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Deeply appreciate the above posts.

This is great/interesting. Since it seems my initial question was already answered, if people want to use this thread to pursue this line of discussion instead, I'd love to hear it. I assume when you say "in the face of deadlines," you mean relatively distant deadlines, right? From what I understood, flat out missing them (at least frequently) was grounds for termination.

- OP


Right, you should not flat out miss deadlines. I think the question of whether to set boundaries becomes more relevant in the usual situation where there is some relatively distant deadline with a whole bunch of flexible-ish intermediate deadlines that may or may not be as urgent as people insist. In those situations, maybe you can be firm in saying that you cannot work on X day. Just be aware of what this means for your reputation and long-term potential at your firm, and feel out the dynamics of your group before doing this. A lot of times, turning down work or insisting that timelines be pushed means that the work will go to someone else. Doing this once for your sister's wedding is probably not going to be an huge issue long-term, assuming no major pressing work needed to be done, but a pattern of it can start making it difficult to get work (or at least the work you want).

I say this because when I think of people who have not set boundaries to take care of their mental health, they are people who will be in the office until the wee hours of the morning through the week and will be in for almost the entire weekend, and who can be counted on to take on an unanticipated project at 10pm on a Saturday. People like that, who set no boundaries, will of course be taken advantage of (but they will generally also get better work and have a shot at making partner). I think that, even with some boundary-setting, you need to assume relatively crazy hours and unpredictability (and almost definitely some level of damage to your mental and/or physical health), or "setting boundaries" quickly turns into "unreliable." (After all, the people who you are working for, especially as you get more senior, were generally willing to forfeit control of their time and work whenever needed. Those who don't want to do that pretty much leave within a few years.)

From what I've seen, the people who are able to say, without reputation/workflow damage, "look, I can't work on X day because I have this major commitment" or "I can't get this done for you on Saturday, as you have asked, but I can get it to you by Sunday afternoon" are people who are already working a ton. As in, they are working enough that (a) they are heavily relied on and people would rather have them do the work a day late than ask someone else to do it, and (b) they have built up credibility as super hard workers.


Well I've always thought of myself as one of the people who doesn't set boundaries in my current role but there's not setting boundaries and then there's really not setting boundaries. To me there's a major difference between getting called at 1 am and getting a project due the next morning (which I'd be happy to do if it was really important and not make work) vs. not being able to make my dinner reservation with my wife or my kid's birthday (which is usually on a public holiday anyway) and having my wife threaten to divorce me. I'd probably notify my team of the latter two a few weeks in advance so it shouldn't be a huge deal in my mind, then again I haven't started yet so I don't know.

It just doesn't seem like there's similar types of emergencies in law vs what I do now, where you can get calls in the middle of the night with 30-60 minute deadlines with your job on the line. Am I right about this part? I would be surprised at least if you could get a late night emergency assignment without it being able to be handed in in the morning...

What is the policy about vacations where you might be out of civilized contact though? I don't usually mind being called while on vacation when I am reachable and I can help, but does this mean no vacations where you can't be reached? I kind of got used to my current company's mandatory leave policy where they kick you off the company network and lock you out of the building for a week to make sure that life goes on without you, but where your not expected to be available at all and can go on a real vacation :)

Edit: or use the week to study for law school exams which seems to happen more often...

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:58 am

kryptix wrote:Well I've always thought of myself as one of the people who doesn't set boundaries in my current role but there's not setting boundaries and then there's really not setting boundaries. To me there's a major difference between getting called at 1 am and getting a project due the next morning (which I'd be happy to do if it was really important and not make work) vs. not being able to make my dinner reservation with my wife or my kid's birthday (which is usually on a public holiday anyway) and having my wife threaten to divorce me. I'd probably notify my team of the latter two a few weeks in advance so it shouldn't be a huge deal in my mind, then again I haven't started yet so I don't know.

That is a fair way to want to set your boundaries. I don't know - people deal with this in different ways and I'm not sure what the answer is. It depends a lot on how long you want to be at the firm, but also what tolerance you have for getting less interesting/substantive work if it comes to that. Personally, I'm pretty big into setting boundaries, somewhat unintentionally and more just because I haven't really bought in to the chaos. That said, I missed a personal commitment this year that, prior to starting the job, I would have said I'd never miss for work. This was after pushing the issue a lot more than some of my fellow associates would have (again, not to say that was a good idea). Experiences vary, though, and maybe your firm will have a more understanding culture (especially if outside of NYC) or you will manage to avoid this.

It just doesn't seem like there's similar types of emergencies in law vs what I do now, where you can get calls in the middle of the night with 30-60 minute deadlines with your job on the line. Am I right about this part?

You are absolutely right about it. I have yet to deal with an "emergency" that was actually an emergency. Rather, the "emergencies" are things that someone wants done immediately and perhaps promises to a client on a short timeframe. The end result is the same (have to stay up all night/cancel plans to do the work), though it can be frustrating to know that there is no legitimate emergency. There are definitely people who are less crazy about the fake emergencies, though, and it's worth seeking them out to work for.

What is the policy about vacations where you might be out of civilized contact though?

IMO, the best type of vacation to take. Again, though, I guess whether it is acceptable depends on the people you're working with.

Not trying to be overly negative and this is probably stuff you have heard a hundred times before. Just good to know what you're getting into so you can prepare yourself (and enjoy your bar summer!).

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby kryptix » Wed Feb 20, 2013 12:26 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
kryptix wrote:Well I've always thought of myself as one of the people who doesn't set boundaries in my current role but there's not setting boundaries and then there's really not setting boundaries. To me there's a major difference between getting called at 1 am and getting a project due the next morning (which I'd be happy to do if it was really important and not make work) vs. not being able to make my dinner reservation with my wife or my kid's birthday (which is usually on a public holiday anyway) and having my wife threaten to divorce me. I'd probably notify my team of the latter two a few weeks in advance so it shouldn't be a huge deal in my mind, then again I haven't started yet so I don't know.

That is a fair way to want to set your boundaries. I don't know - people deal with this in different ways and I'm not sure what the answer is. It depends a lot on how long you want to be at the firm, but also what tolerance you have for getting less interesting/substantive work if it comes to that. Personally, I'm pretty big into setting boundaries, somewhat unintentionally and more just because I haven't really bought in to the chaos. That said, I missed a personal commitment this year that, prior to starting the job, I would have said I'd never miss for work. This was after pushing the issue a lot more than some of my fellow associates would have (again, not to say that was a good idea). Experiences vary, though, and maybe your firm will have a more understanding culture (especially if outside of NYC) or you will manage to avoid this.

It just doesn't seem like there's similar types of emergencies in law vs what I do now, where you can get calls in the middle of the night with 30-60 minute deadlines with your job on the line. Am I right about this part?

You are absolutely right about it. I have yet to deal with an "emergency" that was actually an emergency. Rather, the "emergencies" are things that someone wants done immediately and perhaps promises to a client on a short timeframe. The end result is the same (have to stay up all night/cancel plans to do the work), though it can be frustrating to know that there is no legitimate emergency. There are definitely people who are less crazy about the fake emergencies, though, and it's worth seeking them out to work for.

What is the policy about vacations where you might be out of civilized contact though?

IMO, the best type of vacation to take. Again, though, I guess whether it is acceptable depends on the people you're working with.

Not trying to be overly negative and this is probably stuff you have heard a hundred times before. Just good to know what you're getting into so you can prepare yourself (and enjoy your bar summer!).


Thanks, I'll just have to manage expectations on both sides then I guess :). I can be a workaholic but family is what makes the long hours worth it for me so I'll just have to find my balance I guess.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby patrickd139 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:07 pm

Image

Seriously though, this has to vary from firm to firm.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby somewhatwayward » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:15 pm

dood wrote:some firms have unspoken code which require associates, especially younger years, to come in on weekends purely for face time. i have a couple friends at those firms and it sucks for them extra hard. huge and hard.


Which firms are these?

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:26 pm

For most firms, the weekend consists of one consecutive Saturday and Sunday per week. However, I've heard that firms in Houston may do it differently than those in NY, so YMMV.

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Re: Do BigLaw firms differ in their approach to weekends?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:11 pm

NotMyRealName09 wrote:For most firms, the weekend consists of one consecutive Saturday and Sunday per week. However, I've heard that firms in Houston may do it differently than those in NY, so YMMV.


v15 nyc associate. this sounds about right to me. usually u only give up half the day as well, like working from 9-3, although ull get the occasional weekend where u've been billing non stop.

worst part though is sometimes you dont know which weekends those will be. so you spend the entire sunday checking ur bb or never being mor than 15min away from a computer b/c ur expecing something to come in, but then it never does.




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