ruski wrote:kid stud's method works to get you a better life, but it will get harder as you get senior. now you know you have a senior to fall back and you really take ownership of nothing. you just help out on discreet things here and there. once you move senior this will get harder to do.
more importantly, you become that guy in your group everyone hates. it makes group meetings and lunches uncomfortable. you sit there and smile at them, meanwhile everyone is talking behind your back at how sucky you are. you can definitely be that guy in biglaw and will last until midlevel at least. but its hard being that guy. if you have the skin for it kudos, you are the real winner here getting paid the big bucks for working less. but the vast majority of people can't be that guy. you spend the vast majority of your time at work. you want to get along with the people. being in an environment for 10 hours a day in a place that hates you is a sucky feeling, for me at least, and I imagine for most type-A people who populate the big firms.
True that when you're senior, you'll have more responsibility. But you'll also have more control of your schedule, supervising the deal/case flow, and ability to foresee what is upcoming.
I also think it's an unwise move to say "I'm with my kids/spouse doing XYZ" unless someone specifically asks what you're upto. Telling them specifically what you're upto lets them judge it; if it's a priority to you, just say you're unavailable or have a prior family commitment. An e-mail comes in unexpectedly on Saturday when you're at the tee-ball game, you can wait a few innings, respond with "I am unavailable right now but will get started at X time". If you do quality work and are a hard worker for the rest of the time, you'll be okay. Obviously you use best judgment on this. You don't skip work on a Friday afternoon at 1 if the brief is supposed to be filed with the court at 4 p.m. There are moments where "all hands on deck" is exactly that, but those moments are actually not as frequent as partners want you to believe (and that junior associates actually believe).
To the last point about being "that guy" in the group, I think that's only if you're constantly pulling that. You can still bill 8-12 hours per day but carve out a few hours for family time (or exercise or whatever it may be) within reason. 1950's family dinners at 6:00 p.m. might not be realistic, but if you have good work product, a good attitude, turn things around in a reasonable amount of time, you're not going to have a bad reputation for spending weekend hours logged off with the family (or wherever it may be) or not responding because you're at the kid's music recital on a Tuesday night.
But yeah, the girl who constantly left at 6 and went home without her computer and treated BigLaw as just another job, she will be hated for years to come (even after she has left, her legend will live on in the halls). But I don't think that by carving out time for your spouse/faith/kids/hobby, you're automatically the slacker or "that guy" in the group. If you play it right, you're actually going to be more respected for not being the one who is constantly eager to be bent over.