It has been often said that Law School teaches us very little of what it means to be a practicing lawyer. At least, I have often said it.
Our torts professor told my 1L class that at best, law school is a 15-minute head start on legal research in the real world. I thought he overstated his position back then, but I may have been jaded by the fact that I had just paid tuition and it seemed like a lot of money for such a meager advantage.
Add to the list of things that law school didn’t teach is lawyers need time off. The law is a demanding profession and can easily take all one’s time while wanting more. I work parts of six days per week. If you add thinking about work stuff at home it is an easy seven. Some lawyers bill for 9 days a week, but that is another story.
Even though we are not carrying bricks up a ladder all day, lawyers do need to recharge their batteries and de-compress. I am not one for long vacations, but as I work through middle age, I have started to cherish the off days. And yes, I know that I am only middle-aged if I were a tortoise; work with me here.
Taking a day off as a self-employed lawyer is tough. Being self-employed is merely unemployed with overhead after all. Clients expect me to be available on Saturday, and if I don’t send an email to an opponent on a Sunday, they will think I am a slacker. I don’t often work on Saturday, but Sunday in my office is routine. Even if it is just to catch up on the mail and get ready for Monday’s tasks, a couple of hours on Sunday with no phone or office mates is both quiet and effective. Add in that I can’t do household chores if I am not in fact at the house and Sunday in the office becomes even more divine.
I have often written in this space about the treasure called the Windfall day- when a planned event cancels and leaves me with a free day that should have been a work day. The joy from a Windfall day rivals the feeling I would get as a youngster when I awoke to snow on the ground on a school day. A snow day meant no school, assignments were delayed and I got to goof off unexpectedly without earning the privilege.
As fantastic as Windfall days are (and they are fantastic) they don’t come along often or reliably. Smart lawyers know that a more regular respite is needed.
I tried taking Fridays off but it rarely worked out. Between payroll and last-minute deadlines, Fridays are an irresistible force. This year I finally conceded the failure of the Friday off goal. I was resolved to have no real skips from the grind when I heard of a concept which shines as a beacon to American ingenuity- the Joeday.
I started my career when the last of the legal giants were still active. I didn’t know it at the time, but Joe was a stealth giant. He was also a plaintiff’s lawyer, and I met him in his middle-aged lawyer days. I was an annoying young pup then, and though Joe and I were representing co-plaintiffs on a case, we wound up in contrary positions. I didn’t feel like we were friends when the last hearing on that case was over.
I hadn’t thought of Joe for years, but his name came up recently. During the downtime in a Friday mediation, the mediator and I complained about the difficulty we have, despite our best efforts, to get Fridays off.
” I learned a trick to make the work weeks fly by,” he said. “Take Wednesdays off.”
The mediator went on to tell me how he had a mediation with Joe and told Joe that he never looks tired. Joe said he only worked two days a week before he gets a day off, then he works two more before he gets two days off. If you break the week down into such little pieces, work drudgery is barely noticeable.
Wednesday is now Joeday in my office. After a month or so of plotting, I finally got my first Wednesday off. Joe is absolutely right, a break in the middle of the week is way more than just one day’s worth of rest. It wasn’t without challenges however. Thursday becomes a second mini-Monday. Tuesday is now mini-Friday, and two Fridays more than make up for two Mondays a week.
I’m looking forward to more Joedays, and urge you to try them as well. Court hearings on Wednesday morning are easy if I know that is all I will do on that day. My first Joeday didn’t go off without a hitch. I had a dentist appointment already scheduled for that day and found out I had to have a root canal. Even a Joeday can have challenges.
Covid may have eliminated the Snowday with kids working from home, but it has made the Joeday easy to accomplish. We are adding it to the Church of Farris list of holidays and I wish you many merry ones.
©2021 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. May your Joedays be many and soon. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent directly to Under Analysis via email at email@example.com.