Happy Holidays

Now that one fall holiday is behind us and the big holiday season is on the horizon, I think that it is appropriate to address how lawyers spend their holidays.  Well, that can vary considerably from one lawyer to another, as you might expect.  A lawyer can work up until the eve of the holiday at the office or he or she can pretend to be partaking of the holiday spirit by working at home with a cell phone in firm grasp while performing holiday prep events like decorating the tree, placing the menora or hanging the lights.   You have to be fairly coordinated to pull this off, however, especially if the hanging of lights involves a stepladder.

Also, wondering around the shopping mall checking e-mail on a Blackberry or similar device every three minutes qualifies as “in the holiday spirit” for many lawyers, but it is pretty discouraging for the kids accompanying them who are trying to draw attention to the must-have items on their lists.  Fortunately the line to sit on Santa’s lap is generally very long, and that provides lots of quality Blackberry time, a blessing in disguise.

This is pretty pathetic, I am sure that you would agree, but, nonetheless, you must have special empathy for the partners or case managers whose firms are on the end of December fiscal year programs.  Those poor souls are also dialing for dollars during the “ho ho ho” to get their clients to pay up so that the law firm can make budget and the management committee will be feeling the joy of the season when bonuses are decided— over either spirit enhanced eggnog or bitters!

I think that it is fair to say that it is hard for lawyers to escape the work-aholic environment, even for the biggest of holidays.  Or so it seems.  Not so fast, however.   Some lawyers are managing to safeguard the holiday season, but you have to move to the UK and give up part of your salary to get these bennies.

This is how one of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best-known corporate law firms does it—and succeeds in retaining talented women lawyers as partners.  As reported in the Daily Mail a few months ago (August 18, 2010), the UK’s Allen & Overy’s secret to success is offering 82 holidays a year to its lawyers, in exchange for reduced pay.  The program was put in place to retain women struggling with the work-life balance, but men also can take advantage of the reduced schedule for up to eight years.  (Apparently the equivalent of the NLRB is alive and well in the UK.)  According to one partner, “If we don’t succeed in attracting more women through to partner, we will be choosing from an ever-decreasing pool of talent.”

So, what do you think?  Is this a good idea or a bad idea?  Will it be like instituting Boxing Day in the US of A and meet with great resistance, or will law firms stateside get with the program?

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.  Put down your cell phones, resist the Blackberry watch, embrace your loved ones and have a cup of nog!

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