Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I have half a post written about living my work-life jumble. Something about maintaining happiness and a sense of balance in a 220 billable hour month, but I don't know if I like it. Does it matter how I do it? Everyone has their own set of circumstances different from mine, so is it even relevant or interesting? Also, I get like 60 minutes a day right now to do things unrelated to law or my children, and today I really just wanted to watch Glee and read a new book (at the same time, gotta maximize the indulgence). But I felt guilty that I hadn't posted anything since Saturday, so I give you this tiny piece of a conversation I had with Landon on Sunday. I know these "my kid said this adorable thing" vignettes don't sound nearly as cute in text, but it made me laugh and I need to preserve it.

So, Sunday morning. I'm working of course (quality checking a document production set to go out Monday), but in the study with the windows open. Clairebiscuit is bouncing next to me in her relocated jumperoo and Landon is sitting on my lap, very focused on deconstructing his Lego fire truck. Suddenly:

Landon: Mommy what are you doing?
Me: I'm working.
Landon: Every day I do some work.
Me: Oh? Where do you work?
Landon: in Austin.
Me: What do you do at your work?
Landon: Well, sometimes people come see me and we color and we are very happy.

This sums up everything Landon thinks about my job, and explains why he really wants one of his own. He looooves coming to my office. On weekends, if I need to run in to print or PDF something, he always wants to come with me. I set him up with a stack of scrap paper (I keep any printing mess-ups in a special drawer to wait for him) and some colored highlighters, and he "works" while I work. When I'm done we visit the library (he likes to run through the stacks) and then go up and down the internal staircase a few times. It's like Disneyland- with free juice!

And as long as I'm just writing text with little flow or overall point, a few other things: JP is doing great. He has a Frankenstein-like scar along the back of his ear (they just cut all the way along the back of the ear and opened it up; kind of gross, kind of awesome) and it's healing nicely. He still can't swim, which is killing him, but I'm loving it. He dusted today! Dusted and polished! all because he was bored and antsy. His follow-up appointment is next Monday and we eagerly await the surgeon's thoughts on the procedure's long-term success. The biscuit has started solid foods and loves sweet potatoes. She also finds them very funny, I have no idea why. And finally, the Pigeon Play on Sunday was lots of fun and Landon was so excited to be there. He was worried that Claire "would be lonely" while we were gone, but then he told everyone in a 5-foot radius that he was "there to see the pigeon because he's a good big brother." It was great.

Everything is great. Busy, but really quite great.


  1. Lag Liv -

    I am a "long time reader and big fan", so forgive me if what I say sounds harsh or awkward, but the kind of schedule you are working is not that uncommon in modern American life - what's uncommon is how well renumerated you are! My husband works with an education non-profit that works with low income students at AISD, and 60 hour weeks are "normal" to us, with his hours climbing higher at regular intervals. He works at least two Saturdays a month providing extra support/trips to various high schools his 8th graders may want to attend and has calls from parents at all hours of the day and night because most of his kids' parents work just and many hours as he does if not more, and they do it for much lower pay than he makes. I can't help but feel you have a little bit of a blind spot as to how common your intense work schedule is.....

  2. Not harsh at all, though I have a explanatory, apologetic comments:

    (1) I do know that my hours aren't abnormal. My mom is a high school biology teachers and if she kept track of her time I'm certain it would exceed all but my very busiest weeks. JP worked in investment banking for 3 years and had maybe 1 month where he worked less than I did this past month. So 60 hour weeks are absolutely not uncommon. I will point out though, just to put my hours in context, that I can't bill many of the hours I work. So billing 60 hours a week is usually equivalent to working at least 80. If I have a day where I'm in my office for 9 hours, but I have a section meeting, a partner stops by my office to chat for a little while, I eat lunch, and take a few trips to the bathroom- I've probably only billed 5 hours, so to make my 10-hour day, that's another 5 hours at home after 8 pm, which does start to feel like a lot after two weeks of working that sort of bifurcated schedule.

    (2) I do sincerely hope I haven't sounded like I'm complaining (at least not too much). I like what I do, I know I am paid well to do it, and I am usually quite happy with the whole situation. In fact that's a huge pet peeve of mine with a few people I work with. They complain constantly about their hours and I just want to yell, "what did you expect?!" Not to mention what you have already pointed out- we're paid to work this much and to be on call for weekends and evenings. I consider it something of a work-life contract and I understand my side of it. (Plus as a lawyer, even a junior one, I get a large amount of flexibility and independence that my friends in other professions don't have. I have honestly always thought I have it pretty good.)

    (3) But I am sorry if I've sounded whiny or like I have it so bad and other people don't. The past month was rough. I had a week in the middle with almost no work, which means I crammed all of those 220 billable hours into about 3 weeks. There were a lot 15+ hour days and that is simply a lot no matter how much you make. A side effect of this is that I can only carve out about 20 minutes for blog posts, and even if I'm not unhappy with the situation (and I genearlly wasn't), being busy is pretty much all that's on my mind - well that and "look, a cute baby!" - so that's all you've gotten to read about.

    As for any potential "how I do it" posts, that was just because I love it when other people write them. I love that little glimpse into someone else's life and seeing the practical, every day effects of different jobs and schedules, particularly when those people have kids. My mom does work a lot now, but she stayed home for 10 years when I was young, so I find it fascinating to hear about other working moms and how they make their professional and family lives work together.

    This comment is now longer than my original post, but I didn't want anyone to think that I have lost all perspective on either my hours or pay, particularly when I have a mom who makes a fraction of what I do and works harder for it. And one thing I try hard to do in my life is to maintain that perspective and to be happy with the very good life that I have. If my recent posts haven't reflected that, I'm sorry.

  3. you shouldn't apologize. people who don't work in a job built around the billable hour can't understand what a 60 billable hour week is. i've been a teacher and now a lawyer, and trust me...it's much, much harder being a lawyer. obviously, you don't get the time off, but you do work more AND the work you do is much more stressful. yes, we get paid more, and that's why most of us do what we do...but it ain't easy.

  4. This post makes me wonder what biglaw associates average in terms of billables per month (or, I guess, per year). Our minimum for bonus is 1900 but this year I almost hit 2300, so 200+ hour months are the exception rather than the rule over here. I have no kids but it's still hard! But you and Anonymous are right -- we do need to keep things in perspective (I am not suggesting you aren't). We are in fact very lucky - to have jobs at all in this economy, and to be paid so well for them.

  5. I'm sorry I just have to say something about this post and the first comment. First off, I appreciate the first commenter's sentiment. I understand that you work long hours for a big firm, but you do make probably triple what many other lawyers make, especially those in public service. Also, you have a baby who sleeps though the night and a husband who does not also have a very demanding job. I know that we all live in a life of choices that we make but some people work alot, don't make as much, have very long commutes, children who haven't slept through the night for 2 years, and husbands who also have very demanding corporate careers. This comment probably sounds like I am complaining, but the truth is, true "work-life balance" as a working mom (especially a trial lawyer) is more like constantly sprinting in high heels rather than "work-life balance."

  6. Wow! So much for the mere "Filler" this post claims to be in its title! What a great discussion, and I really like how everyone is being so respectful.

    ...The way you unwittingly sparked this discussion here kind of harkens back to the airplane chair post from eons ago(i.e. to push or not push the chair back)... hahaha...

    Also, I used to love visiting my mom's office to "work", too... I love the way Landon interpreted your work experience. He is so cute (even in text)! :)

  7. Back to correct my comment -- 200+ hour months are te *rule* not the exception! So much for attention to detail. ;)

  8. LL-
    I've always thought you do a nice job of meeting all your responsibilities without complaining or sounding ungrateful for the advantages you do have. It's true you make a good salary for someone your age, but it's also true you worked very hard (and took on a lot of educational debt) to get where you are.

    You made the decisions you made based on what you wanted out of your life--stability, comfort and family time--and there's nothing wrong with that. I like hearing you write about how you do it.

  9. Anon here again -

    I want to thank you for your incredibly thorough and polite reponse to my comment! I really appreciate it, especially the context regarding your mom's work as a teacher. Thank you for taking my comment in stride and understanding where it came from.

  10. On a completely different note, I totally ordered three of the pigeon books for my almost-3 y.o. daughter for Christmas. Hoping she loves them as much as Landon. I'm not sure how I didn't know about them!

  11. LL, as a newish associate at a large firm (though not in TX), I appreciate your work-life balance posts. I also appreciate your positivity even when you're really busy! Helps me keep things in perspective when I get slammed or feel overwhelmed. If you have time (perhaps when not in a 220+ month), I would love to see a post from you about advice you have for a newbie now, looking back as an almost-3rd year.

  12. Sure, life is all about choices. Up to a point. And then life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.

    I enjoy reading LL's posts (about pretty much anything). I cringe mentally at her 200+ hour work months because it's been years since I've come close to doing anything like that (I did once upon a time though) and when I did, it wasn't with 2 little kids.

    Is she lucky ClaireBear sleeps through the night and is such a happy baby? Absolutely. That's the luck of the draw. But if you go back and read her posts around Landon as an infant ... it could be said that she more than paid her dues.

    I went to law school with the plan of practicing for a few years, returning to get my Masters and then doing law reform. Life had other plans ... 20 years after law school and although I have never left law (and can't imagine ever doing so) I only "practiced" for about 2 years. Since then it's been two kids (both with special needs) leaving me with the present *joys* of two teenage daughters, one with a learning disabiility and one with much more significant challenges, my own health problems which preclude full-time practice (and I find law doesn't lend itself well to part-time practice) and a husband with learning disabilities who just very unexpectly got laid off from his 15-year job two days ago. Resulting in our loss of health insurance.

    My point? I don't really have one but to say that it's all relative and goes around and around. And that despite my abbreviated life story above, I can't see any criticism (and sorry, maybe it wasn't meant that way but that's how it first sounded) of what/how LL writes. I'm just saying ...

  13. I'm a fellow lawyer and another long time reader (since before Landon was born) and I put in another vote for the work life balance post, I find them fascinating and learn a lot from them!

    For the record, I have always found you to be incredibly positive and display a lot of gratitude when it comes to your career. More so than pretty much any other lawyer I know. That's part of the reason I read, I admire your perspective and positivity.

    And hell, even if you want to complain, it's your blog and you have the right to vent! We're all human. And sure, there is always someone out there who has it worse, who works longer hours, makes less money, etc. But who cares? Just because you are lucky and make good money (which you seem fully aware of) it doesn't preclude you from complaining about your own challenges. Not that I thought you were complaining in this post, or that you do often, all I'm saying is don't apologize! You have a right to your feelings and I appreciate reading about them.

  14. Honestly I wish you would complain more! You are so happy all the time and it makes me wonder what is wrong with me!!!

  15. I'm with the last commenter. I love these posts, and I wonder how I can be more positive myself. If you truly are almost always this positive, which I think you pretty much are, then I am most impressed. I work fewer hours than you, and I can't get satisfied with how much time I have for my one child (3 years old). Part of my problem is that I don't like my job at the moment, so I keep trying to figure out how I can be at home more to do the one thing in life I want to do right now -- spend time with my family.

  16. You are the least whiny lawyer I know. Quite the opposite. I also agree the work-life balance posts are helpful and interesting.

    I especially like the cute little stories about the funny things kids say. Mine is still learning the basic words, so conversations are nice to read!

    Also, more pictures of The Biscuit would be swell. There is no such thing as enough. If you put out a charity calendar of all Claire photos, I would buy it!

  17. Totally agree that LL is the least whiny person I have ever (sort of!) met. I strive to emulate her positivity because I think it can do wonders for one's career.

    Also, to the poster who talked about her husband - LL has always been very honest that her two-kid juggle works because her husband does not have an intense job. My husband has a pretty demanding job, and I'm a newish associate at a firm, and I wonder how I'll do it!

  18. If moms on all message boards were as polite as the commenters on this post, I wonder if there would even be "mommy wars." It's pointless to argue over whether you should be allowed to complain or just relay stories from your life because of the number of hours you work, how much you make or how helpful your husband/baby's sleep schedule is because every situation is so unique and no one who knows you solely from this blog has the full story. But I would argue that even if you were paid $10 million and everyone in the world worked 100 hour weeks, billing 60 hours a week when you have two small kids at home would be exhausting.
    And I second (or third or fourth) the request for the work/life balance post. I love reading them, even when there is very little to take and apply to my own life because of different circumstances!