Friday, June 13, 2008

Associate Struggle and Sacrifices

Yesterday a junior associate on a deal mentioned he had dinner plans with out of town guests. It had been quiet on our deal front all day so I told him to have fun. I too began imaging dinner with Husband and a good night's sleep. Not 10 mins after that conversation however (after 6 pm) emails started flying and partners calling. Then I got the dreaded questions from my junior associate, "Should I 'reschedule' [i.e., cancel] my dinner?" Also, some choice words from both of us as to why nothing ever starts on this deal until after 5 pm.

I never know what to say when someone asks if he or she should cancel plans at night or come in on the weekend since I know how hard we work and we all deserve to have a "life". I remember asking the same question in my first couple of years.

The sad truth is I basically do not make any plans during the week - even with my husband - up through and including Friday. Saturday nights are usually safe. This is how I have adapted to life at a Big Firm and to try to stop myself from going crazy about all the "normal" things I don't have time for. During the day my schedule is flexible so I am the one who meets with home repair in the morning, can go to lunches with summer associates, doctor's appointments, etc. Sometimes I even go in late just to do laundry or pick up the house. But my nighttime plans and sleep are always the sacrifices and would be even if I weren't using time during the day.

My dad was honored a few years ago for his transplant work and when he gave his speech accepting the well-deserved accolades he mentioned that his work means sacrifice by him and by his family and that there was a "drawer full of tickets" for events he's missed over the years. That was definitely an exaggeration since my mom would never allow a draw to contain that sort of clutter, but you get the drift.

The funny thing is that my parents think that since I don't save lives that somehow my sacrifices for my clients aren't at the same level as my father's. My sisters and I were always told and always accepted at face value that my dad couldn't be around because he was "saving lives". Husband is very sweet about the path I chose (in case you are wondering being a doctor it was not an option for me - I hated math and science) and points out that there would be no money for doctors if the economy wasn't chugging along. I should also mention that when my dad is home from work he isn't usually still monitoring what is happening at the hospital since he's only on a call once in a while - I'm "on call" all the time thanks to high billable rates and Blackberries. [We could get into a whole discussion why clients will pay top $$ for my work and hospital/surgery services cost much less but we'll save that economic discussion for another day.]

In case you were wondering my junior associate did go to dinner - but he logged back on after. I certainly wanted him to go so I'm glad it worked out and I was happy to monitor things in his absence.

I know I have other associates who read this blog - what was the worst sacrafice you've made so far?


Anonymous said...

I've had it pretty lucky. I had to cancel an impromptu weekend down the cape once, but that wasn't a big deal. Last year I was working on signing up a merger agreement and had planned a huge BBQ at my house for a Saturday afternoon. As you know clients love signing merger agreements up Sunday night before the market opens Monday (makes for an awesome weekend). I had to ask the mid-level if I needed to cancel my BBQ -- we had an easy-going relationship, so I figured I'd ask rather than just cancel and assume that was what he'd tell me I needed to do. He told me that if I got the new set of diligence done before the BBQ, he'd cover for me during the 3-hour BBQ. Though I had to pull an all-nighter that Friday night in order to get my work done, I got to have my BBQ. :) I **heart** flexible mid-levels.

Anonymous said...

I cancelled an out of town trip as a 2nd year, but luckily it was a just-for-fun trip with friends located in town, so was much less of a big deal than if I'd had to miss a wedding or trip with friends I hadn't seen for awhile. Otherwise, I've cancelled/missed a fair number of minor obligations -- dinners, lesser family holidays and parties, etc.
Since I'm in litigation, I generally have a little bit more warning on when the deadlines will be coming. I do get pretty frustrated, though, when you get an out-of-nowhere and arbitrary deadline from a partner (which was the case with my trip cancellation)... I try to see it the way you described -- that we're paid a lot of money both for our time and to be flexible/available -- but it still gets annoying when you realize you're essentially being punished for the partner's procrastination and/or whims!

Anonymous said...

I can't think of any specific big sacrifices. There've definitely been dinners/parties with friends or family that I've bagged out on, but no vacations or anything. I did show up 2 hours late for a couples cooking class that my hubby and friends of us signed up for together. Poor hubby got stuck struggling with a complicated recipe by himself until I finally showed up.

There've been a few times that I've gone several weeks not making any plans (even weekend plans) because of work. There were two periods of about six weeks or so during which I had a grand total of one day off. I had to call in the cavalry one weekend to take my place on a negotiation because it was my bridal shower/bachelorette party weekend. There was NO suggestion that I should cut short any of my plans that weekend (nor should there have been). I sent the associate who covered for me flowers. I felt bad because she had just closed a deal and was looking forward to having the weekend off.