Sublet office space NYC attorney gives thanks being a self-employed attorney and the freedom to choose how he spends his time.
In November 1999, I had just finished my first three months of working full time in a firm after graduating from law school. Before graduation, I had worked at this firm (or its predecessors) as a part time law clerk and full-time summer associate. But this was the first time in my legal career where I didn’t have the excuse of classes to get out of work whenever I wanted.
I was an associate in the securities department at the firm, and it was a busy Fall. Dot-com 1.0 was in full swing and, in our small group of transactional lawyers was closing deal after deal. We were in our small sublet office space NYC office plenty of late nights and weekends and, in those few months, I had become intimately familiar with the buffet at the financial printer (back when you actually went to the printer).
A much-needed long weekend…
The Thanksgiving holiday was fast-approaching, and I made plans to take a much-needed long weekend to celebrate the holiday and visit with family. The firm was typically closed on Black Friday, so making plans wasn’t a big deal.
During the week prior to the holiday we had been working feverishly to get an IPO closed. The deal ended up dragging into Thanksgiving week.
…gets blown to bits.
Monday ticked by. Then Tuesday, and still no closing. Wednesday came, 10AM, Noon, 2PM and it started to get increasingly difficult to get regulators on the phone. Everyone was trying to get somewhere for the holiday.
The wire deadline came and went, and we still didn’t have all the pieces necessary to close the deal.
Despite my travel plans, I would be working on Friday.
Friday ended up not being a terrible work day. My parents let me borrow their car. At the crack of dawn, I drove to the office from their home on Eastern Long Island where I was spending the long weekend.
The day mostly consisted of buttoning up administrative details since nearly everything had been cued up on Wednesday. Wires were sent out by noon and, despite the two hours that it took to get from 6th Avenue to Lex, I was back on the LIE by 4:00PM.
Getting angry about the lack of control over personal time.
But I was angry. I didn’t like having to change my vacation plans for work, and I hated not being able to spend time with my family as I had planned.
In retrospect, I wasn’t angry about work, but that I no longer had full control over my personal time.
In our profession, long hours come with the territory. I knew that when I took the job at this firm.
Mostly I worked the extra hours because the deals I was assigned to, which were intensive, demanded it. Yet, there were plenty of other times where I was in the office late hours or on weekends simply because some partner hated being around his wife and kids. They had the power to make me work, and if I wanted to keep my job, I had best show up.
Dinner plans, date nights, weekends or vacations could instantly be cancelled at the whim of any partner.
Appreciating the freedom that comes with self-employment.
During this week of Thanks, among the many blessings in my life, I am grateful that as a self-employed attorney, I have the freedom to choose when and where I work.
If I need time off, I take it. A client may not be happy with my decision, but I also have the power to manage their expectations, and I am solely responsible for the repercussions if that’s not done well.
I won’t be working this Friday (actually, I probably will be working). But whether I do or don’t, I’ll be making that decision all on my own. Either way, I won’t feel an ounce of guilt about it.
Being self-employed comes with its own set of ups-and-downs, risks and rewards. But the freedom to choose how you spend your time is compelling, and if you are lucky enough to be a self-employed attorney, you understand what I mean.
Being self-employed isn’t for everyone. It’s one career choice among many good ones.
If your choice is to continue to work for others, my hope is that, professionally, you have found inspiration and peace in that position. Life is too precious to expect anything less.