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Don’t take work calls and avoid your emails over Christmas, urges law well-being charity

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Too often the grind continues over festive period

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A leading law well-being charity has urged lawyers to make the most of the upcoming Christmas holidays, advising them to put down their smartphones and take a proper break from work.

LawCare — a charity set up in 1997 to help lawyers curb their stress-related problems — has called on overworked members of the legal profession to avoid taking “calls from the office” and “resist the urge to check emails”.

Stressing (no pun intended) that lawyers need to recharge their batteries and enter “the new year feeling refreshed”, LawCare has advised that legal professionals “relax and use the time off to catch up” with family and friends where possible.

For those lucky enough to have a colleague step into the breach while they are away, the charity — whose confidential helpline received in excess of 900 calls in 2015 — reminds lawyers to “give them a good briefing” to ensure downtime isn’t interrupted.

But given the physical and mental demands that come with working in the legal profession, particularly corporate law, is switching off easier said than done?

Speaking to Legal Cheek, one top City lawyer claimed that if a client had a crisis over the Christmas break it would be “impractical” or possibly “negligent” to ignore. Continuing, he said:

I lost what turned out to be the last Christmas with my grandfather when the entirely relaxed, family man that I was working for turned Boxing Day into a frenzied scramble through ten drafts of a letter that had to be sent that very holiday. Combine those realities with the factors entirely beyond your control (litigators’ desire to give the other side ‘something to chew over’ with their turkey, or corporate’s need to close the deal/books before the end of the year) and, if you can get through the Christmas without being disturbed, it’s likely that your practice is not busy enough.

The unpredictability of life at the corporate law coalface is well documented. In October Legal Cheek unveiled the average office arrival and leave times for lawyers across 56 UK-based firms. The statistics — which were published on World Mental Health Day — showed that gruelling 11-hour days were not uncommon. Revealing that “work can overtake life”, one survey respondent said that “plans usually get delayed and sometime are cancelled”.

You can contact LawCare (even on Christmas day) here.

7 Comments

Anonymous

“11 hours a day” “gruelling”. What planet are you on?

(9)(11)

Confused

Not sure of the thrust of this comment. Are you suggesting that 11 hour days aren’t common, or that they aren’t gruelling? I’m not sure I agree with either analysis….

If it’s a sort of ’11 hour days? Pah! You don’t know you’re born! I work 23 hours a day and sleep ten minutes’ comment, then to me that’s another depressing indicator about the state of the legal profession and the expectations within it, frankly.

(25)(0)

LOOK AT ME!!!! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

11 hour days is “gruelling” for pretty much everyone, especially those in law who are either under billable hour pressures, or at smaller firms where they are at the coalface dealing with the general public and more work than they could handle.

I once worked with a family lawyer who dealt with a particularly “rough” neighbourhood in a certain part of the country. She also had some conveyancing skills, and remarked how “she thought her clients were bad, but they have nothing on conveyancing clients”.

The pressure of working in law is becoming ridiculous, no matter where you work or your specialty.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I’m sure I’ll get negged by one of this profession’s many wannabe big dogs who constantly remind everyone that they work 120 hour weeks and have sex with Victoria Secret models every night, but people work too hard. Bottom line, very, very few things in the world of work are truly urgent. I did a seat in corporate during my tc, and it annoyed me how everything there was given a false sense of urgency and importance – “If these papers aren’t filed within the hour the world will implode!”. It’s not just law, either. I have friends in industries from advertising to publishing, and they’re also subject to this. Emails and phones might make our personal lives easier, but I’m sure the professional world was far better before them. Again, I’m sure self important pomposity (of whom there are many in law) will tell me I’m lazy and unmotivated, but as far as I’m concerned, you work to live, not live to work.

(30)(0)

Anonymous

Seconded.

The problem is it’s a race to the bottom: Even if there were partners in big law firms ready to say ‘no’ to pushy clients when it comes to pointlessly tight timelines, the client will always find a firm somewhere else to oblige. Therefore, even sensible partners will do the obvious: Say yes to unreasonable demands for fear of the client going away. And the demands become crazier and crazier every time.

I’ve worked on deals where everything was super-urgent – “we must sign tomorrow” – then the signing got delayed because of disagreements between the parties, day after day, for about a week. Eventually, the deal was ready to be signed, and then all of a sudden the client “absolutely had to” wait another few days to sign due to some foreseeable circumstances like the end of the financial year.

I feel like people label everything super-urgent these days for fear of their service provider / counter party / person they deal with in some other capacity slacking off. And indeed it is a bit of a vicious circle: If you say something’s not urgent, you can be sure it’ll be at the very bottom of the pile due to [see above].

I guess I’m in the wrong profession.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

I hope all these young grads are reading this before they sign the dotted line and gleefully replace their personal phone with a company standard issue top of the range cell phone. Plus side,you have a great new phone! Down side – being contactable ALL the TIME. Yes. Clients will ring you at 9pm with a deadline for tomorrow morning. Directors will issue you work at midnight expecting you to drop everything. You can never switch off. TL;dr – never replace personal phone with company phone

(1)(0)

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