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Finding a way to get away

I always feel guilty taking time off even though I know in my head it doesn’t make sense to feel this way. (I am not as critical to the office’s functioning as I like to think I am.)

It’s just as tough for young lawyers to take vacations as it is for everybody else. For one, there’s the money issue. Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to still mooch off your parents (which I am still lucky enough to be able to do from time to time) it’s tough to save up. And if you’re one of the many law graduates who are unemployed or under-employed, it’s near impossible to save up.

There’s also a question of time. Often young attorneys have a limited amount of time to take off, meaning they either have vacation time and are too busy to use it, work for small firms or solo practitioners or (like me) are paid hourly. I’m sure I’m not the only young lawyer who has changed jobs more times than they would have liked/ predicted since graduating law school. Changing jobs can present a challenge to taking time off if you haven’t accrued any time, or if you aren’t allowed to take vacation for a certain amount of time after starting.

I imagine the guilt factor is higher among younger attorneys who are trying to make it to the top. Whether they admit it or not, most firms place a value on face time from young associates. And to be fair, who can blame them? It’s hard to get a feel for the quality of a young attorney’s work when they are also acclimating to the real “legal” world.

Now that I’ve depressed myself with all the hurdles that stand between me and another beach trip, let me say this: if you can get away, you should. (As an aside I feel I should mention that I’ve been lucky enough to get away a few times this summer.) Vacations not only save our sanity, but they can also help our careers. Even if you can’t get away, some studies indicate that even short breaks during the work day can help to re-energize and increase productivity. And there are plenty of opportunities to take small breaks in the summer.

Even if you are experiencing unemployment or under-employment, a vacation can help give you a new perspective on things. This also goes for recent graduates who just sat for the bar exam. I’m using the term “vacation” very loosely — a day off from job searching can help recharge your batteries. A Friday at a local park is a good escape. Can’t relax if you haven’t lined up a job? Believe me I’ve been there, and the last thing I wanted was to take a break without having a job. But I did and it helped.

Regardless of your situation you should still get away if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder that you (and everyone else) are more than just your work.


  1. Totally agree that time away is important – and becomes even more so when you are married with children. I was a bit older than most attorneys when I started my career – and had six young children, too! Vacation was not in the cards for us, but we did take the odd weekend to see the sights of DC, Virginia and Maryland – and the trip to see extended family – to maintain some degree of sanity and a connection with the rest of humanity.
    Did that impact my job? Sure. But the rewards at this end (my husband and I are now proud grandparents and our kids – who are their own wonderful support network – made it through adolescence in one piece)are worth every minute spent away from the office.
    After 20 years of practice, I’ve been on a beach trip vacation once – to Florida to visit retired parents.
    I still consider myself very fortunate.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience Ms. Gavigan. I’m so happy you were able to spend quality time with your family and a rewarding career. It must be hard to find a balance when you have so much going on!