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Nothing But The Ruth!

Disregarding the Traditional Workweek

By | Aug.18.15 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice, Nothing But The Ruth!, Time Management

Nothing But the Ruth

When did we decide that the “workweek” should be defined as Monday through Friday,  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? (Okay, I know a good many lawyers work a lot more than that, but you know what I’m saying.)

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time and what it means in terms of my work. When I was a solo practitioner, I was only in my office two or three days a week — the days I met with clients or when I wanted to be free of the distractions of home. It wasn’t uncommon for me to run the errands that most people save for the weekends or to work on community activities during the middle of the week. Since joining a firm, even though I am of counsel and have autonomy over my schedule, I feel obligated to be in the office Monday through Friday.

Why is that?

Does Anybody Really Care What Time It Is?

One thing I’ve learned about my law practice is that no one cares when or where I work as long as I am getting my work done. Of course, I do mainly transactional work so my time is not dictated by the court’s calendar. That said, my clients don’t care if I’m working at 2 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon, or whether I wear a suit or gym clothes. They care that the project gets done by the deadline and that I respond to phone calls and emails.

A few months ago, I saw a video about a day in the life of entrepreneur, author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk. His day started at 5:15 a.m., and he was taking calls and meetings until 11:35 p.m. I love the statement at the end of this video: “That’s me. Now go find you.”

He doesn’t say you have to work 18 hours a day like he does. He says do what works for you. It made me think about what does work for me — and not just as a professional but as a person. I’m lucky to have few obligations and commitments in my life that are contingent on other establishments that conform to the traditional workweek. If I want to take meetings or calls late at night, early in the morning or on the weekends, that’s my prerogative. So why do I feel the need to conform to a traditional week schedule?

Hand-in-hand with rethinking how I view time is the importance of balance. I know I’m not the only lawyer who has no inherent concept of moderation in my life. I have to schedule time for rest, fitness and recreation or else it’s too easy to get lost in work. Conversely, without some structure for my work (like to-do lists and deadlines), it could be easy to fall into a Peter Pan-esque lifestyle.

Perhaps it would be a revealing exercise to give up the notion of a traditional schedule and build a calendar based on my strengths, priorities and preferred schedule. I wonder how clients and co-workers would react to the idea of me scheduling meetings at 8:30 p.m., or taking a day off in the middle of the week to go on a day trip with friends.

Hmm …

Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. She is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing her practice on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is author of the ABA book “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She blogs at UndeniableRuth.com. Follow her on Twitter @rbcarter.

Illustration ©ImageZoo

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2 Responses to “Disregarding the Traditional Workweek”

  1. Bridget Murray
    18 August 2015 at 9:36 am #

    I recently had a similar experience, going from a complete “solo” to being a partner in a small firm with staff. And, poof, my flexibility seemed to disappear. This was the result of the firm culture, and staffing needs, not primarily client needs. However, it IS hard to buck the expectations of the traditional culture, and also hard to figure out how to staff in a flexible way.

  2. Ruth Carter
    18 August 2015 at 4:41 pm #

    I agree! It’s so easy to fall into a rut in regards to scheduling. I try to make it a point not to let my typical schedule keep me from taking advantage of other opportunities. As long a clients are happy and my work is getting done, what hours I work shouldn’t matter.


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