Working from home

December 9, 2010 at 4:01 pm | Posted in the firm | 1 Comment
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Every time I get exhausted by the juggle (work/home/lawyer/mom) — which are well documented here on this blog and elsewhere around the Internet — I think about finding a kindler, gentler, in-house position. “In-house” jobs are like this mythical golden ticket in BigLaw. “Have you seen [insert fourth- or fifth-year associate’s name here] recently?” “Oh, didn’t you hear, he went in house.” Most of the time you’ll take a pay cut, but you’ll also usually take a significant hours cut.

But being a small cog in a very large wheel, such as I am, has one important advantage over the in-house job: in my relative anonymity lies the ability to work from home. At my firm, there is no face-time requirement, per se. If you are not at your desk, no one gives it a second thought. You might be in the cafeteria, down at Starbucks, at a client meeting, at the dentist, whatever. As long as you’re responsive to clients and partners and are generally around when people need you, no one seems to really care. (Of course, I have to clarify this a bit: if you are a busy deal lawyer and try to be out of the office one day a week, people will notice. And, indeed, I’m finding even my sanctioned Fridays at home to be tricky and probably not sustainable in the long-term, considering I end up working a few hours on Fridays anyway.) Still, if you’re in-house in a small department, your absence, for whatever reasons, would be much more conspicuous.

I don’t work from home too often. When I am in my home office and hear my children downstairs talking and playing or even crying, I of course feel guilty (and sad) that I’m there but not there. Plus, if they know I’m home they whine outside the office door like  puppies, and this has escalated into all-out tantrums. (Understandably, so, too.  How frustrating for a poor three-year-old to know that her mom is on the other side of the door but won’t come out and play?)  Also, it’s much easier to run down the hall and ask someone a question, print stuff, fax stuff, etc. when you’re at work.  In addition, while I’m still so junior that no one really needs me all that much, I’m also junior enough that I’m paranoid that if someone did need me and I weren’t there it might not be good for my reputation…

Today, however, I feel a cold coming on. Sore throat, runny nose. My baby son has had the croup all week, which means he’s been up in the night again (this is the cycle we have been navigating for the past four or five months: we get him sleeping, but then he’ll teethe or get sick and of course I’m not going to let him cry…). I have already been more productive for six billable hours in my yoga pants and turtleneck in my home office than I would have been braving a 45-minute (if I’m lucky) commute each way and sitting through a department lunch (will they notice I wasn’t there? Maybe, but maybe not…) The ability to stay at home on a day like today keeps me sane. It gives me a much needed break and makes me appreciate my company and its trusting environment. It would (will?) be difficult to give up.


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  1. I think there are probably challenges no matter what path you take – big firm or in-house, but I think that it is great that you can stop and appreciate the positives of the job you currently have. Flexibility and trust is so important, I think (I imagine), when kids are involved.

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