When the work starts to pile on, lawyers not only fail to put on their oxygen masks, they head for the cabin door, rip it open, and jump out. From 5,000 ft. And then they wonder why they end up drained, dispirited and depressed about their jobs and their life. The ironic thing is that those 80-hour weeks don’t produce higher quantity or quality work.
So we have an entire profession that is showing up drunk to work and not performing anywhere near their potential as a result of working way more than 40 hours a week. If the intoxicating substance were alcohol or drugs, lawyers would be advising clients to either fire the intoxicated employee or send them to rehab. Instead, lawyers crack the whip on themselves. It’s nuts.
This fact of 6 good hours of brain work has some fairly serious implications for lawyers and their worship at the maw of the Billable Hours God. As I’ve said before, lawyers act like they are factory workers selling billable hour widgets, but really, their value is in the brilliance and quality of their work, not the amount of hours spent with nose to grindstone. With routine 10-hour days and 65-hour work weeks at BigLaw and elsewhere, lawyers overall are exhausted, making them functionally as impaired as a drunk, and therefore doing a crap job for their clients.
Many, many lawyers go straight through from college to law school, so they never get a sense of what work boundaries should look like or feel like. So what you think is normal—because it’s what you see in law firms—is actually highly dysfunctional. You might not understand that having boundaries between work and the rest of your life is important, because without them, you don’t have a zone of safety. You are subject to the whims of others, who usually don’t have your best interests at heart.