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Can you describe your typical day at work as a lawyer?

Although I'm most interested in being a lawyer, I have don't have a good idea of how what a day at work actually consists of. Is there a lot of hard work and time that needs to be invested or is it flexible? #working #lawyer

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Carol’s Answer

Hi, Autumn! Jenna gave you a great answer. Like Jenna, I am a corporate lawyer specializing in transactions, mostly mergers and acquisitions (buying and selling businesses and companies). My work is international and very rewarding. I work for an industrial company rather than a law firm. So I am right there with the business people and executives as the strategy to grow or reshape the company through adding or divesting of businesses is developed. Since the company I work for does business all over the world, the businesses it buys and sells are all over the world. Autumn, I’m almost 60 years old and I’ve been practicing law since 1986. My husband and I raised two children. My hours can be pretty much anytime of day or night given the international nature of the work. Deals are very intense and a lot of work, so work hours creep into the evening and weekends frequently. My husband is a teacher and he took on much of the responsibility for home life and the kids when they were young. So I’m sum, in my experience, the hours are unpredictable and demanding. But like Jenna said, it depends - different areas of practice will be different. Litigation and mergers and acquisitions are probably two of the most unpredictable and demanding. I hope this helps!

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Jenna’s Answer

The lawyer answer here is: it depends! There are a lot of different areas of law, and a lot of different types of lawyers and careers, which will determine what your day is like. You might be dealing with contracts or documents, interviewing clients or witnesses, reading and writing, visiting a courtroom or other lawyers, or all or none of the above! I am a transactional lawyer- I do not go to court and I do a lot of reading and writing with contracts, leases and legal documents. Most days, I am in my office and do a lot of email and phone calls, with other attorneys and clients. I think most if not all lawyers would say that they work hard, and you need to spend time to be successful, and profitable. Most lawyers get compensated based on their effort and their time- that's why it's billable hours. Even if lawyers are on a salary, they still have to justify the wages by spending time on client matters. There is some flexibility, you may have the ability to choose when you work, earlier or later in the day, or to work some days and not others, but it's really job-specific. I think it's safe to say that you will spend a lot of time and effort to become an attorney, then more staying an active attorney, but if you like what you do, it's worth it!

Thank you so much for your insightful response:) Autum C.

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Desiree’s Answer

Jenna and Carol gave terrific responses. I agree with all they said.

I started my legal career at a large law firm with lots of companies - and government entities - as clients. I had lots of different types of clients and did transactional work (like Jenna and Carol - emails, contract drafting/review/negotiation, due diligence/investigation, meeting with other professional experts in tax, engineering, accounting, etc); litigation (preparing to go to court); and mediation (presenting a commercial disagreement to a mediator to be settled based on contracts and evidence - sort of like a mini trial with no jury). The litigation & mediation work involved drafting and filing motions, preparing discovery/reviewing the other side's discovery (all the evidence and documents), preparing for and take depositions, etc. Those parts are really intense in each phase, which is rather formulaic based on the trail calendar (you cannot put the cart before the horse!). The fun part about a law firm is that you have a variety of clients and you are juggling lots of different matters. Some clients were terrific to work with and gave you fun, challenging legal problems to sort out - that made the time fly by! On occasion, I'd have a very grouchy and prickly client which made the demanding work of practicing law feel even harder. At a large law firm there is an expectation that you will put in a lot of hours. You need to meet the "billable" hours (i.e., the time that gets charged to clients), but you also have to take Continuing Legal Education, write articles for your firm's blogs/white papers and maybe even a local bar association, work on landing new clients (or keeping old clients happy) - aka "client development". So in addition to the the billable hour commitment, there is a significant non-billable hour requirement, too. There are no two ways about it: working at a large law firm is competitive, hard work that requires a huge time commitment with limited flexibility (although firms are always trying to improve the so-called work/life balance).

After the law firm, I took an in-house position, working for a large international company. This was much more flexible, but also required a lot of flexibility from m take phone calls at all hours to accommodate matters in other countries, travel (before COVID put the brakes on that), and I even moved to we: Iork for the company in Asia for a few years. Once you are working for one company, you have one client. You have to keep that one company (and everyone who works there, each of whom is arguably your client!) happy with your work - even if you have to advise them that their newest, greatest idea is not possible under the law; that there is a new law that will require additional expense for compliance; or that a law suit didn't end the way they'd hoped. You need to be strong and diplomatic when you have to bear "bad" news, so that can be hard. But you also get to know the company so well - you get to help shape policies, address issues before they become problems, and protect the company. Rather than just be retroactive and putting out fires (like most attorneys in law firms), you get to be pro-active. It's exciting to stay abreast of the business strategy and direction, to try to anticipate legal hurdles, and then to find the ways to accomplish the business objective while staying compliant under the law. Frankly, I think all the lawyers at my company work hard and put in a lot of time. However, we have much more flexibility -- and are required to be flexible -- as to when we work.

Based on my experience and observations, to be a successful attorney, you need to put in long hours (especially at the start of your career). The more senior you are, the more flexibility you have, but the need to work hard never seems to lessen.

Desiree recommends the following next steps:

Research Attorney Work/Life Balance (e.g., https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/publications/litigation_journal/2019-20/fall/there-no-worklife-balance/ )