Work/Life Balance

Just Say No? Associates Dish on When They Did ... and Didn't

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Plumbers get paid at a significantly higher rate for after-hours jobs. But law firm associates are often asked—no, expected—to accept last-minute after-hours work assignments, not only for no additional pay but even when the work interferes with significant family and social obligations.

When should an associate just say no to such “requests,” even at the potential cost of being derailed from the law firm’s partnership track? That question, posed in a recent Wall Street Journal Law Blog post, and discussed as well as in another post today in the newspaper’s The Juggle blog, apparently hit a hot button with a number of readers both inside and outside the legal profession.

Even when the request would seem to be over the top, however, and the need for emergency associate time at least a bit dubious (one WSJ Law Blog commenter talks about a Sunday phone call to his home requesting that he miss his child’s first birthday party in order to put in time at the photocopy machine on a big deal), it takes courage to just say no, readers agree. At the same time, though, it is, at least sometimes, the right and necessary thing to do.

Working as a law firm associate, “you’re a fungible unit, so why not reap the benefit of that and say no sometimes?” asks one anonymous poster in today’s thread. “As for ruining one’s chances for partnership, partnership is far from a guarantee. How much would you kick yourself for blowing off major life events only to be told ‘Sorry’ in eight years?”

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