On January 23rd I wrote a post called “How To Stop Big Law From Ruining Your Life.” I wrote it in long-hand on a legal pad in a cab on the way home from work and never posted it on here because everything fell apart on January 24th.
On January 24th, Robert had surgery to reconstruct a torn ACL in his knee. I took the day off from work. Scratch that. I told my bosses I was taking the day off from work and I didn’t go into the office, but I worked all day. In the hospital waiting room while Robert was being prepped for surgery. In the hospital cafe while Robert was under the knife. In the car while I drove around town picking up prescriptions and bags of ice. At the kitchen table while Robert was passed out on the couch. In 30 minutes spurts between delivering yogurt and sparkling water to the invalid and helping him move around the apartment. I broke down that night and every day for the next few weeks as my work life and my personal life collided.
That blog post about surviving Big Law was premised on the idea that you have to (and that you can) make time for your personal life. Surgery taught me that my idea of work-life balance was based on the faulty premise that having a personal life means having time to go out to dinner and walk the dog and maybe exercise or read a book. Most of the time, that is what my personal life looks like. But surgery taught me that, other times, having a personal life means spending every moment worrying about another human being, and being the one in charge of grocery shopping and the cooking and the cleaning and the laundry and all the dog walking and feeding, and prepping the ice packs before bed, and changing bandages after a shower, and going into work late and leaving early in order to have time to do all those things. Surgery taught me that sometimes personal takes precedence over work and that there is no work-life balance when work always wins the fight.
On January 25th, I updated my resume and blew the dust off a few old writing samples. On February 14th, I had an offer. On February 21st, I put in my notice. On March 13th, I packed up my office into a banker’s box and rolling trial brief case, and walked out those revolving glass doors.
That blog post about surviving Big Law contained the one qualifying statement that I hadn’t yet gone through the annual review process when I wrote it. I thought that my advice was good advice about how to be happy, but I wasn’t sure if it was good advice about how to be successful. As it happens, the review process was more than fine. I don’t know if my techniques about priorities and getting out of the office made me successful, but they did not impede my success, or at least not the perception of my performance. I can’t, in good conscience, publish this post now, because it turns out my advice was not good advice about how to be happy in Big Law. When I actually started following it, it took me right out of my job and into another.