Paul Simon’s biggest hit was a lie. In 1975, he topped the charts with Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, but in fact the song lists only five. (Somehow, no one sued him over this.)
In the spirit of that song, coupled with the theme of this website, I offer my own Fifty Ways to Leave the Office. (Fine print: “Fifty” is puffery, and I make no representation that I offer more than six or seven such ways, or even that fifty different ways indeed exist. Are we good?) So sing along…
Get off the phone, Joan
Don’t think about fees, Lee
Don’t fall for the con, John
Just get yourself gone
Don’t wait one more minute, Bridget
Have someplace to go, Joe
You’re no automaton, Ron
Just get yourself gone
Let’s engage in a bit of song analysis, Chris. My lyrics are not as clever as Rhymin’ Simon’s, but they may prove more on point.
Get off the phone: Just… stop. There is always more to do. One more call, one more email, one more page to read or write. There is rarely a clean break between “this one is important” and “the next one is less so.” Finish a task, close the computer, put down the phone, and go. The work will still be there tomorrow. And while of course there will be deadlines that require very late nights, don’t fall into the trap of turning all of your work into such deadline-driven madness.
Don’t think about fees: Another billable six minutes, more money. True (sometimes true, anyway). But are you providing your best to your clients by slogging on? Are you providing your best to yourself, so that you’ll want to keep loving this job next week, next year? If it’s “all about the Benjamins,” then you’re already lost (and probably on the wrong website). Think not of lost fees but of family, and home, and sanctuary, and a life where you spend those Benjamins on activities that please and refresh and delight and inspire you.
Don’t fall for the con: Being a great lawyer isn’t about working the most, but about working the best – and about doing the best you can for your clients. Giving them your best self, your best work. Your best work doesn’t come after ten-hour days (Often your best – or at least most inspired – work comes when you’re free of the office).
Just get yourself gone: Now. Make tracks, not excuses.
Don’t wait one more minute: Find a stopping point, and stop (By the way, sorry about rhyming “minute” and “Bridget.” I’m writing this at 8AM and haven’t had my coffee yet).
Have someplace to go: Think not about what you’re leaving behind until the morning but rather about where you’re going, what awaits. And if you think nothing awaits, then a) this article can’t fix the problem and b) go invent something. Go to a movie, take a walk, read a book. As the poet Warsan Shire said about the refugee crisis, “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” For too many lawyers, the “land” – the known confines and comfort of the office routine – remains safe, and the “water” – relationships – is filled with reefs, shoals, and sharks. It’s a subconscious assignment of relative value. Please don’t fall into that trap.
You’re no automaton, but working too many long, slogging hours will turn you into one. That’s not why you went to law school.
Just get yourself gone: Try it tonight. Pick a time and stick to it. And most importantly, leave the office at the office. When you’re gone, stay gone. And enjoy the heck out of whatever you’re doing instead, Fred.[By the way, if you really want to engage in lyrical analysis, consider these exegeses of Creeque Alley (The Mamas and the Papas), We Didn’t Start the Fire (Billy Joel), or American Pie (Don McLean). Or not. Unless it gets you out of the office.]