There Is More
Recently, I heard about a lawyer who had publicly remarked—with no small amount of pride—that they seldom took vacations in their many years of practice. Coincidentally, around the same time, two other attorneys also told me that they routinely carry over some of their vacation time to the following year because of demands at work. I myself have frequently observed over my years in the profession the emotional tug-of-war many lawyers feel when weighing the pros and cons of time off versus billable hours.
Despite rigorous Googling, I have yet to find a single article, reference, or even fake news report suggesting that physical or emotional health or professional practice is enhanced by forgoing or postponing taking planned time away from work. Nor could I find any source even hinting this might be a budgetary or cost-saving strategy. While this absence of authority doesn’t actually prove anything, it does suggest (unsurprisingly, I’d think) there are few voices out there advocating that reducing or eliminating vacations will positively impact our lives—either personally or professionally.
On the contrary, an abundance of credible authority supports the importance of lawyers fully embracing the value of incorporating periodic away time in their schedules. In a very real sense, doing so is on par with getting adequate sleep, nourishment, and regular exercise. All of these are indispensable parts of well-being, as workers and as individuals. Considerable research in the last few years confirms that vacations contribute to a reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress—all mental health challenges known to disproportionately affect the legal profession. Of equally vital significance is the fact that quality time spent with family or friends reinforces and improves our social connections and our relationships—a sine qua non of good mental health. Law firms and other legal employers are progressively coming to recognize these fundamental well-being truths, and many are affirmatively encouraging their professional staff to fully use their paid leave.
Finally, vacations can, on occasion, provide a profoundly unique opportunity to glean new insights or perspectives into one’s own life. Such clarity often comes only by being away. While this experience can occur anywhere, of course, my personal fondness has always been for the Oregon Coast. One of my favorite poems, There Is More, captures for me this experience of clarity.
Roaring silence, curling waves,
Cotton clouds, sights to save,
Parents lounging, children chasing,
Kites flying, dogs racing,
Salted winds, shelled shore,
All calmly claim: There is more.
More is life than city sights,
Blaring buses, traffic lights,
Hurried lunches, meeting goals,
Tempered truths, hapless souls.
It seems that always we must be
away from it before we see:
There is more!