So you want to leave the office early on Friday. With just a few hours until the weekend, you have created an airtight strategy for leaving early… and unnoticed.
Step 1. Schedule all meetings before 4:00pm. You have to check-in with other associates about the case. And, just to be sure it doesn’t interfere with your date with the exit door at 5:00-sharp, you rearrange meetings for Friday morning.
Step 2. Leave your suit jacket at the office. You entered with a suit jacket, but you’ll exit without one. It’s always nice to have a back-up suit jacket in the office (plus, people will think you’re planning to return when you slip out around 4:59pm).
Step 3. Answer all e-mails that implies you will get back to them in full detail on Monday. In a law firm, urgency is often a misused term. It’s easy to look at every action item as “urgent.” But, you know better. You’ve strategically responded to e-mails with the line, “I am investigating your query and will return with a response on Monday.” That’ll teach those over-urgent e-mailers a lesson.
Step 4. You worked late on Thursday. Everybody saw that you worked late on Thursday. And, just to be sure, you complained on Friday morning about how late you worked Thursday evening. Obviously the hours will cancel out.
Step 5. You have a family, friends, and a life—no excuses needed! There’s no need to glance up and down the hallway to ensure a clean getaway. No need to scale the fire escape just to avoid the stare of your secretary. Throw away that pencil-drawn map of the office. Clandestine exits are a thing of the past. Today, professionals are expected to maintain a work-life balance. So, you can forget the stigma involved and just announce your early departure, right?
So, you managed to successfully sneak out of the office early on Friday. But, while you were frantically distracting the lobby attendant and thinking about your golf swing, you forgot about the many reasons why you should have stayed.
First, law firm partners are also thinking about their weekend plans. And, in doing so, they’ve thought up dozens of tasks that still need completing. When they found your office empty, they asked your colleague. When raises and bonuses are being discussed, you’ll find the partners no longer find your work indispensible.
Second, everybody wants to leave early on Friday. You’re not the only one with plans. But, people grunt out the day as required. So, when you leave early (and it will likely not go unnoticed) you’ll be at the center of angsty boardroom gossip. It’s hard to press “undo” on the resentment felt by your colleagues after they had to work over the weekend to type up that brief you so elegantly avoided doing yourself.
Third, the economy is still tight. There are hundreds of unemployed lawyers looking to replace you. Unfortunately law is the profession of over-supply and under-demand.
Finally, if you’re looking to escape the office every Friday, perhaps you should reevaluate the firm at which you work or the cases that you’ve taken. In the ideal world, a career should be intellectually and personally fulfilling. If you’re increasingly dissatisfied at work, it’s probably time to reevaluate your life ambitions. Instead of planning for the short-term (a sneaky weekend getaway) talk to a career counselor about your long-term goals.
If you’re bored, unchallenged, or personally unfulfilled by the cases your firm handles, ask your law firm manager to take on a more interesting pro-bono case. Propose a budget and business plan for a non-profit that can boost the profile of your law firm.
Once in awhile, leaving the office early on a Friday is necessary for your mental health. However, if it becomes a chronic issue or desire, the solution for this problem is most likely found inside yourself (and not outside the office).