Have a family obligation this weekend, so of course partner just emails me to ask if I have time to do some research this weekend. How to handle?

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Just literally say that - you have a family obligation this weekend that you’d committed to a while ago. You’re happy to assist but can it wait until Monday.

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Yes, tell them you can't (it's okay to say prior commitments) and commit to a time when you can get it finished. Let the partner decide if that timeline works for them.

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The decision about whether or not to take on work when you have other commitments is not an easy yes/no dichotomy. My advice is that you don’t turn down the work until you analyze the situation and consider the consequences.

The first thing to do is to find out what the work is and how much time it will take. Second, is it something relating to a case or matter you are assigned to so you are the only person who can do the work thoroughly and efficiently? Third, when is it due? Is it essential that the work be done over the weekend, or can it wait until Monday? If there is a filing deadline or a client-imposed deadline, your passing on the assignment may just create more work for the partner, which will not endear you to that person. Third, where are you in your career? Fourth, how well do you know the assigning partner and what is your reputation with that person?

If the partner is someone you work with a lot who likes you and knows you are committed to the firm and its clients, you can be more candid about your family commitments. But be careful turning down work for a partner you don’t know well or haven’t worked with before.

Partners can make snap decisions about younger lawyers. Those snap decisions can have a big impact on your career. If you are a junior lawyer, you want to work very very hard in the first few years to demonstrate that the firm and its clients are your highest priority.

Your future at the firm — job security, compensation, possible partnership — hinge on whether the partners see you as a team player who will do what it takes to get the work done and get it done on time, or someone who always seems to have other commitments. Turning down work even once can quickly relegate you to the latter category. The larger the firm, the more likely it is that you get labeled early on as someone who has partnership potential or someone who does not.

If it’s only a few hours of research, and the assigning lawyer is a partner you don’t know well or haven’t worked for before, my recommendation is that you take a laptop with you and carve out some time over the weekend to get it done. Or do the work Sunday night or early Monday morning.

I graduated from law school in 1983, and this advice may seem old school to younger lawyers. The choices you make depend on where you want to be in 5-10 years and beyond. Owners of businesses put work first, employees do not. If you aspire to be a partner or start your own firm, you need to develop a business owner’s attitude toward your work. If that’s not a priority (and it’s not for many people), then you can go ahead and turn down work. Just be sure you think through the consequences before you do.

Good luck.

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I love this. I am a junior-to-mid level associate and still maybe old school in my thinking, but I feel like we are paid what we are paid because our clients and partners know we have to make sacrifices for the job sometimes. Yes, big family events, religious holidays etc should absolutely be considered appropriately, but I had a religious holiday and a deal closing the same day that I was leading, and I didn’t even say anything at the time. I was able to take my laptop and spend time with family, and close the deal (missed maybe an hour in the whole day with family, and no one noticed ha) because I was the only associate that could do it and had been working on this project for months/with this client for years. If you want it to be just a job, sure, we can say no. But if we want to prove ourselves as potential owners like C1 said, I think we have to do the evaluation and put in the effort even if it sucks sometimes.

Agree with A1 and A2. Communicating your commitments is important and I find that most law firm partners understand when you have prior commitments. Just be realistic when you can get to it and they’ll communicate whether they can wait or find someone else for the project.

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All of the above plus if true and feasible could you say I’d be happy to see if j. doe law clerk or associate could get the ball moving on this sooner

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Say no and explain why. If you always say yes, you will never prioritize other important things in your life.

Feel free to couch it in "if you can't find someone else to help let me know and I'll try to make time on Sunday evening" or something.

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Generally if there is something important enough to you that you cant do work, then its probably good enough to just use that reason.

I would even go so far as to say that you should be willing to say any reason, whatever it is - your partner kinda needs to know if you're gonna blow off work to go grab a drink with a friend, if you need to pick your kid up from school, or if you have a date and want to go see a movie. How far you are willing to communicate where work sits on your totem pole of priorities is up to you though.

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Agree with C1. The reason is none of anyone’s business.

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You can’t do it early morning/late night? Is the family obligation 24/7 this whole weekend?

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And this is why attrition is built into the model... 🙄

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