So how does an “unlimited PTO” policy (if you have one) work in actuality at your firm?

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As long as you meet your billable req 🤷‍♂️

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You can take off “whenever you have time” aka not very often.

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It’s not real time. Basically, take vacation as long as you meet your hours. Okay. Assuming 1,950 is a normal billable requirement, that factors out to 162.5 hours per month to hit your minimum. You basically need to bill slightly above 8 hours a day to get that, which means you need to work about 9-10 hours a day. Factor in required non-billable time (marketing, speaking, writing, golf outings, lunches, etc.), taking time off for holidays (which by the way is compounded if you’re Jewish like me), time off to deal with kids and them being sick or not having child care for any reason, and there’s basically no way you can take a real vacation and still hit your hours without working like a dog over the weekends or other times to make up that time. And people ask why lawyers burn out.

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I’m starting my second year as of this month and unfortunately I am going to be a little shy this month for meeting the requirement. I took two days off (one of which was technically a state holiday) so I’m effed for the month. It just sucks.

It makes you never truly able to take vacation... also, tends to keep you in questioning if you should take a vacation until the last months before your billable year ends (what if next month is slow? A vacation in March if your billable year ends in December is stressful...)

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I implemented this at my firm and for us, it’s based on billables. Hit your numbers and I don’t care if you come to the office ever. Go on vacation, stay home if you’re sick... whatever. Exceed your numbers and you still get unlimited PTO and a bonus.

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It means you can go on tons of vacations, but if you have low hours and consistently let your team down by not being there then you’ll probably get fired. While people at my firm tend to take an average amount of actual vacation time, it’s rarely abused. Our firm encourages taking vacation when needed. That said, lately the people that have been getting totally slammed (like 400 hrs/mo slammed) have been taking long vacations to unwind when their deal ends or gets to a slow point (generally about 3-4 weeks off w/ 1-2 weeks of little emailing). But in all reality these people definitely have well-above average hours for this year.

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400 hours a month slammed?!?! Which theoretically equates to 13 hours a day every single day? I would fucking quit the practice of law entirely.

Unless there is a formal way to schedule the time off, it’s illusory. Other than my honeymoon, I’ve never been able to take a real vacation in the almost decade that I’ve been at my biglaw firm. Sure, I’ve traveled a lot but it’s never been an unplugged vacation (I doubt this actually exists in the USA any longer) as I always end up spending at least a few hours each day billing.

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As a younger attorney, I also naively thought it would get better as I advanced (“shit rolls down hill”). There was probably a year period as a mid-level where that was true and I could find someone to temporarily cover the heavy lifting on a transaction for me, but once you get to a spot where you are assuming a relational role with clients, you are expected to always be available if something comes in the door (because this is the nature of our service industry, even clients that I consider friends/partners expect availability - they’ll just apologize for/acknowledge blowing up your attempted time away instead of ignore it).

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I had that at my prior firm, it was terrible. They made it incredibly difficult to use but also kept touting it as such a special perk.

I am in plaintiff litigation, so there are no billing requirements for us. I think that makes a huge difference. I also have a family with young children. Unlimited PTO means I take long weekends when I please and go on vacations for school breaks. I don’t ever hesitate. And it’s phenomenal. Sure, there are times where I have to put in half days on my vacations, etc. but i don’t miss out on the experience. The overall culture of my firm is “work hard, play hard.” So vacations are respected and encouraged as long as you’re hustling and handling business when you’re in office.

It’s the same for our office and quite frankly, I think it results in better work, anyway. You take care of them, they’ll take care of you.

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