Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, April 03, 2004

The other day I was thinking about the texture my days used to have when I was working in Manhattan. Back then people used to ask me all the time if the hours I was putting in were oppressive (actually what they'd say was more along the lines of, "Don't you hate working those kind of hours?)but the truth is that it was sort of nice. New York City litigators back then used to get a little bit of a break-- the days usually started in court, which meant that there was seldom any place you had to be before 9:30, and you could, if necessary, show up by 10 and still be in good shape. There were exceptions, of course--trial days meant 9, and sometimes you had to be in the office early, but, like a lot of young people I favored making my day longer at the back end, and the rhythm of the practice lent itself to that.

Typically I'd be in court, or conducting a deposition until around one o'clock. Afternoon sessions commenced around two, but unless I was on trial I'd be on my way back to the office by then. Usually I'd grab something to eat on my way back, then eat my sandwich or whatever as I did my time entries for the morning. I'd go through my mail, dictating responses as I went along, and then it was five or five thirty, and the staff started going home. The day took on a different texture at that point: the telephone stopped ringing, and the only people left in the office were lawyers. At that point, I'd turn my attention to the projects that needed doing: writing appeals, drafting motions, report letters to clients, things like that. We'd have gone over what we would be doing the following day before five, as a rule, and I would have a look at whatever that consisted of during this time as well. If you enjoy practicing law, then this is all interesting stuff. Usually I'd go to about 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, then I'd knock off and go home. The train was not crowded, I'd read The New Yorker or something, and when I got home I'd have a beer, eat something, and be in bed by about midnight.

There were things not to like about it, sure: I ate a lot of junk-- or, at least, I ate a lot of stuff that wasn't very slimming. I did not exercise at all. It was not a very social time in my life, but I really liked it. Lately I have been trying to get back into the longer days-- I am more efficient when I allow my day to be spent along the rhythm that a litigation practice demands, instead of fighting it. One change that life in this city allows is that I can go to the gym in the time that I used to spend eating and getting back to the office. This represents a quality of life improvement, although as I sit here writing this now, I am missing the eggplant pizza I used to get from the hole in the wall shop by Grand Central.

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