As a young lawyer, I occasionally follow a few different law blogs and regularly read the newsletter put out by the American Bar Association. One recent discussion caught my eye. One big law firm is offering associates the opportunity to take a paid year off. The catch? They only get paid a third of their salary.
(I know a little bit about this firm, and I have to admit, it’s the sort of firm that I never wanted to work at. Amazing pay, but absolutely horrible hours. Make your way through the first ten years or so and things get better, but I would rather make less money and have more time to spend with my friends and family.)
Of course, for these well paid associates, a third of their salary is still around $80,000, more than a lot of people make in a year anyway, so that definitely plays in to their ability to take the offer. I’m sure most of them have crazy law school debt – I would bet that you don’t get to a firm like that without going to a top dollar school.
But the idea is appealing. My roommate is currently finishing graduate school and discussing that a lot of her friends are taking time off to go backpack around Europe. My sister is graduating college and her roommate is planning a cross-country roadtrip before starting her job in the fall. I never did anything like this. I finished college, went to work a week later. I quit my job and started law school 2 weeks after that. I finished law school, spent the summer studying for the bar exam, took the bar exam, spent a few weeks in a daze after all that work, then moved to D.C. and started my new job. And that’s where I am now. I never took the time to enjoy life and enjoy freedom before going straight into grown-up life.
Some of these lawyers are planning to do just that – travel. Others plan to do pro-bono work or charity work elsewhere in the world. The possibilities are a bit mind boggling.
I did a bit of quick math, and at a third of my salary, things would be a bit difficult. I could pay rent and probably buy food and… yeah, it would be difficult. But for this game, let’s assume I could do it. What would I do with my time? The idea of a long vacation sounds amazing. It would be fun to drive across the country and stop in on friends and family in various cities and see the sites. The United States is an amazing country, and I would love to spend more time seeing what it has to offer. But that wouldn’t take a year. I would like to go back to doing pro-bono law work, to be honest. There are so many people out there who need legal services but can’t afford them, and places that offer free legal services are often painfully understaffed. I would probably try to pick up a hobby or two, those things that I always want to try but never find the time to do. I want to learn to play guitar, for example. Maybe take some cooking classes. I’d probably spend a lot of time at the gym, too, especially if I’m spending time cooking and eating!
Of course, I would also have more time to spend researching and writing blog posts.
What would you do if you could take a year off at a portion of your salary? I’m sure for those of you with kids, it’s a great opportunity to try out being a stay-at home parent. Or maybe it’s a good time to start a family. Or to drop all your responsibilities and sail around the world. So many possibilities!