• Why do some attorneys decide to quit their law firm instead of taking some time off to recharge themselves?
  • This is because, according to some attorneys, law firms frown on their attorneys taking large chunks of time off for anything other than a life-changing event.
  • This is also true for attorneys who take a hiatus from their entire law practice.
  • If you do this, you might find it difficult to get another law firm job.

It is becoming increasingly common for attorneys desiring more than a few weeks off from the practice of law to simply quit their current jobs and take a hiatus from practicing law. Unlike some other professions, most law firms do not look favorably upon attorneys' taking more than a few weeks off unless they are involved in "a major life event." In the calculus of most law firms, a "major life event" is primarily limited to such circumstances as the death of a close family member (usually a spouse), a life-threatening illness, or the birth of a child (only if you are a woman). Accordingly, practicing attorneys without such explanations often simply quit, explaining to flabbergasted partners that they want to take some time off for travel or reflection—they need a hiatus from practicing law. The logic most attorneys follow in quitting is that if they take significant time off from their current firm under any guise other than one of these life-changing events, they will harm their chances for advancement in their current firm's eyes, and therefore, they need to quit completely and find a new law firm once they are ready to return to legal practice. Given the way that law firm politics generally work, that logic is pretty accurate.

Can You Take a Break from Practicing Law to Recharge and Regroup and then Come Back?
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

As a hardworking attorney in a major firm, you may feel you have earned time off after enduring inhumane working hours and stress for a year or more. We do not dispute that taking a break is something you may vitally need. Firm-related stress is so extreme that we have known of attorneys in the past who have had nervous breakdowns. If you are facing such emotional difficulties, your belief might be that taking a leave of absence will allow you to return to the practice of law energized and ready for new heights of achievement. Indeed, many attorneys who have taken a hiatus from practicing law and successfully returned describe their time off as one of the most valuable things they have ever done for their careers. In many other professions (such as working as a professor in a major university), sabbaticals of a year or more are often imposed as a job requirement once every few years in the belief that they will return to their jobs more focused and with a new perspective on their work.