Here's a story I enjoyed from last Thursday's New York Times. I think Thursday has always been my favorite day of the week for the Times: it used to be when they had the big Circuits section, there's always something fun in the Styles section, and the crossword puzzle starts to get interesting! And I often like Lisa Belkin's "Life's Work" column. This one is about how law firms are starting to become more flexible about the work/life balance, and realize that they might have an easier time competing for the best people if they acknowledge that the lifestyle of a typical big-firm lawyer kind of sucks! According to the article, lawyers at big firms are expected to bill about 42 hours a week, which means actually putting in more than 60 hours of time in the office. But now some firms are starting to allow people to choose other options, which basically mean choosing to earn less money in exchange for having a life.
Deborah Epstein Henry founded a consulting firm called Flex-Time Lawyers and proposes these work time options, under a program called FACTS:
FACTS is an acronym. Under Ms. Henry’s proposal, work time can be: Fixed (allowing lawyers to choose less high-profile work for more predictable schedules), or Annualized (intense bursts of high-adrenaline work followed by relative lulls); Core (with blocks mapped out for work and for commitments like meeting children at the bus); Targeted (an agreed-upon goal of hours, set annually, customized for each worker, with compensation adjusted accordingly); and Shared (exactly as it sounds).
As a single, childless person, I am not driven by some of the needs that would make people consider earning less money. My current job offers a pretty good balance of pay vs. a relatively sane lifestyle, and I wouldn't want to make any less money. I'd rather earn more money, but I wouldn't really want to have to work much harder for it! But if I was a lawyer and had to deal with working 60 hours a week as a baseline, and if I was making, say, $300,000 a year, then I think I would totally love the idea of working 40 hours a week for $200,000. (I'm just guessing at the salary range here, assuming someone my age would have over 10 years at a firm. Perhaps it's actually higher given that lawyers at these big firms are making over $150,000 their first year!)
Would you choose time over money, if your employer offered that option? How much money would you have to be making to consider trading some of it away for a less hectic work schedule? Which is worth more to you, money or time?