The best jobs for juggling work and life

by Grace aka costofcollege

The best jobs for balancing work and life

It’s a little counterintuitive that the jobs that are most compatible with a happy family life are also jobs that require a serious education in math and science, ones that some might even see as traditionally male positions.

What do you think?

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179 thoughts on “The best jobs for juggling work and life

  1. It has nothing to do with the patriarchy or whether a profession is traditionally male. Nurses and teachers have a good work-life balance, too.

    It’s about having some sort of credentialing that limits the applicant pool (engineering degree, CPA, RN). Less important, but for the purposes of this survey, they tend to only see the fields where there’s a certain ceiling against advancement (without shifting job titles), so leaving at 4:30 is fine.

    It’s false to imply that an Ivy-educated employer can’t have family-friendly job. Go be a lawyer for the Social Security Administration.

  2. I think the survey is suspect – note ” job titles must have at least 75 work-life balance ratings shared by U.S.-based employees over the past year”. I would guess there are lots of job titles where people don’t share stuff on glassdoor. :)

  3. for those of us who are simply paid to write

    I think her problem is that those jobs tend to have an oversupply of candidates. The more in demand your skill set and the fewer qualified candidates the more flexibility you can demand. You have to be good at and like doing what most people are bad at and hate doing.

  4. I totally agree with Milo. I have a family friendly job, for various definitions. I can be off any weekday I like (as long as I have several weeks notice). I never work when I am at home. I work part time, with no career trajectory consequences (because there is no career trajectory). Some of my colleagues complain about working too much, not having enough time for anything, but they are making a purely financial decision. They could make 30% less and still have an income adequate to pay loans, live well and save for the future. While it is easier to find this kind of balance in my field, it’s available across most specialties – the VA hires just about all kinds of practitioners, as do other federal sites.

  5. Are you happy with your work life balance where you work?

    I’ve always been happy with the jobs I have had.

    I knew public accounting would not be for me because of the crazy hours.

  6. I think dentists, ortho, endodontist etc is a great job for balance when you share a practice. Some days off, and few weekends. The money is much better than hygienist if you join a busy practice. Our pediatric dentist is booked solid and there are four dentists and an ortho. Same with my regular dentist and she is slowing down to three days a week.

    It’s possible to find balance in banking and finance, but you have to pick your spots. Also, your company and manager have to buy in. There are some good examples of this right now at Amex, Deloitte and even JPMorgan.

  7. lab assistant??? Are they talking about research labs or something else? Research lab assistants are mainly grad students who don’t get paid much and are at the total beck and call of the lab director.

  8. I have a good friend here in town who is a UX engineer, and it does seem really family friendly. She works from home a lot and was able to be part time for a number of years. That is good because her DH is a software engineering manager who works long hours, and they have 3 kids

  9. “It’s about having some sort of credentialing that limits the applicant pool (engineering degree, CPA, RN). Less important, but for the purposes of this survey, they tend to only see the fields where there’s a certain ceiling against advancement (without shifting job titles), so leaving at 4:30 is fine.”

    Yes, and most of those are “jobs that require a serious education in math and science”. Teachers are one exception.

    IIRC, among highly educated women, doctors are least likely to drop out of the workforce because their jobs are more flexible and suitable for balancing home and work.

  10. I think it partly is how you define balance. Early in my career, the work was cyclical and with very high peaks and very low, relaxed valleys. It was before there was as much technology to let you work outside the office, but the employer judged more on what you produced than the hours you put in. Working hard for 6 months and then taking a month off was fine – pre-kids. When my first child was born, flexibility came in a slight reduction in work hours to allow for breastfeeding and avoiding rush hour to get more time at home before she went to bed. Now, it is part-time, work from home, and very flexible hours worked. I’m not in any of the careers listed in the article.

    My experience is that the more valuable your employer sees you, the more flexiblity you get, regardless of what the employer’s policies state. The other component is trust – do you get your work done when you get the flexibility. I agree that some jobs just require you to be present at a particular place during fixed hours, have internal controls that require you to work with others to ensure security and/or safety, or need you in close proximity for training if you do not have experience in that profession or need training specific to your employer.

  11. Nurses and teachers have a good work-life balance, too.

    I’ve talked about nursing before. it depends on how you are defining balance and family friendly as to whether nursing fits. In terms of being able to leave work at work and not needing to be available after hours, then yes, it is family friendly. And you can work different shifts (within limits) to fit with your spouse’s schedule. However, it is very inflexible if you want to start an hour later so you can drop your kids at school, or if you need leave early one day for a dr appt or such. And it is incredibly unfriendly for dealing with emergent situations, such as sick kids.

  12. Not everyone can be an orthodontist or a post doctorate. I suspect that there are more people employed in private labs than academic – think hospitals, Monsanto, Amgen, etc. Lots of dishwashers needed. And while it may not be a totebagger career, the work life balance beats the crap out of fast food or many other jobs.

  13. What Rhett said.

    I have also seen friends and colleagues leverage in-demand skill sets by moving from a prestigious, inflexible employer (think I-banking) to a less prestigious employer where they are a big fish in a small pond.

    Assuming your manager cares about production as opposed to butt-in-seat time, I know plenty of rock stars killing it in “full time” jobs that are working from home, and not putting in 40 hours a week.

  14. Having said that about nursing, I have to say I’ve hit the jackpot for work-life balance with my current NP job. I’m rounding on patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There aren’t any appointments so I can start at whatever time I want. If I need to finish early, I can do that. I can chart from home if I need to. I can leave in the middle of the day and come back. My boss said pretty much her only requirement is the patients need to be awake when you see them.

  15. DD – I disagree with what you’re saying. While nurses do not have the flexibility to come in late or leave early, or run out for an hour to catch a school performance, in my experience they are able to call in sick when they have a sick child or a child care emergency. In my department, there are 20 or so nurses scheduled per 24 hour period. Most days there is at least one sick call. I have never met a nurse who doesn’t have paid sick leave I don’t have much experience with how clinics work. But, again, there are jobs available with good worklife balance for nurses, at least as I define it.

  16. My job is pretty flexible now. Not when I was starting out for sure, but it has gotten a lot better. Except when I have to meet clients in person or talk to co-workers *in the office* (there is one particular partner who I am thinking of here), I can do my entire job from home. As a side note, this requires an assistant who can receive the paper that we get and then scan it in, but I am now training my boss to have everything scanned into our system so we can look at it from anywhere. :)

    I think many office jobs are slowly, slowly, SLOWLY becoming more flexible with working at home etc., despite the retrenching of Marissa Mayer and similar counterparts. Particularly in tech – DH’s little cousin and his friends (mid-20s CS types) all have jobs where they work from wherever most of the time. DH also just turned down a job where he would have to go into an office every day; the guys running that office are both late-50s, and I think there is a generational divide somewhere between 40 and 55 where face time is essential vs. not important.

  17. Family friendly is also in the eye of the beholder. Lactation rooms or on site concierge services may appeal to some; a fixed schedule with a firm departure hour may be more important to others; remote work for still others. For most knowledge work, having defined “off-hours” may be a pipe dream nowadays, and is in fact not desirable to many who like to pick and choose their “off-hours”.

    Corporate tax is one of those dirty jobs Rhett describes (multiple job listings all over the country, never a recession – “death and taxes”). I could work on my own terms till 80 if I wanted to.

  18. I agree with Milo & Rhett (relatively high demand / low supply for whatever reason). And Ada…life is about tradeoffs.

    I make about the same I made 12-15 yrs ago when I was working for a big international company, traveling a lot, sometimes on the corporate jet, sometimes internationally, doing interesting work with smart people. Then WHAM!, laid off. ~4 years of doing stuff to make ends meet, then I caught on with my current employer. Locally large, completely different industry. Payscale much lower than in my previous industry, hence one reason why I make the same as long ago. But also “long hours” in my current role mean about 8-530 and a weekend afternoon 2-3x/year just to catch up from weeks that are unexpectedly busy (like last week when I was given a pretty large project on Tuesday that needed to be done by Friday, helping out another group BECAUSE I HAVE THE SPECIFIC SKILL NEEDED). I still do interesting work with perhaps even smarter people. And I make plenty so that along with DW we have enough to keep us in a perfectly fine UMC station of life. No travel, so I’m home every night (after going to the gym).

    I’m pretty sure I want to keep things this way. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities, but It’ll take a lot to get me to leave this employer.

  19. I am usually in jobs where I have way too much work to do. If/when I complete the work, I get more work. I have had to make my own work-life balance by giving myself certain “rules”–I “have to” leave by a certain time, limit my weekend work to 1-2 hours each weekend, etc.

  20. I think DH has pretty good work life balance even at a large firm. Occasionally he has a week or two where he’s staying up until the middle of the night, but more often than not he’s home for dinner and maybe has to do an hour or two more from home in the evenings. Maybe working on a weekend once every two months. His firm is probably top 75, but it’s not tops in the city, and we’re not in the Northeast.

    Now he lucked into a family friendly team where the clients pay their full rates so he can still be extremely profitable at 1700/1800 hours. He has a friend on a team that takes a lot of contingency cases and so sometimes after years of work they just don’t get paid so this friend bills 2300/2400 hours a year but is not earning as much as he could because his team isn’t that profitable. I suspect the law, like anything, is finding a good situation.

  21. I have never met a nurse who doesn’t have paid sick leave

    That would be pretty much every nurse who works in a nursing home. It comes out of your limited PTO time. So technically it’s paid sick leave, but it uses up your vacation days. I can’t speak to PTO policies at hospitals.

  22. “That would be pretty much every nurse who works in a nursing home. It comes out of your limited PTO time.”

    Of all places to have a policy that encourages employees to work when sick…

  23. When I worked in healthcare IT, we had hospital style PTO. It sounded awesome on the sruface: 6 weeks of the stuff. But, all your holidays, including Christmas, July 4, and Thanksgiving, had to come out of those 6 weeks. And of course, all sick days and personal vacation days were in those 6 weeks. If you had to go to a doctors visit, you had to take PTO, in 2 hour increments. You couldn’t make it up by working late. If there was a snow day, it came out of your PTO. And the worst of all, it was earned week by week. For those of us with kids or ailing parents, it seemed like we could never catch up. I felt so nickle and dimed over that stupid PTO.
    A friend of mine took a hospital based job recently, out in CA, and told me that her hospital had the exact same setup, and she was struggling for similar reasons. Her kids had a lot of doctors appointments and she ended up having to take some unpaid time because she hadn’t accrued enough PTO.

  24. Attorneys can have very flexible schedules, depending on the type of work they do. My schedule is very flexible (the work, however, never stops), and I do top-quality work as a partner in a law firm. But I don’t litigate (so, no filing deadlines) and my clients are almost all public agencies. I could certainly work a lot more, and the result would probably be more clients and a bigger book of business, but for now (with small children at home) I take advantage of flexibility to volunteer in the classroom every couple of weeks and spend evenings with my family. I have a great amount of control over my schedule. As they get older, I plan to advise my children that getting the most education you can will give you a higher chance of getting to a place where you have more control over your schedule (presumably because you’re the boss).

    Earlier in my career I definitely didn’t have this flexibility – I worked a lot of hours at a big firm in a big city; about three years in I moved to a smaller firm in a midsized city and then got married and had kids. Looking back, I couldn’t have planned it better. As it turns out, I didn’t really plan it at all, so I feel grateful that it’s turned out so well.

  25. Like Houston, every job I have ever had is never done. There is always more in the pipeline and you will burn out if you think you will ever have the flow under control. So, you prioritize, delegate if possible, identify ways for some of it to go away, and just limit how much you work. Employer policies make balance harder or easier – as MM and DD have noted.

    I think it is hard for young professionals, unless they already have had kids during college/grad school, to understand how much their life will change with kids. It influences job choices as well as other life choices. For example, we live in a “lesser”, firmly MC, not UMC neighborhood because this way we could take jobs that gave more flexibility and a little less pay for the family time.

  26. At my previous company, we had 5 sick days plus 3 weeks of vacation. And it was far more flexible – you had it all from the getgo, and if you had to go to a doctors appointment, you could just work in the evening to get finished. Or you could work from home if you needed to wait for the repair guy. Our hours were a lot more flexible too, which really helped. We had “core hours” from 10 to 4 where everyone was supposed to be in the office unless approved to work from home (which was usually a quick email to the tech lead). That meant I could schedule teacher meetings in the morning pretty easily. The Russians routinely abused core hours, rarely showing up before 11, but they worked hard so no one cared. The holidays, like Christmas, were true holidays and did not come out of the vacation time. And since sick days were separate, you didn’t feel like you were cutting out your vacation if you stayed home with the flu. The only bad thing was that the vacation did not roll over, and the fiscal end of year was June 30, so the company practically shut down in June as everyone scrambled to take vacation.

    My DH works at a company where sick days come out of PTO. He had 4 weeks, but I think he just went to 5 weeks. Holidays do not come out of PTO, and they are very flexible about doctors visits and working from home if a kid is sick. So he manages to retain most of his PTO for actual vacation. The bad part is the usual problem when sick days come out of PTO – everyone heads into work deathly ill.

  27. I want to make sure my daughter is aware of the work/life balance issues in what ever field she enters. I think this is important as I know Asian girls who think only of getting through the academic/training part (which they do successfully) but don’t think through what being a doctor, consultant, engineer or a high end restaurant chef actually means in terms of their personal life.

  28. I’ve only worked at universities but it’s always been a earn vacation/sick time as you go set up. However, the holiday time is so generous (two weeks off at Christmas), plus three weeks of vacation and two weeks of sick time every year that it more than makes up for the lower pay. I’ve never worked anywhere that was very strict about time off. If I’m an hour late due to a drs. appointment and I work an hour later another day I don’t tend to record it.

    My husband gets four weeks every year of vacation but I don’t think any one ends up taking that much and it doesn’t roll over. I don’t think he even bothers putting in sick time because even if he is sick he’s likely working from home (and honestly same with vacation a lot of times). In general time in/out doesn’t seem to matter at law firms because all that matters is your billable hours.

  29. The holidays, like Christmas, were true holidays and did not come out of the vacation time.

    Christmas you get free but if you want to take off Yom Kuppur that’s a vacation day?

  30. Rhett, I understand your objection, but what made the holiday policy so objectionable was that you didn’t have a CHOICE on Christmas (or July 4). The place was shut down, so you couldn’t work, but it still came out of PTO. In fact, I think the policy makes sense in an actual hospital setting where you need people to work on Christmas. But it didn’t make sense in an office setting, where the place was closed down on official holidays. I just would have rather that they gave us 4 weeks PTO plus official holidays. It would have felt more honest.

  31. 6 weeks of pto sounds like a dream. Someone who needs more than that likely needs to tap FMLA. And really, having a PTO that you have to use for both vacation and sick leave is not the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. So many people get zero paid vacation or sick days.

    Finn – I agree that job choices are all about trade-offs, and I wish my complaining partners would choose less hours and less money. However, most professionals don’t have the same ability to do that in such a linear fashion. DH could certainly not work 30% less and make 30% less money.

  32. “It’s a little counterintuitive that the jobs that are most compatible with a happy family life are also jobs that require a serious education in math and science”

    I don’t understand why she thinks this is counterintuitive. It’s supply and demand: we have more jobs that require “a serious education in math and science” than we have people with those credentials. That “serious education” is Milo’s bar to entry, the same way a law or medical degree is. Yes, a Ph.D is a bar to entry to getting a professorship in the humanities, but my mom just got 300 applicants for a position paying $30K a year, so the supply/demand curve cuts the other way there.

    The problem isn’t that for those who are “paid to write” have no end to their work; it’s that they have nothing measurable to distinguish their abilities from their competition’s, other than the number of words published (short of a Pulitzer). Scientists don’t have to win the Nobel Prize to prove their value-add; they have patents, products, research published in peer-review journals (speaking of high bar to entry!), certifications, specific/quantifiable experience running X machine or making Y product, etc. People who make their living from writing — including journalists and lawyers — are largely fungible with all of the others out there trying to do the same thing. It is the minority who have such a compelling voice/storytelling ability/knowledge base to be in such demand as to be able to write their own ticket.

  33. “I want to make sure my daughter is aware of the work/life balance issues in what ever field she enters.”

    I want to make sure my son is aware of that as well.

  34. DSS and his wife are already having some conflicts over his long hours. She’s insisting that he work more 9-5 and no weekends, but guess what — the world doesn’t work that way anymore. He’s making (low) six figures, but that comes with long hours and deadline pressures. She has a much slower job, but it comes with a lot lower salary. I hope they can figure it out.

  35. I agree with Rhett’s statement that “The more in demand your skill set and the fewer qualified candidates the more flexibility you can demand.” However for the next part, I think you overestimate how good you really have to be: “You have to be good at and like doing what most people are bad at and hate doing.” My whole career has been in Fortune 100 companies and I’m amazed at what is considered “good”. I think 98% of almost any job is showing up and doing what you said you were going to do by when you said you’d get it done by.

    I firmly believe that you work for a person and not a company. I’ve had terrible bosses and great bosses at each place I’ve worked. Even the bad bosses like me because my best quality is that I make my bosses look good. They don’t have to worry about stuff getting done, I figure out how to make things better, and I do things well.

    Granted, I could be higher up the food chain in my company, but I get paid pretty well for what I do. I have enormous flexibility right now – partly because my boss is great about that and partly because I just take it. I’ve become more and more about asking forgiveness rather than permission about things like that. Maybe a lot of you work with brilliant people, but where I’m at in the bowels of corporate America, I’m with more of the top 25% (that’s being generous) of a middle-of-the-road public, suburban high school. I’m amazed at the low quality of work some of my coworkers do and how hard it is to actually fire someone for performance. I could lose my job due to financial performance of the company, but I’d have to be very bad for a very, very long time before I lost it based on general performance.

    I think work/life balance can be found in most jobs if you are good at what you do. You’ll get more flexibility compared to others who aren’t as good at their jobs. Over this last year I’ve set more hard boundaries – not telling anyone about them but just doing them. I leave the office by a certain time, I rarely do work at home, I no longer have work email on my phone. And nobody noticed a difference in my output.

  36. Ada said “6 weeks of pto sounds like a dream. Someone who needs more than that likely needs to tap FMLA.”
    That is exactly what I thought when I took the job. But it didn’t work out that way.You hit mid Jan, and all your available PTO has been killed by Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day, plus 3 snow days (remember we accrued as we went, so it was common to have only 5 days available) and now your kid is sick. What do you do? People often ended up taking unpaid days.

  37. “Family friendly is also in the eye of the beholder. Lactation rooms or on site concierge services may appeal to some; a fixed schedule with a firm departure hour may be more important to others; remote work for still others. For most knowledge work, having defined “off-hours” may be a pipe dream nowadays, and is in fact not desirable to many who like to pick and choose their “off-hours”.”

    I totally agree. And it depends on the balance between working spouses too. DH has a job with reliable, shorter hours, but very little flexibility within those hours and no ability to work remotely for most things due to regulations around data security. I have a job where the workload requires longer hours/fewer “off” hours on a weekly basis, but I have a huge amount of flexibility on where and when I work, though the most efficient way to get most things done is still in the office during normal business hours for a variety of reasons. But I would rather have my set up, he would rather have his, and the balance allows us to take care of what family things need to be covered. He is available for school pickup almost everyday, and I am available to work from home or flex a few hours in a particular day when coverage is needed there. We both benefit from very generous time off policies as well.

  38. Rhett – In MA non exempt employees in retail cannot be required to work on the following days, but if they do it is time and a half. And for retail >7 employees the same applies to Sundays, and exempt employees cannot be forced to work. Nothing about other sabbaths. Manufacturing has fewer restrictions, but the holiday “voluntariness” requirement applies to the same holidays (not Sunday).

    Some employers have two floating holidays in addition to seven to ten “plant closing” legal holidays, which can be used for Yom Kippur or MLK day.

    Memorial Day
    Independence Day
    Labor Day
    Columbus Day
    Veterans Day
    Thanksgiving Day
    Christmas Day

  39. wine — she wound up taking a few months off but is now back in the same area of non-profit-land that she was in before, though she works for a weird organization (they’re all weird, though.) They want to buy a house so they need all the money they can get. Boston ain’t cheap.

  40. PTO that you have to use for both vacation and sick leave is not the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.

    I always thought it was common that the difference between sick and vacation time was that sick time came out of an unapproved time bucket while vacation time came out of an approved time bucket. Where I am now, the FTEs get 5 weeks of PTO plus holidays. But, you are only allowed 5 unapproved (i.e. no prior approval) days off before you get flagged in the system to be spoken to.

  41. Even the bad bosses like me because my best quality is that I make my bosses look good. They don’t have to worry about stuff getting done, I figure out how to make things better, and I do things well.

    Hey, me too — that’s why I was successful at my jobs. Also I didn’t come in and cry in their offices about stupid personal stuff, unlike my employees. I had the attitude that employees should be like kidneys — working in the background all the time efficiently but completely painlessly. Employees who caused problems I called “kidney stones”.

  42. I had the attitude that employees should be like kidneys — working in the background all the time efficiently but completely painlessly. Employees who caused problems I called “kidney stones”.

    nice

  43. DSS and his wife are already having some conflicts over his long hours.

    I’ve never understood that. Sure, there can be instances of a spouse working late just because it’s more peaceful at the office than coming home to 3 kids under 4, but for most people, why would you assume that your spouse is working long hours just for funsies rather than because the job requires it? And that s/he can just switch to 9-5 M-F with no effect on job security or salary?

    Please tell me that the complaint that he works too many hours isn’t paired with a complaint that he should be making more money. . .

  44. I don’t understand why she thinks this is counterintuitive.

    She has no clue how the world actually works. Every once in a while you hear or read something and you’re struck by how fundamentally clueless someone is. And they say it with such conviction.

  45. tcm hits on a lot of important things about how things work at lot of places:
    – 98% of almost any job is showing up and doing what you said you were going to do by when you said you’d get it done by.
    – I firmly believe that you work for a person and not a company. Employee sat surveys have brought this out for years. The person you work for make the most difference.
    – I make my bosses look good. When I tell younger / newer folks this philosophy, sometimes they are incredulous…but it’s true.
    – about asking forgiveness rather than permission…yup. Another important thing to learn.
    – I could lose my job due to financial performance of the company, but I’d have to be very bad for a very, very long time before I lost it based on general performance.
    – I think work/life balance can be found in most jobs if you are good at what you do. ITA. I had one boss who said “no vacations Jan-April”. None. Really. When I started I explained that my kids played hockey and 1x/mo in Jan, Feb, Mar at least one of them would be going to an away tournament, so I’d need a Friday or a Monday in each of those months. We are not doing heart surgery in my group! I promised and delivered for her that first year and took the 3 days…after a while, just became how things were done.

  46. Well, our heart throb HVAC technician and his drinking buddy the electrician didn’t work Christmas, New Year’s, or some days in between. They also didn’t get paid anything for them. When his kid got sick in January, he took the day off without pay.

  47. HM – back in my Biglaw days (and by no means implying this is the case for RMS’s family), a girlfriend of my co-worker was absolutely convinced he was having an affair with me because of the incredibly long hours we were working. He also often took my calls in the evening or on weekends. We were working She truly had no clue how demanding his job was.

  48. TCMama – I agree with a lot of what you said too. I’ve spent most of my career working for large public companies and one large private company, and it’s pretty much like that everywhere I’ve been. And a lot of people in the bottom and middle of the org who are working SUPER long hours are doing so because they are bad at their jobs, not because they are good at them. Or maybe because they just are inclined to work long hours and will find something to fill the time. It’s not like there is ever nothing to do – it is just how important it is to do it and how much effort needs to be expended to make it perfect.

  49. I always thought it was common that the difference between sick and vacation time was that sick time came out of an unapproved time bucket while vacation time came out of an approved time bucket.

    My experience has been either there are clearly differentiated buckets of vacation time and sick time (10 vacation days and 5 sick days or whatever), or one bucket of PTO days. I’ve only heard the term “approved time off” to refer to time off that didn’t come from PTO at all, such as funeral leave.

  50. Ivy – my husband has an expression called “polishing turds”. I had a workaholic boss who never left the office. She spent countless hours working on perfecting things that didn’t matter. Good enough wasn’t in her vocabulary. My coworker at the time said that it took our boss 60 hours to do 40 hours of work and that it took him 40 hours to do 40 hours of work and that it took me 35 hours to do 40 hours of work.

  51. I thought the difference between sick vs vacation time was that vacation time owed must be paid out to employees when they leave the company, but sick does not. Also that vacation time carried over to the next fiscal year must be recognized as a liability on a company balance sheet, but sick time does not as it would not have to be paid to the employee.

  52. I have had employees that I cannot break of the habit of polishing turds no matter how many times I tell them to stop & that it is not getting them anywhere. It seems to be impossible to turn off in perfectionist types. No really – that TPS report can be good enough. Save your energy for the things that really matter.

  53. or one bucket of PTO days.

    Four weeks of PTO rarely means you can call in sick 20 times in a year without at least being spoken to. You may have not been aware of it because it never came up. But, I’m almost certain there was a policy about it and a way to track it in the HR/payroll system.

  54. HM, I feel the same way, but they’re young. And apparently when planning their future, they agreed that they would NEVER work the long hours that his dad and her dad did, oh no, they’d be available to their kids all the time because work/life balance. As if DH and the girl’s father wanted to work long hard hours. As if they didn’t understand that their children needed them. Oh well.

  55. Four weeks of PTO rarely means you can call in sick 20 times in a year without at least being spoken to.

    Mainly because people doing that are disproportionately “sick” on Fridays, Mondays, or the day after a holiday.

  56. “I have had employees that I cannot break of the habit of polishing turds no matter how many times I tell them to stop & that it is not getting them anywhere. It seems to be impossible to turn off in perfectionist types.”

    But are they getting mixed messages? Say, from the turd-polishing boss who demands that that TPS be stapled, not paperclipped, and with the staple perfectly parallel to the top of the sheet, not the side, and certainly (gasp!) not diagonally?

    Last year another partner and I met to give a performance review to an associate who is very talented and also very green in what we do. There had been some unevenness in his writing. So the other partner starts explaining that he should *never* send a partner a draft of anything, that even when the partner says “send me a draft,” he needs to make it A+ perfect before he hits “send” on anything. At which point I had to interrupt him and say “except when you’re working for me.” Because I would much rather see a very early draft so I can see how the arguments are fitting together and make sure it’s all headed in the right direction, instead of having him spend a lot of time going down the wrong path — I mean, I know this stuff, he doesn’t, so I consider that my job, but apparently working for me had not served him well with other partners. I have sat through other associate review discussions where, I kid you not, people noted that an associate produced a memo with a typo in it (and two typos was cause for Extreme Concern).

    IME it is learned behavior. People become turd-polishers because they get more criticism for having a typo in a document than for spending too much time on it.

  57. “:Say, from the turd-polishing boss who demands that that TPS be stapled, not paper clipped, and with the staple perfectly parallel to the top of the sheet, not the side, and certainly (gasp!) not diagonally?”

    And heaven forbid you use a binder clip that might scratch the partner’s custom desk!!! Seriously this stuff is true.

  58. In my world – Vacation time is to be approved in advance – mainly to make sure that the office is appropriately staffed on any given day/week. Sick time can be under certain circumstances. For example, if you are planning a procedure (not something the doctor says do now) and will be off for a week or more, they like for you to get advanced approval. Sick time that is used of things like – blood donation, parent teacher conference or scheduled doctors appointments is also supposed to be approved in advance. In most cases, it is more that they want the advance notice to schedule other people vs denying you the time. Sick leave taken for acute onset of illness does not have to be approved in advance, but if you are out 3 or more days you need a doctor’s note to return.

    We have some “skeleton crew” holidays, which means we are open, but you can take off. These are often where employees who observe non-Christian holidays will work in order to take off their religious holiday.

    Figuring out what your boss thinks is good enough vs shoddy work can sometimes be difficult, especially when you first start working for them.

  59. “As if DH and the girl’s father wanted to work long hard hours.”

    @Rocky — I spent a good chunk of my childhood being mad at my dad for moving away and following his job halfway across the country. Then I got my first real job. Oh. I do remember a few years out of school actually apologizing to him for being such a little $%&#.

  60. If your job is to polish turds, and I’ve had some of those jobs, then you have to figure out how to polish turds the most efficiently. And start looking for a new job.

  61. ATM and LfB – or the one partner who MUST HAVE 13 pt Garamond fully justified when everyone else in the department uses 12 pt left justified Times New Roman. ;)

  62. Wine, don’t take this personally, but I hate that song (and Harry Chapin generally) and there’s a damn reason kids grow up like their parents. Other than the Milo family, most people have to work long hours in order to make decent money.

  63. Because I would much rather see a very early draft so I can see how the arguments are fitting together and make sure it’s all headed in the right direction, instead of having him spend a lot of time going down the wrong path

    Would you bill the client for both the time spent down the wrong path as well as the time reversing back and going down the right path? Are a lot of these silly rules actually about running up the bill?

  64. “the staple perfectly parallel to the top of the sheet, not the side, and certainly (gasp!) not diagonally?”

    So in my first real job, office job, out of college I was a paralegal for a big SF firm (now defunct). One day in the morning briefing with the whole team working on the litigation at hand the senior partner interrupts someone to say (clearly I paraphrase): “Oh and by the way, staples need to be DIAGONAL in the upper left corner.”

    Stanford undergrad, Berkeley Law he was.

  65. “Other than the Milo family, most people have to work long hours in order to make decent money.”

    We make decent money by middle class standards. We don’t make money that’s at all impressive by Totebag standards.

  66. “If your job is to polish turds, and I’ve had some of those jobs, then you have to figure out how to polish turds the most efficiently. And start looking for a new job.”

    Unless you *like* polishing turds and can find a job that rewards you for it. One of our most successful attorneys is a turd polisher*, who works for clients who deeply appreciate the beauty of her exceptional polishing skills. Me, I realized early on that the tcmama approach was the one for me. But she and her practice have made several partners here and brought in a lot of money for the firm.

    *LfB interpretation: spends waaaay too much time on minutiae and trivialities — the work product is always very good. So not a real turd, just massively inefficient IMO.

  67. Wine…you may not love it as much when your kid(s)…I forget how many you have…get older.

    And I also like it.

  68. “As if DH and the girl’s father wanted to work long hard hours.”

    He did want to work those hours to provide a comfortable lifestyle for himself and his family. If you wish he was home more you can think about that every month you don’t write a check for $627.85 to Sallie Mae.

  69. A number of my coworkers freely admit that that work needless long hours to avoid doing childcare and/or spending time with their spouses.

  70. RMS – I don’t know if I agree with “Other than the Milo family, most people have to work long hours in order to make decent money.” But then maybe my definition of decent money is different. What I’ve seen in my jobs at large corporate companies is that a lot of people say and think they work a lot of hours, but most of them really work less than 50 hours a week. They are in jobs that are making $100-200K a year, so that’s probably top 10% income. I’m not saying people don’t work hard and there are definitely professions that require lots of hours. I don’t see it though amongst my coworkers or friends. There are weeks here and there where the work increases, but it isn’t consistently crazy. My cohort though is standard desk jobs and not billable professions.

  71. most people have to work long hours in order to make decent money.”

    Define decent? Do you need to work long hard hours to make $85k? No. Do you need to work long hard hours to make $850k? In most cases, yes.

  72. ” or the one partner who MUST HAVE 13 pt Garamond fully justified when everyone else in the department uses 12 pt left justified Times New Roman. ;)”

    Or the partner who insists file folders be labeled with typed, adhesive labels (in certain colors) and not by hand by the associate, not the secretary.

    Or that distributed over the weekend means on Saturday not Sunday.

    And don’t get me started on the grammar/punctuation perfectionists. Which/that, provided/provided, further/ provided, however, commas/semicolons, underlining defined terms/not underlining defined terms, straight quotes versus curly quotes, etc. etc.

    I would make a great editor/proof reader for my post-retirement job (postings here notwithstanding).

  73. As DH climbed the ladder, his hours have become unpredictable. Travel entered the picture where previously there were none. He started managing and having interactions with people from coast to coast and overseas. And he may have to show up to work related dinners and receptions when he is here. Along with this his compensation has increased. That’s the story of how I came to be parent in charge. I don’t mind but some days it would be nice to have him home for dinner when the kids are getting on my last nerve.

  74. Back when I was untenured, aka slave to the chair, we were trying to get some new courses approved. I had spent a lot of time on the descriptions, getting all the content right, and putting in language to address any concerns that the Chair of That Other Department might have. They were due on a Monday. On Friday I had finished and submitted to my chair. Friday night at 8, just as we were settling down to watch a movie, the chair calls and says that I have not conformed to the Official Fornat as set forth in the Sample Course Description maintained by the university. He wanted me to totally redo all the formatting, including margins, fonts, indents, bullet styles, ordering of references, etc. And he wanted it, yes, by midnight (he is a night owl who prefers to work at 2am). So of course I said Yes Sir, Right Away! and redid all the formatting.

    The thing is, I had seen a good number of course descriptions approved by the committee before, and NONE of them conformed to the Official Format. This was utterly unnecessary. Turd polishing on a Friday night.

  75. “or the one partner who MUST HAVE 13 pt Garamond fully justified”

    Full justification? Sacrilege! I must despise him now.

    “Would you bill the client for both the time spent down the wrong path as well as the time reversing back and going down the right path? Are a lot of these silly rules actually about running up the bill?”

    1. Most people would bill the time. If they thought the time spent was disproportionate to the effort required, they would write off some amount of the time. I am outside of the norm, because (i) most of my clients have tight budgets and want quick answers vs. perfection, and (ii) I tend to work quickly and so assume things will take less time than they usually do. As a result, I get annoyed when I see lots of time on a bill and would be more likely to write it off. (Which is also probably why I am a junior-to-mid-level partner and the Primary Turd Polisher is always tied for the highest-paid).

    2. The rules are not *designed* to run up the bill, but that is the unintended-but-beneficial effect. Our reputation is based on the quality of our work; we pretty routinely promote brilliant people with marginal billable hours, but we have never promoted people with meh brains just because they bill a lot of hours. After more than a decade of associate review and promotion discussions, I am 100% convinced that the goal is to focus on the quality of the work, not find ways to increase our bills. *However*, part of “quality of the work” involves “attention to detail,” which some people interpret as “I want to see perfect drafts and will criticize you to the rest of the partnership for a typo,” which of course leads to more rewriting and proofing and runs up the bills. And when your constant push is for better quality, there’s not much of a countervailing pushback to keep that kind of perfectionism in check, short of client complaints about the bill. So even a well-intentioned quest for quality can lead to higher bills, because “quality” is in the eye of the beholder, and some beholders expect perfection in everything.

  76. She’s insisting that he work more 9-5 and no weekends

    a lot of people say and think they work a lot of hours, but most of them really work less than 50 hours a week

    Say they’re really working 45 hours a week in the office, and handling a few calls and e-mails on weekends. Add a lunch hour to those 9 hours of actual work per day, and they’re at the office 8-6, plus having regular occasions of sorry-honey-got-to-respond-to-this-first over the weekend. Not a bad set of hours, but also not 9-5 no-weekends.

  77. The rules are not *designed* to run up the bill.

    Yeh, I’m not buying it.

    Which brings up a question I often have. Consultant A is gratuitously running up the bill with nonsense. Now, subconsciously the desire is to run up the bill, but have they actually deluded themselves into thinking what they are doing actually adds value?

  78. *However*, part of “quality of the work” involves “attention to detail,” which some people interpret as “I want to see perfect drafts and will criticize you to the rest of the partnership for a typo,”

    Well, and while it’s good to see the direction of a newbie’s analysis before too much time is spent filling out and polishing, it gets old really fast if you find yourself correcting the same stupid mistakes for the same person repeatedly. I don’t put “two typos in draft” in that category, though ^_^.

  79. Now, subconsciously the desire is to run up the bill, but have they actually deluded themselves into thinking what they are doing actually adds value?

    Of course they have. You know that. Like LfB’s turd-polishing partner, their experience is that their turd-polishing has made them a top moneymaker, so of course that demonstrates that their turd-polishing is a valuable skill that clients will pay for.

  80. Testing my hashtags:
    Say they’re really working 45 hours a week in the office, and handling a few calls and e-mails on weekends. Add a lunch hour to those 9 hours of actual work per day, and they’re at the office 8-6, plus having regular occasions of sorry-honey-got-to-respond-to-this-first over the weekend. Not a bad set of hours, but also not 9-5 no-weekends.

    They might be at the office for 45 hours, but they are most likely not working 45 hours, right? Or, in my case, I’m not. I’m probably on this site occasionally, balancing my checkbook, scheduling appointments, etc. And I’ll skip the hour for lunch and just eat at my desk. If you are really counting hours, then the time spent on email on the weekend is probably offset by the time at work doing non-work things. If we’re talking about the time “at work” and that includes time commuting and being away from home, then that adds up faster vs. time spent working.

    I’m at work for roughly 40 hours, but I’m not fully productive for 40 hours.

  81. TCM, use the angle brackets for tags. For italics, the opening tag is angle bracket (shift-comma), then i, then close angle bracket (shift-period). Closing tag is the same but with a slash (non-capital question mark) before the i.

    Actually, this should work to illustrate:

  82. “it gets old really fast if you find yourself correcting the same stupid mistakes for the same person repeatedly”

    Well, yeah. I am impatient that way. I make it through about twice before I’m done.

    @Rhett — you can buy it or not. I know these people; I’ve sat through 5-hour associate review meetings and partner meetings with them; I’ve seen who makes partner and who washes out. If they are rationalizing their way through it, it’s because they firmly believe that what they are doing is necessary to provide the services that their clients demand.

    Don’t forget that clients employ just as many turd-polishers as their outside lawyers do. I’m a good fit if you want a quick answer, bullet points, high-level strategic thinking. We have other lawyers who are a better fit if your primary criterion is that your outside counsel never provide you a brief with a typo or missing citation in it.

    If clients really cared as much about efficiency as they profess, I’d be the one making the big bucks. The proof is in the pudding, as it were.

  83. They don’t all work for our comments though. Also you can use blockquote and strong (works like bold), which aren’t on that list.

  84. Of course they have. You know that.

    I don’t know that. You may be totally right that they’re deluded. But, I think in their heart of hearts they know what they are doing is just busy work bill padding.

    Sort of like John Pinette’s bit on buying an extended warranty:

    (starts at 3:00)

  85. Whoever is reading a legal product usually does not know the substance of the writing or else they would not have asked for a writing on the point. They infer the quality of the substance from the quality of the minutia that goes along with the substance.

  86. it’s because they firmly believe that what they are doing is necessary to provide the services that their clients demand.

    They wouldn’t admit to themselves, within the secure confines of their own conscience, that at least some of it is gratuitous bill padding?

  87. OT, have any of you ever found that it is better to lease than buy a car?

    I know MMM is pounding his head with his keyboard right now, but here are the numbers:

    $309/mo lease for 39 months, $2,179 at signing, $495 fee = $14,725 ($377.56/month)

    If I take the 0% financing for 60 months, trade in the old car, and put the same $2,179 down I can get the same car for $483.64/month. And own it at the end.

    But since the kids will be much bigger then, I may want a behemoth like the Suburban instead, and I will definitely want the latest safety gear since it is used almost exclusively for kid transport.

    We could buy it outright but would rather pay down the mortgage. WWYD?

  88. When I clerked, we assumed typos and poor citation form meant you didn’t read the cases you cited closely either, so your reasoning got extra scrutiny.

  89. I have another theory on why people fall into turd polishing. Most people find it takes more effort to start a new task than to just continue on the same task. If you are working at a place where finishing something quickly just means having more work thrown at you, you are going to want to find a reason to stay on the same task. It isn’t like you are going to get to go home an hour early if you just get the good-enough thing in.

  90. @Rhett: No.

    It’s hard to explain, but for the person I am thinking of (and the guy who trained her), attention to detail is almost at the level of a moral imperative — it is just the sign of a Good Lawyer. There is something fundamentally distrustful to them about people who don’t care enough to go back for that one final proofread, or double-check that citation.

    OK, how’s this: In Myers-Briggs parlance, I am an “N.” I know the “right” answer almost instantly, because I have the superstructure of “LfB’s View of GeekLand” in my head, and I know which slot a specific issue belongs in based on the facts conveyed. Research is necessary largely to confirm what I already suspect and to keep me honest (i.e., keep my hubris in check).

    Also in M-B parlance, this other attorney is an “S.” She builds her view of the world from the ground up, piling fact upon fact and detail upon detail, doing all of the caselaw research to establish the ground rules that apply, until she reaches the answer.

    For both of us, the single biggest fear is being wrong. Because our clients rely on us to be right every. single. time.

    For me, well, I know I’m right. I have associates to vet my work, fill in the blanks, keep me honest — I already know what the answer *should* be, and they confirm that the facts/law support that before I talk to the client. I can’t guarantee a court or regulator will always agree, and so I am always careful to caveat with the clients, but I know how things should work, so if a detail changes, it usually doesn’t change the superstructure; I might just need to change the approach a little bit to explain why it still belongs where I thought it belongs.

    For this other lawyer, however, her conclusion is based entirely on the details of the facts and law before her. If one of those changes, then the argument that she has built up will teeter, like pulling bricks out of a wall. So, because her service to her clients relies so heavily on all of those details, she has to check them, carefully and obsessively, to make sure that everything is exactly correct. A missed detail or inartful phrasing is a Big Deal, because it affects all of the bricks around it, which can in turn blow a huge hole in the whole thing. She might eventually get back to the same place, but she can do so only by pulling down all the bricks and building them back up again.

    So we are both doing what we think we need to do to make sure our client gets the right answer. My clients appreciate my work because I can get them an answer quickly, and because I can give them a 95% answer when that’s all they want. My partner’s clients appreciate her work because she gets great results and is never caught out on anything, and they are willing to pay for it.

  91. Sky – You may very well want to change cars in a few years, but, as you say, you will own it at the end if you buy it. So what’s your salvage value? It would need to be a rather expensive car to depreciate more than $14,725 in 39 months.

  92. Sky, short answer, yes. because your driving needs may change in ~3 years.

    Here’s my real life example: my mom, then 80, needed a new car because hers was totaled (rear ended, everyone ok). She could afford to buy or lease. The car she wanted and got was $40k + +. Single-payment upfront lease was $16k all in. Since her driving needs/ability could change in 3 years, my DW suggested (to me) that leasing might be a better idea. Then, at the end of 3 years, Mom can do what she wants (keep it, turn it in, get another one or not). I agreed and so did my mom.

    This is one set of circumstances where I think leasing makes sense. It may also in your case.

  93. OT, have any of you ever found that it is better to lease than buy a car?

    It certainly can be especially if you know you’ll need a new/different car in 3 years.

    What car are you getting and what are you trading? Are these prices based off MSRP or TrueCar or an already negotiated price?

  94. LfB,

    You can’t tell me with all that pressure for billable hours none of your partners or associates are padding the bill. Maybe this one isn’t but a few must be. To say they aren’t when they are under so much pressure and with such upside potential just beggars belief.

  95. You may very well want to change cars in a few years, but, as you say, you will own it at the end if you buy it.

    She can pay $377 a month for 39 months and then exercise the option to buy and pay $X and own it. Or she can pay $483 a month for 60 months and own it.

    It would all depend on the numbers. Not to mention, it could depend on if she’s the type of person to sell a car private party or is she going to trade it in.

  96. “The car she wanted and got was $40k + +. Single-payment upfront lease was $16k all in.”

    After three years, was the car worth more or less than $24k?

    Everything else is a red herring.

  97. After three years, was the car worth more or less than $24k?

    Minor quibbles:

    1. Was she or her executor going to get more or less than $24k?

    2. I’m thinking it was a Lincoln that while it may have had a $40k sticker was going out the door for $35k a most.

  98. True. And …

    3. Was she going to drive more or less than the prescribed number of annual miles, and is there a buyback or penalty associated with that?

    4. Will Sky’s leasor tack on additional charges for juice stains in the carpeting upon turn-in?

  99. And what’s the value of your time? Do you want to hassle with selling it, or do you just want to drop it off and walk away?

  100. It’ll be worth more. If she still likes it (and she loves it 1.5 years into the deal), she’ll buy it out. The flexibility is worth it.

  101. Rocky – That can be addressed by Point #1. You can go to the nearest CarMax and walk away with a check pretty quickly.

  102. Lexus ES. $45k list; 60% residual, assuming all miles driven (that’ll never happen).

  103. ” The flexibility is worth it.”

    How? This is the part that I never understand. How is leasing any more flexible? If she had bought it, and decided that it didn’t meet her needs, she could sell it at any point in time. Leasing is actually less flexible, because you have to wait until the end of the term, or presumably pay some sort of penalty.

  104. You can go to the nearest CarMax and walk away with a check pretty quickly.

    Which may be multi thousands less than you could get private party after spending 2 weeks dealing with creepy Craig’s List lookie lous.

  105. ” $45k list; 60% residual, assuming all miles driven (that’ll never happen).”

    So she’s paying for miles that she’s not going to use and depreciation that the asset will not incur when she had both the capital to buy it outright or the credit to finance the purchase? How does that make any sense?

  106. If she had bought it, and decided that it didn’t meet her needs, she could sell it at any point in time.

    Which is either going to be a big hassle or you’ll get get thousands less at a dealership or Autotrader.

  107. “Which may be multi thousands less than you could get private party after spending 2 weeks dealing with creepy Craig’s List lookie lous.”

    Agreed, but the point is that you don’t HAVE to spend a lot of time trying to sell it.

  108. “Which is either going to be a big hassle or you’ll get get thousands less at a dealership or Autotrader.”

    But you’re committing to overpaying with the leasing, at least as currently described.

  109. Agreed, but the point is that you don’t HAVE to spend a lot of time trying to sell it.

    Right, but if you don’t want to spend the time it’s cheaper to lease in most cases.

  110. “Right, but if you don’t want to spend the time it’s cheaper to lease in most cases.”

    I don’t see that in the numbers listed. CarMax or the dealership won’t be *that* low.

  111. She LOOOOVES it. And in 18 months from today, she can just buy it out and have a car she knows she LOOOOVES.

    Besides which, she’ll be 83 and has things she’d rather be doing than selling one car (possibly) and buying another.

  112. If Sky leases or buys, she should try to get the all weather mats for free so she doesn’t have to worry about carpet stains.

    I am into my 8th month on the leased BMW. This is our first lease, and we did it because we got sick of the problems that we were having when we owned our cars for too long. We got tired of the Subaru too. We went with the lease because we weren’t sure if we would like the car, or if it would be too expensive to own for the long run. It is fine for now, but I am not sure how I will feel in three years when I don’t have a trade in. Our lease payments are low because we traded in the Subaru that we owned when we took this lease. I don’t worry about the mileage because we had steady mileage history from our other cars, and we have the flexibility to take the Acura that we own for the long road trips.

    I have to admit that I am more careful with the exterior of this car because of the lease. It just has one minor scratch from me. All of the other dings are from people hitting me in a parking lot. The interior is another matter as I can not convince the kids to care about my car. Most of the kids that I drive do not belong to me, and they are very fond of putting their feet on the back of front seats or on the back seats. I don’t want to be “that parent” so I don’t say anything.
    I get dark leather even though it gets hot because it seems easier to clean.

  113. “Besides which, she’ll be 83 and has things she’d rather be doing than selling one car (possibly) and buying another.”

    But now she has to deal with ending the lease and negotiating a new deal on the purchase price.

  114. But you’re committing to overpaying with the leasing, at least as currently described.

    We can’t determine that without knowing the actual out the door price of the Dowager McMurray’s Lincoln or the price she (or Fred when he took her keys away or the executor of her estate) would likely get when the car needed to be sold.

  115. “We can’t determine that without knowing the actual out the door price of the Dowager McMurray’s Lincoln or the price she (or Fred when he took her keys away or the executor of her estate) would likely get when the car needed to be sold.”

    Fine, but in the absence of that information, it’s nonsensical to say that “well, it’s more flexible, or it’s less of a hassle, …”

  116. But now she has to deal with ending the lease and negotiating a new deal on the purchase price.

    Nah…that’s all set in writing.

  117. “Nah…that’s all set in writing.”

    In any case, Outcome A is that she likes the Lexus. If she had bought it, she keeps it.

    Outcome B is that she doesn’t like it. If she had bought it, she trades it in whenever she wants. She can make that decision at any point in time from one day after purchase to 15 years after purchase. With a lease, that decision must be made exactly X number of months after leasing.

    Maybe she wants to replace it with a different car, or maybe she’s finished driving. In the first case, she’ll have to find a different car either way. In the second case, hopefully that happens precisely on the same arbitrary timeline as the lease agreement.

  118. Enclave Leather 1-SD, list is $39,640 but once I tack on the options I want it will probably wind up bargained down to list, if you see what I mean.

    Average annual mileage of 5k, so we would be paying for lots of unused miles.

    We trade in or go to carmax; DH works too much to deal with a private party sale and I wouldn’t want to do it.

  119. Sky – If the cost to lease that would be $17k, I think you could, alternatively, sell it to CarMax or trade it in for considerably more than $23k (esp. with only 15k miles), and you would be able to do so on a timeline of your choosing rather than being forced into deciding at exactly 39 months (or whatever it is).

    I don’t see any benefit to leasing. If you want to pay down the mortgage, use cheap financing.

  120. Some car dealers are tough. My friend drives the Audi q7 and her lease was up in December. Her husband asked for one extra week, and they said no. He was actually going to get another Audi, but then they were angry. They scrambled and drove as many other 3rd row vehicles as possible and they chose the Volvo. This is the car that I mentioned a few weeks ago. She LOVES the new XC90, and she never even looked at a Volvo until the Audi dealer was such a jerk. They lease two cars, but I think they lease because they run it through her business.

  121. DH was such a scold about keeping leased cars in good condition. I was glad once I settled on a kid transport vehicle, I bought it. I don’t have to worry about the carpets, scratches, dings etc.

  122. Milo,

    Enclave 1SD with no options has a TrueCar price of $36,876 and a lease deal for 319/month 319 down.

    In three years with 39,000 miles:

    Dealer Trade IN $20,447 Private Party $22,450

    The lease is $3,669 cheaper than buying if you trade it in at a dealer and $1,666 cheaper if you do a private party sale.

  123. Rhett, that was my instinct on the math, but I didn’t know where to get the residuals. Are you just putting in the 2013 enclave at the same trim level on truecar?

  124. I hate car payments, and would hate lease payments. The only time I bought a car on time was right after the divorce when I had no other choice. I park outside and always have (at least I am not on the street any more), so I am not inclined to lease. However, some people like a fairly shiny vehicle with the latest stuff, so leasing makes sense for them. I am getting to the point where I might want to get a car with the new gadgets even though I have at least four good years left in the 05 Camry. But what is such a big deal about disposing of a car before it has been run into the ground? Any paid off car can be traded in, or donated to charity, or there is always a younger family member who would be grateful for it.

  125. I don’t think that fine tuning the math is the reason to lease or not to lease. It is whether you expect that you will want a new car at the end of the term. Because it is always more expensive to decide to buy that particular car at the end of the term than it would have been to buy it from the beginning. And although there is a psychological advantage to paying down the mortgage, car payment interest is not tax deductible and mortgage interest is, so I can’t see much financial reason to prefer a car payment to a mortgage payment.

  126. Sky,

    Yes. But, out of habit I used edmunds for used and Truecar for new. I assume they are fairly close.

  127. Meme, I really like the blind spot warning system and rear warning system on DH’s car, especially at night.

    Part of the reason I don’t think this will be one of our long term cars is that I think the number and quality of technologies that assist with driving and improve safety will take off in the next 3-5 years, and the cost will come down.

  128. Meme,

    With Sky fairly certain that she wants a new car in 3 years and it being cheaper, I think leasing is her best option.

  129. I agree about the lease Rhett in Sky’s case. I know a lot of young families that lease the kid mobile for the very reason that safety improvements have been coming fast and furious. I am looking forward to a new car in a couple of years. The call date on several of my bonds is 2018. I’ll likely have the cash on hand that spring.

  130. Mémé, somehow or other some of the partners at DH’s law firm have rigged the system so they get a tax advantage from leasing. I have no idea how. I do know that, although the firm is itself an LLC, some of them incorporate themselves and make themselves into an LLC and then pay themselves a salary from their own LLC…or something. I don’t even know if that’s related to the leasing. This is clearly not my area. It never seemed worth it to me to try to figure it out.

  131. Rhett – then by the same 61% proportion, the trade in from a $40k Enclave should be $24 something, not 22. Slightly favors buying, plus you get a lot more flexibility of how much to drive it and when to replace.

    Two lessons for me:

    1) private-party used cars ARE a good value again.
    2) dealers are really jacking up the prices on “certified pre-owned.”

  132. Milo,

    What 61% proportion?

    2) dealers are really jacking up the prices on “certified pre-owned.”

    What I think GM is doing is applying some of those CPO profits toward new leases in order to fill the CPO pipeline. No reason not to take advantage of that situation and lease if it makes sense for you.

  133. 1) private-party used cars ARE a good value again.

    We’ve established that maybe used Buicks are a good value*. That doesn’t mean a used Pilot or MDX is a good value.

    * depending on expected repair costs etc.

  134. “somehow or other some of the partners at DH’s law firm have rigged the system so they get a tax advantage from leasing.”

    I have a recollection dating back to when I was about 12 years old or so of my uncle telling my dad that the company car he had was leased because, after taxes, it was less expensive for the company to lease than to buy. I think that was predicated on the assumption of replacing the car every three years or so, which was very common back then.

  135. Finn,

    Was this pre 1986? It may have been the case that company cars were a tax free benefit like health insurance is now.

    I know in the UK company cars were a tax free perk until recently. In that case you could have $200 / month ($500-300 in taxes) or a brand new 500/month leased BMW, Jag etc.

  136. Re: leasing for tax advantages — I *think* (Not An Expert) that leasing you can deduct the full lease payments every month, whereas if you buy, it’s capital, and you can only amortize it over whatever the life of the car is.

    “You can’t tell me with all that pressure for billable hours none of your partners or associates are padding the bill. Maybe this one isn’t but a few must be. To say they aren’t when they are under so much pressure and with such upside potential just beggars belief.”

    So, first, that’s a different question. You originally asked whether the nit-pickers thought they were actually adding value, so I explained why I think that is true. Now you want to assume that we’re all lying and cheating and basically doing stuff we can get fired and disbarred for, because of the pressure of the billable hour? Yeah, no.

    Could someone be cheating? Of course. Do I think they are? I am responsible for ethics and compliance here — if I knew or even suspected someone was padding bills, I’d have no choice but to investigate and turn them in, or my ass is out the door. The people who are billing ridiculous hours are also *here* at ridiculous hours and turning out a buttload of work.

    So, no. I don’t think people are padding as a matter of course. And I think the kind of people who have the easy-way-out personality that would lead them to view that as a valid option would have other character flaws that will lead them to short careers with us.

    And I’m done on this. Because if you think we’re a bunch of lying cheaters just ’cause, then there’s not a damn thing I or anyone else can say that’s going to change your mind.

  137. Because if you think we’re a bunch of lying cheaters just ’cause, then there’s not a damn thing I or anyone else can say that’s going to change your mind.

    I think your profession is human and some are doing what some humans have always done.

    Are some consultants gratuitously running up the bill? Of course they are. Are some doctors running up the bill? Of course they are. Are some HVAC techs running up the bill? Of course they are. Auto mechanics…plumbers…why would your profession be any different?

  138. RMS – lease deductions are capped for business – anti luxury measure, but in general it is a tax advantage for a business to lease a car and deduct the lease payment, insurance and actual expenses against the partner’s share of business profits. In finance, the partners can run their netjets expense through, although that has some deduction caps as well.

  139. Rhett’s comedy video starts with surge/lightning protectors. I have recent experience with the hard sell on those in conjunction with my demand priced HVAC. Gonovim (plural of goniff) exist in all lines of work.

  140. Rhett – I was using 40 because that’s what Sky expects to pay with desired features.

    I’m 99% certain that you can buy a car through an LLC and depreciate it according to the IRS schedule. If you want to maximize deductible costs, then lease. If you want to maximize actual profits, buy and depreciate.

    In the 1980s, my friend’s Dad drove a company Taurus. When he took us to a Washington Bullets game (before they were the Wizards, out of sensitivity to victims of gun violence), he locked the car phone in the trunk.

  141. I’m 99% certain that you can buy a car through an LLC and depreciate it according to the IRS schedule.

    Only if it’s used for business is my understanding. If you’re an HVAC tech and 80% of your miles are driving between jobs then 80% can be depreciated. If you are a lawyer that drives 20 miles from Dover to your office in Boston and maybe once a week has an offsite meeting then 10% might qualify. Commuting never counts .

  142. How about from a home office to client site?

    That’s limited to one year is my understanding.

  143. Home office to court is deductible, says my accountant. I keep a mileage log and just take mileage, but I don’t drive enough for work for it to impact my vehicle costs to a large extent.

  144. We run the lease for DH’s car through his LLC but we don’t take any mileage, just keep a log (shoot, I need to update that).

    Rhett, there are people in my firm who pad, or at least are so thorough that they are notorious for over-billing when compared to the rest of the firm. What usually happens is that their hours get written off to some degree. Biglaw firms run up many hours, but IME the partners there all firmly believe that all of those hours are necessary, like LfB’s rainmaker carefully building the wall of argument brick by brick.

  145. LFB, I love your 3:33 explanation. It explained the differences very well. I’m trying to make a (relatively minor) decision right now, and fervently resisting going with my gut. At this point I’m checking weather forecasts, prices, and other data trying to quantify the situation in order to make the best decision. I know I have to let myself do at least some of this data-checking before making the decision, but I am also aware that I cannot waste too much time striving for “perfection”.

  146. Surprise snow day. A rare surprise with the craziness of forecasts now. I have a whole day of meetings planned in NYC, so I am not very happy. I was spoiled this year since it is the first snow day for this school year.

  147. Sky – you might consider a CPO (certified pre-owned), since the Enclave has been out for quite a while. You can find CPOs in your area on AutoTrader, I think Edmunds.com too, and on the Buick site.

  148. On the other end of Rhett’s cheating, sleazy lawyer continuum is a partner I used to work for. One day we left Dallas around 6am to fly to Houston for a day-long deposition, flew back and arrived Dallas maybe 8pm. He prepared for the dep on the flight, we talked about the case our entire lunch break and he worked on it en route back that evening. It was my first time traveling for work so I asked how to bill the day. His answer: “Well, we started the dep at 9, took an hour for lunch, had two 15-min breaks and stopped at 5. So, 6.5 hours.”

    The following weekend, we both worked Sat and Sun, maybe 7 hours each day, on the same case. He was in the library the entire two days, researching some points of law for the case. On Monday morning, his secretary asked him for his weekend time and he said, “Zero hours.” She told him she knew he’d been in, so why the zero hours? His answer: “It was all stuff I should know if I’m going to effectively represent this client.”

    I’ve worked with a lot more lawyers like him than I have with ones who purposefully pad bills. Then again, I’m still so young … Hahaha

  149. Rhett – My boat retails for about $44k with options. If you really negotiate, buying it out of season, especially during a winter boat show, you can get it brand new for 38 or 39.

    We bought the dealer demo with about 80 hours on the engine for 30. So let’s say $8k or $9k discounted. I wish I could find equivalent deals on a car.

    I don’t have much experience, but I’ve been told that a properly maintained, modern four-stroke outboard can be expected to render well over 2,000, perhaps up to 4,000 hours of service.

    But the nice thing about an outboard is that you can buy a brand new engine and stick it on the back for about $12k.

    DW’s uncle is basically an older version of MMM, except with a military pension and an heiress wife. He hand built their 8,000 sf mountain house out near Coeur d’Alene–the kind often featured in WSJ, and he would do things like drive to Canada in his old Ford Ranger to buy a bunch of custom kitchen cabinets that someone else had ordered but turned out too dark for the client. They got bored with the place and the lifestyle, so some time after the minimum period for capital gains exemption, they sold it for a seven-figure profit (or cash out of sweat equity, however you want to look at it) and tried something new in a gated country club golf community in the Southeast, where he’s restoring by hand some house on a prime golf course lot that hadn’t been updated in 60 years. To feel like they might attempt to fit in in the new neighborhood, he picked up a fairly late-model Mercedes GL at a (government?) auction.

    They’re interesting people.

  150. I think the world took a snow day… I got a text from my boss that said “only go in if you want”… trouble was I was on my way in. I think it’s going to be quiet. Which is good. I need to catch up with myself.

    Looks like I missed an interesting discussion. I was in an all day meeting where we concluded that (1) we needed a pitcher of beer/margaritas to make the decision-making tool we were testing better and (2) by 2pm we were ridiculously punchy and still had 2 hours to go.

  151. @CoC — Yeah, I know that feeling. With me, it usually means that I’ve missed something or am ignoring something and need to slow down and think again. :-)

    @Risley — that’s my recurring argument with a friend of mine, who constantly doesn’t write down her time, because her main client is very price-sensitive. I tell her she’s doing everyone else a disservice, because she’s teaching the client that what should be a 5-hour project takes only 2, and that she should write down the time and then write it off so the client at least knows how hard she worked for them and what a good deal they got. It’s also hard to convey how tight with a buck some of our clients are. With “bet the company” cases, the fear of going out of business/going to jail will always outweigh the fear that your lawyer is ripping you off. But I’m in the “necessary but unpleasant expense” regulatory compliance arena and so get a lot of oversight and squeeze.

    Yeah, I said I was done, but I brought in a big piece of work last night and am in a better mood now. :-) I actually think that if people are padding, it’s the people who are light on billable work. When you’ve got 2,000+ hours of work, there’s not a huge incentive to add more (our highest bonus is at something like 2100 hours, so maybe if you were at 2050 or something). Whereas if you had a big case settle and now are staring at 1500 hours, you’re worrying about getting fired (not because we’d actually fire you, but because lawyers are paranoid). I think fear is a bigger motivator than greed, at least with our financial structure (because if you’re motivated by greed, you’re probably already working for someone who pays more).

    I do suspect most of us tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt without thinking much about it. Was that call 45 minutes or an hour? For that client who bills by the tenth, do I count that 15-minute call as .2 or .3? I bet you if you scrutinized the bills, you’d see a lot more 1.0s than .75s, and a lot more .3s than .2s. And I know that I personally don’t pay that close attention at all to my nonbillable stuff that still gets me credit within the firm — I’ll estimate 30 mins or an hour or whatever without going through my call and email records and adding it all up. But we now have electronic tracking and billing that automatically tracks your time for you and writes it into bills, so soon our lovely HAL9000 system will track all of that for me anyway.

  152. My BigLaw firm started using timers before I left four years ago – before you open a draft in word, you had to open the time tracking software, select the client and task code, and hit start.

    Get another client’s phone call while drafting, and you have to hit stop on client #1’s timer, and select the client and billing code for client #2.

    If you went to the bathroom or the coffee machine, or your para came in to ask an administrative question, you were supposed to pause the timer.

    I found it really distracting to do while trying to talk on the phone.

  153. I was just going to ask how the time tracker system worked – thanks Sky.
    DS uses software for homework and they are supposed to do certain hours in a week or gain mastery of a certain number of topics to get credit. Some of the kids were opening the software, not doing anything and closing it out after the required time…..

  154. @Louise: we have two systems. One is the automatic billing system that works as Sky describes — you enter your info and it tracks what you do as you are doing it, and that goes directly into the time tracking/billing system. I am a Luddite and find it far easier just to jot notes that my awesome assistant deciphers and transcribes, but our associates (who were generally live-tracking stuff via Excel spreadsheets that they had developed on their own) seem to love it.

    The other system is just an automatic tracker. It tracks the active document on your computer screen (including Word/Acrobat documents and websites) and how long you are on calls, etc. So for ex., apparently yesterday, I spent 179 minutes with the Totebag open as the primary document on my screen (in large part because I left it there when I got on a call). :-) I find this is useful for things like the email that I forgot I sent, or the call I forgot to check the time on before I hung up — it’s all stuff I could track down anyway, but I get a .pdf in the morning that I can cross-check against the time I wrote down the night before. And, yeah, sometimes it’s a good reminder that I frittered more time than I thought I did. . . .

  155. Louise, the teachers at DD’s school just figured out that they can look at how much “active” time the kids spent on the typing software.

    They had been having the parents sign off that each child did 15 minutes per week.

    When they looked at the times, they discovered that a substantial number of families had never logged in at all, and that others had logged in and out without doing the typing exercises.

    A surprising number of second graders had already figured out how to game the system, either by telling a parent the work was done when they never logged in at all, or by logging in, waiting, and logging out. Not to mention the parents who think there is too much homework and so sign off knowing nothing was done….

  156. One of my jobs involved interaction with and giving my feedback on the output of time tracking systems – I have been fascinated by how they work, how people track their time, game the system etc.
    Sky – yes, DS’s school tracks active time now. DD’s grade this year is not using software at home. They are getting better designed worksheets instead (comparing the change to when DS was in the same grade).

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