Jobs, Industries, Workplaces

by Louise

It has been a while since we talked about or vented about our jobs. Let’s talk about that. Also, what about our respective professions, industries and workplaces. Any changes there ? Any impacts from the election, favorable or unfavorable ? Did anyone make changes that worked out or not career wise?

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171 thoughts on “Jobs, Industries, Workplaces

  1. I work in an area that is likely to become less-regulated. Clients are very excited, and in many cases overly optimistic about what this is going to mean — they don’t necessarily understand that even people who shout “less regulation!” still don’t want to be at the helm when a major scandal breaks, so usually it just means a shift of agency resources from “developing/interpreting new rules” over to the enforcement personnel, so they can still get the big headlines showing they are “tough” on bad actors. And, practically speaking, the heads change, but the giant bureaucratic body just continues to plod along, business as usual, so unless you are dealing with an issue that is in a specific high-profile area that gets hit, really, you’re not going to see much change.

    Then again, who knows? There is a level of panic among agency personnel that I’ve never seen before — these are largely people who have lived through multiple past administration changes, so clearly they know how to hunker down, do their job, and get by when dealing with an unfriendly administration. I think it’s due to the unpredictability/uncertainty, as we’re not talking about a guy who follows traditional expectations.

    Bigger-picture, I’m not quite sure what’s going on in the legal industry. We have been sort of flat since the recession, even when other firms were struggling (we took a dip in the recession, but not one of those big “risk the firm” dips; we just tightened our belt, froze salaries, and made it through). But now this year we are somewhat down — again, not huge, and not something that puts us at risk, but surprising, because it is not the “usual suspects.” Clearly, I picked the wrong year to have my highest hours in a decade. :-)

  2. Although there has been much rejoicing about the EPA pick, I don’t think it will have a significant affect here.

    There is much concern over the loss of TPP, and fears of tarriffs and starting a trade war.

  3. My last job change was supposed to be an opportunity to manage a team, something I had not done previously. Ended up working my butt off to be told I would never manage a team and wasn’t “rowing in the same direction” after successfully managing a portfolio that was 10% of our division’s book of business (division with 70 people) and developing and recruiting for a new intern and training program that received rave reviews. I think it was mostly because I was a woman – excluded repeatedly from events solely because I was a woman (the male interns and new hires were invited but not the women) and my boss told me at one point that he had never managed a working mother and “didn’t know what to do with me”. They were giving the management opportunity to a guy that never asked for the role, never stayed late and never came in on the weekends I mostly spent my time after that biting my tongue and soaking up as much skills as possible for the next move. Lo and behold, a recruiter called me out of the blue and I now have an amazing job. As soon as I started talking to the recruiter, I realized that the point of going to my last company was to get the skills I needed for this role. Silver lining to what was a generally sucky experience…funny enough I had an entire team of people come to me to tell me how sad they were about me leaving and had two clients offer me jobs when I told them I was moving on.

  4. On the electoral side, went from an office dominated by Trump supporters to an office that was crushed when Hillary loss. Not surprisingly my current office is incredibly diverse and there are women in senior roles….

  5. Do any of you happen to work where they have an unlimited vacation days policy? How does this actually work in practice. I was recently chatting with a young person who had this, and she was telling me about a 2-week visit to her family that she was able to take even though she had only recently started her job and had taken other vacation days. Her main explanation was that it was fine “as long as she gets her job done”. It seems bizarre to me, but perhaps employees self select at these places so employers can easily tell who are their their best workers.

  6. My new role has unlimited vacation. It basically gives you flexibility to manage your time as needed. So far, people on average have taken less vacation, I think. For example, I will leave early Friday to read to my son’s class and then work from home before I head to the airport for a flight. Going to a conference in a big city on Monday but will take the morning off to explore with my child. Rather than count three hours here and there, I don’t document any of it.

  7. “Do any of you happen to work where they have an unlimited vacation days policy?”

    Basically, yes, although not in so many words. As long as I meet my numbers and meet my clients’ needs, they really don’t care when or where I get my work done. I am at home today, in fact, because I heard on the radio this AM there were road closures associated with the new mayor’s inauguration, and I decided not to deal with it.

    We have the benefit of pretty clear metrics at each level (at the associate level, billable hours; at the partner level, $ brought in, through your own work or others’). So for associates, we have a minimum hours expectation, plus several layers of bonuses at different hourly targets. For partners, we have different shares of the profit, depending on where your numbers hit. And at both levels, we have a variety of bonuses for things like excellent client service/quality of work, nonbillable contributions, etc.

    So people can pretty much choose how much money they want to earn vs. how much time off they want. Usually, people target lower levels for family or health reasons, but we have one guy (experienced litigator) who pretty much takes cases that he’s interested in, and then disappears for a month or two at a time. We also have unlimited parental leave at the partner level, which we can probably afford to do because once you get to that level, you are too neurotic about your practice to abuse the privilege.

  8. Thanks, Anonymous. That makes sense, but for a more senior person. I guess I was judging this young person and thinking the typical younger employee would be taking lots of time off. But if their work is not up to par, their boss would just call them on it. So maybe it becomes a way to reward top employees but not necessarily paying them more.

  9. I have started to do some project-based work. It is kind of boring, but I have a ton of flexibility and it hasn’t been many hours a week. So, fine for now.

  10. I am in finance for a company that imports a lot of what we sell from China, and outsources a large number of finance and IT jobs. So maybe we will be affected by trade and tax policy changes, but there is no way to know what is real and what is bluster. I had tolerated some career stagnation because I valued working from home so highly. Now that I have to go back in anyway, and everyone in my house now drives themselves everywhere, I am going to look into ramping back up. My DH’s company continues the bloodletting, with his group formerly of 40+ down to 2 as of yesterday. Hopefully things turn around before he gets to the top of the list, but I’m feeling pressure to make sure I’m in a stable spot, especially with DS still to get through college.

  11. “So maybe it becomes a way to reward top employees but not necessarily paying them more.”

    @CoC — I actually come at it from the other perspective: I suspect many times, it is a way to squeeze more work out of people. DH has always worked places with a fixed amount of vacation, and a maximum number of days you could carry over to the next year. As a result, the place basically shuts down for most of December, as all of the old timers with lots of vacation get their days in before they disappear. It breeds the attitude that your vacation days are very much something you are entitled to, so why would you give them back? OTOH, if you have an unlimited vacation policy, there is nothing to carry over, and no sense of urgency to “use it or lose it.” So as long as the company makes sure that all of its employees are fully loaded up with work, most will likely run along taking a week or two a year max. OTOH, if people abuse it, by definition they are not getting their work done and so can be let go in the next round of layoffs. I think it’s a pretty sneaky-brilliant way to get more work out of people without paying them more.

  12. Eek, MBT – that’s tough for your husband. Hope that things perk up or that an opportunity comes along that we will be positive for you.

    coc – we have a good portion of our staff that travels globally and several that work remotely from places around the globe. So if you have a business trip to Asia and want to extend for a week or two and work remotely visiting family in China, that would be perfectly fine (senior or junior). DH and I had a bucket list trip planned with kids next year and I will be able to meet up with them and spend stretches with them as long as I am accessible and keeping my work moving forward.

  13. Kate, would love details about your new work. How did you get it, how many hours, can you work easily from home without tech support?

  14. What I wonder about unlimited vacation is how, at the end of the year, most of us at work tend to find ourselves with lots of extra days (we get generous vacation) and can not carry forward more than a week. So you wind up with a lot of people, myself included, telling everyone “I’m not going anywhere, but I’ve got a bunch of use/lose, so I won’t be in for the rest of the week, and only here Tuesday and Wednesday next week” and so forth. And “use/lose” is a totally respected reason for taking off; in fact, losing vacation days is often frowned upon.

    I feel like if vacation were “unlimited,” I’d always have to be defending it, and wondering if people think that taking two separate weeks in the summer, and then a week in the winter is excessive, or whatever.

  15. sort of LFB – I think the arbitrary split between vacation and sick time causes people to “get sick” towards the end of the year.

  16. We have a massive project due that is delayed because the people who were supposed to be engaged and asked to be engaged never engaged. Oh well. It does throw off my goal list for the year (ending Sept). Nothing I can do.

    The EPA administrative decision does cause some concern. I’m going to a conference today that will spend a lot of time trying to figure out a plan for the next fiscal year. The potential is there for my program to be cut but I can’t stress too much. I just plan on doing the best I can this year and see how the chips fall.

  17. It helps in my case that our work force is more international – the idea of only two weeks vacation is very American!

  18. LFB,

    That is an interesting perspective. During my tenure as an associate, the situation was like your firm. Vacation days, as such, were meaningless. Between billable hours targets and the reality of pressing court or agency deadlines, most of us didn’t disappear for very long. This was before any significant work could be done remotely so it was harder to work from the beach or the ski slope. I always wondered what the phrase “time off” meant because I never really felt it.

  19. DH has interviewed with a few “unlimited vacation” places. I’m not a fan – I think there can be a lot of pressure to always be available, even when “on vacation”. My sense is people take much less time away from work.

  20. In my experience many, if not most, companies have an informal unlimited vacation policy for superstar talent. If a salesperson is hitting their numbers, no one cares where they are. For superstar developers, I’ve also seen the same thing. Bob, for example, is really the only one who “knows” how the system works his boss sure as hell doesn’t now. So, Bob gets to do as he pleases. I think this is just a formalization of that system.

  21. I earn vacation and comp hours based on years of service or OT worked. I’m only paid for 37.5 hours a week but earn 1:1 comp hours if I go over. I can carry as much forward as I want but my company will buy back hours if I have enough in my bank. I got an extra week’s pay this year out of that deal. That’s been a big help this holiday season.

    I tend to have more comp hours than vaca but it’s limited to the hours in my bank. I don’t mind and since it’s not use/lose I can bank for specific purposes. Like I took 3 weeks vacation this year and have hours enough to take paid time before or after my child’s birth.

  22. Insurance changes/Obamacare are the big question mark in my workplace, but I think change will be relatively slow, if at all.

  23. I work for state government. We didn’t have a lot of statewide elected officials turnover this election and for others weren’t up for election this cycle. However, my specific agency lost its executive director (health issue) in October. We were expecting an announcement last week regarding a replacement, but it was delayed. Our legislature meets starting in January and things will likely be introduced that affect us. No matter who they hire, there likely won’t be too much change until June.

    I agree with LfB that people want less regulation until they realize that without it that have no or very little recourse if something doesn’t go as planned.

    Regardless of who my new executive director is, my job is not likely to change much. If it does and I don’t like it, I have the “take this job and shove it” money available even if nothing is on the immediate horizon.

    The biggest concern for me is the perceived “mandate” of the people by state and local government officials to pass even more conservative legislation further limiting abortion, access to women’s health care, and tolerance of anyone who isn’t white, straight, and male.

  24. Insurance changes/Obamacare are the big question mark in my workplace, but I think change will be relatively slow, if at all.

    If you look at Price’s plan, the changes from Obamacare are pretty minor and that’s the most conservative plan. I expect very little to change.

    Obama’s 21st Century Cares Act just passed the Senate 94-5 so the reality of what they want to do is pretty far from the rhetoric.

  25. I am starting a new position and I have to gauge the culture of the group. Recently my managers for the most part have been women with kids so they totally get the flexibility part. Now, it will be a guy and I don’t know how the flexibility part is going to work. I think it will be fine but you never know. We know employees in California that can carry over leave, so at they can take blocks of time off that the rest of us can’t. Mid level and Senior people take vacations that are often times interrupted by work. Our senior level manager is very hush hush about her vacations. Not a good thing because her direct reports don’t know if she is in or not.

  26. I earn sick at a fixed rate and annual based on years of service, which restarted after I retired and rehired. Sick is a fixed 12 days per year, but annual’s starting point is 12 days. Then we have holidays that number something like 16, but you get something like 12 because you get nothing if they fall on a weekend. For example, we get the day before, day of and day after Christmas. Sometimes that is 3 days off, but this year it is 1 as the other two are Sat and Sun. If you are exempt, you earn comp time hour for hour, non-exempt 1.5 earned per hour worked over you normal weekly hours.

    Since I work part-time, I have some extra flexibility because if I need to be off on Friday, I would work 8 hours on Thursday and not need to take annual or comp time (if it is banked).

  27. We can take vacation by the hour but so far none of my managers have made me record things like logging in late due to doctor appointments, kid events etc. At the same time I work at night off and on as needed. The thought is that it all balances out and the managers don’t want to waste their time checking on the time off hours.

  28. My H and I have mostly worked in places where vacation time is use it or lose it, and taking a lot of days in December often doesn’t work out because, well, there’s work to be done and deadlines to meet. I agree that star performers can usually take as much time off as they want, but from what I’ve seen they tend to be available or working 24/7 anyway.

    “It helps in my case that our work force is more international – the idea of only two weeks vacation is very American!”

    One of my kids lucked into a job that offers 30 days vacation, and they close the office the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a European-based company, and only a few of their employees are located in the US. They seem to encourage everyone to take their full vacation days. So civilized.

  29. Where I work, people take off for appointments as needed and also call in as needed for meetings with colleagues or vendors overseas. I find it somewhat surprising that professionals are expected to take an hour of vacation for a doctor appointment. I’ve always worked where you just work an extra hour and make sure your work is done.

  30. “I always wondered what the phrase “time off” meant because I never really felt it.”

    @Scarlett, I know you/Kate/Kerri/etc. will appreciate this: we had an issue a couple of years ago with the perceived “work ethic” of a newer associate, which came as huge surprise to everyone, because he seemed both very driven (by personality and necessity, as his wife is SAHM for multiple kids) and very logical and methodical (i.e., he is the kind of guy who will plan and track his hours and make sure he hits his bonus targets). Turns out that he thought that the references to vacation days and sick days in the employee manual meant that those days counted towards his billable hours. So he basically thought he had a month’s more hours than he did.

    “If it does and I don’t like it, I have the “take this job and shove it” money available even if nothing is on the immediate horizon.”

    You know, that is so important. I just had this conversation 2 days ago with another partner — as I mentioned before, we are re-jiggering our % shares, and she had learned that thanks to an unexpectedly bad year, she was moving down several slots (= significant paycut) and was really upset. I said, “hey, just remember, you don’t need this job.” She said, “yes I do.” I said, “No. I will tell you what my husband says: you need A job; you don’t need THIS job.” I think (hope) that reminder helped a little.

  31. “One of my kids lucked into a job that offers 30 days vacation, and they close the office the week between Christmas and New Year’s.”

    There are days I wish that DH had just stayed at Sandia — he was one of the last folks hired under their old vacation policy, so he was grandfathered in at 5 weeks when we met and wasn’t that many years away from moving up to 6 weeks. We’d make a lot less money, and his head would probably have exploded by now from the bureaucracy and inefficiency, but boy would we have a quality of life. :-)

  32. Turns out that he thought that the references to vacation days and sick days in the employee manual meant that those days counted towards his billable hours.

    Logically, that’s how it should work. If it doesn’t, than dump the pretense of having sick and vacation days.

  33. Mini-hijack – New Au Pair is just here from Europe and is going through the six stages of grief regarding our barbarism. Turns out that we are not just like her home country but with more Starbucks, English and open space.

    Kids last night were struggling (okay, every night) with scooping food on the fork without using fingers. She suggested they get a knife to assist. I told her, “we don’t do that here.” I didn’t launch into the explanation (because she is still grieving over the paper chaos in the house), and I didn’t want to translate, “putting on airs”. I thought of asserting (which I would be fully making up) that if you dined with the Obamas or the Kardashians, you would see them using a fork to shovel food into their mouthes, and only using a knife to cut or butter.

    How do y’all use knives? Is it classy to eat like a European? Or fake-fancy?

  34. We have sick and vacation days, thought the vacation days just count towards our annual “billable hours” – I am obligated to work x hours per year, but actually work x – 60h because some of my days off are vacation days. Sick leave is for when you don’t show up for the shift. So, I am kind of with Rhett – vacation should count towards your number of hours worked, or it’s not really vacation.

  35. As most of you know, I made a huge career change about 5 years ago and it’s worked out great (with a few bumps on the way). I love my job and the company I work for. I seriously have the best boss in the world.

    Obviously the big impact to us from the election would be if they mess with Medicare since most of our patients are on it. But I don’t see that happening given the sheer number of people who are on it, and that they are a huge voting block for Republicans.

  36. She suggested they get a knife to assist. I told her, “we don’t do that here.” I didn’t launch into the explanation (because she is still grieving over the paper chaos in the house), and I didn’t want to translate, “putting on airs”.

    Wait, what? The only alternative to the Continental Style (fork left with tines down, knife right) is the American Style (fork left, tines up, knife right to cut, then switch fork to the right hand to eat).

  37. hijack – DD/Ada – Google says you can get blurry vision or a blurry spot from sinus pressure. I definitely have sinus pressure, and suddenly I can not read small numbers on my screen, or on paper. Just wait it out?

  38. How do y’all use knives? Is it classy to eat like a European? Or fake-fancy?

    I eat European style where I use the fork in my left hand and the knife in my right, and I don’t switch the fork to my right hand after I cut the meat.

  39. Milo, you can try a decongestant like sudafed. You can also try a sinus rinse to clean things out. Other options are a steamy shower, or something like nasonex or flonase to try to open things up.

  40. The election has sparked a lot of concern at my university, where the majority of students are not white, where the 4th biggest religious affiliation is “Muslim”, and where a large number of students are the kids of immigrants, probably some of them undocumented. The university has issued a lengthy statement which says among a whole list of things, that immigration status is not taken into account for registration or housing, and that university public safety are engaged in campus safety, not immigration enforcement. We will be having workshops on immigration law coming up, where one of the items they will go through is DACA status.

  41. Don’t wait out sudden vision changes. You can skip urgent care or ER if you can urgently see an optometrist. It’s true that a sinus infection can cause them, but other things need to be investigated.

    As payment for services, please endorse that you don’t use a knife to load your fork.

  42. I was trained the Continental way but now practice the American way. It seems the Continental way looks neater especially when I watched my parents eat. My way seems comfortable but not neat.

  43. Thanks. I’m going to pop another Dayquil. I didn’t want to mention it to DW because she has bad eyes and some condition where if she starts seeing spots, she needs to get to a doctor fast. Also, for a different reason, my mom is very sensitive about eye issues, so I’ve always grown up with hyper-concern about vision.

  44. “please endorse that you don’t use a knife to load your fork.”

    If I’m eating peas, I may shove them onto the fork with my knife.

    I’m not the one to ask at all; if I’m eating alone at home, and cutting meat, I may not even bother switching the fork back to my right hand.

  45. I can eat European style or American style, but I honestly don’t notice what I do most of the time. Probably whatever is easiest. The American thing of cutting meat, then switching hands, does seem really inefficient to me, so I think I do that European style. But these days, we rarely have meat that has to be cut that way, since steaks cost too much.

  46. I’ve had good luck with that. It seems to work much better for me than the OTC stuff.

    Yeah, I have a nasal rinse squeeze bottle at home with the little packets of special salt. It feels nice and it’s satisfying watching all kinds of bloody green goop drop into the sink, but the effects don’t last long. And then you have to be extra careful blowing your noise afterward, because with the leftover saltwater water now up there, it’s like a direct mechanical pressure link to your ear canal, or so it feels.

  47. I also can eat with chopsticks, and learned very young – when I was 4. Our next door neighbors were Japanese and they also had a 4 year boy, so we played together endlessly and I often had lunch at their apartment. Using chopsticks now is pretty common among millenials, but when I was a kid and teen, and even into my 20’s, most people couldn’t do it.

  48. LfB – poor guy. That’s one of those things firms should probably explain to every new associate, because his assumption makes a heck of a lot more sense than having a billable requirement and giving PTO. That and you can’t bill 1.5x time outside of M-F 9-5 hours. I did have to explain that to a summer once.

  49. I have friends who work fo a large company with unlimited vacation. They tell me it means you don’t take vacation.
    My DH’s company does PTO rather than separate vacation and sick time, which means no one ever stays home when sick.
    And of course, in higher ed, we don’t have subs the way K12 teachers do, and canceling a class at the last minute means chaos and far more work, so we drag ourselves in unless actively throwing up or total laryngitis. Although, I did once do a class with no voice – I made up labs for them to do while I circulated and kind of wrote down advice for them

  50. “Turns out that he thought that the references to vacation days and sick days in the employee manual meant that those days counted towards his billable hours.”

    How on earth is that possible?

  51. How on earth is that possible?

    Because the way it works makes no logical sense what-so-ever, would be my guess.

  52. It makes sense to lawyers in private practice. It would never have occurred to me, even as a brand new associate, that vacation time was “billable,” when probono/firm administration/client development was not.

  53. “She suggested they get a knife to assist. I told her, ‘we don’t do that here.’”

    Really? Whyever not? How else are you supposed to get the squirrely little bits on the fork? Especially critical at Thanksgiving dinner when trying to marshal appropriate amounts of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce into a single bite.

    I eat knife in the right hand, fork in the left, use knife to cut and assist as possible. Unless it is a meal that doesn’t require a knife, in which case it’s fork in the right hand. I refuse on general principles to pick the knife up/put it down/swap fork from left to right to left again for every single bite — far too inefficient. Why would that be “fake-fancy”? It seems far more fake-fancy to undertake repeated knife-and-fork gymnastics just to show that you know that food is supposed to reach your mouth only via the right hand.

  54. How on earth is that possible?

    Do you mean how is it possible he thought that, or how is that possible that it could work that way?

    Do the billable targets take into account that people have PTO? Or are they based on the assumption of working 2,080 hours for the year?

  55. “She suggested they get a knife to assist. I told her, ‘we don’t do that here.’”

    Really? Whyever not? How else are you supposed to get the squirrely little bits on the fork? Especially critical at Thanksgiving dinner when trying to marshal appropriate amounts of turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce into a single bite.

    Right. That’s how I eat and that’s how we taught the kids to eat, although DD still tries to use her fingers to push food onto the fork.

  56. We just learned about our bonuses (early, so I am excited) and they are BIGGER than last year. I am psyched. :) The firm is also expanding by 3 in the next month or so, so I would guess the firm is doing well. However, I still need to get more clients if I am going to move up – that and a competent person to do work for me since I have no more bandwidth. We still have so few associates that most people do all their own work, and I don’t have enough time to do any more work than I do right now.

    Also, since we moved I have been coming into the office much less than normal, and no one has noticed AT ALL except my assistant. :)

  57. What Scarlett said. There are a variety of different numbers by which you track your time — client numbers (billable), pro bono numbers (nonbillable but treated as billable), marketing (nonbillable), office meetings/administrative (nonbillable), vacation/sick (nonbillable), etc. It is pretty clear which ones are billable and which ones are not, because the ones that are not billable all have the same “client” number (which is basically a bunch of 9s). So there are numbers assigned so you can show how you passed your time on that given day, but that doesn’t mean it’s billable.

    I get that it doesn’t make sense in the world at large, but in the law firm world, it is one of those things that is so blindingly obvious that no one actually thinks they have to explain it.

  58. Denver – usually the billable target is X billable hours/year. Big firms go up to 2200 sometimes, then smaller firms are usually between 1600-2000. Odd that the guy at LfB’s firm didn’t know, but maybe the kids these days aren’t getting that message like we did? :) When I was at a 2000-hour firm, I divided 2000 by 48 to get the required billable hours per week. Luckily my department had steady work, so I was on target and able to take all my vacation.

  59. Do billable requirements take in to account PTO? Not really. Associates generally have targets from 1850-2000 hours depending on the firm. Depending on how efficient you are and work flow, you could work a lot more hours than the target to hit your target. Plus there is the target, and there is the actual number that you need to hit to progress and be on the partner track, particularly if you are at and up or out kind of place.

  60. L, it sounds like these targets are impossible if you want to work a 40 hour week and use your PTO.

  61. Right. At some firms, the target is really a floor. The real target is a number that is carefully concealed.

  62. Generally working at law firm isn’t a 40 hour/week gig. Unless you have a reduced schedule. And even when I had that, I worked way more hours some weeks (and then would work way fewer other weeks). It made it difficult to handle childcare.

  63. DH has unlimited vacation and sick time and he takes plenty of time off. But his company is one of those west coast dot coms where they mean what they say when they say they want excellent results and as long as you’re getting those, they don’t care how many hours you work in a day or how many days in a year. I was skeptical at first, coming from a law firm background where vacation is a dirty concept, but after years of his being in this job, I’m convinced it’s actually true.

    My boss has a similar attitude about my time off – “whatever.”

    Of course in both cases, this generosity comes with the flip side that we may have to work in vacation, but that’s a given in certain jobs and a perfectly acceptable trade off imho. I’m a little luckier here than DH because I work with so many Europeans, who insist on moving calls or deadlines to protect everyone’s vacation. The Americans expect you to take the call from the ski lodge/beach chair.

    While eating, my fork is in my right hand at all times and my knife is in my left at all times. Not sure that’s only a European thing. Can’t think of anyone I grew up with who didn’t eat that way. I guess this means I can’t ask Ada for free medical advice. But looks like I *can* ask Denver Dad, so I’m good.

  64. “Do the billable targets take into account that people have PTO? Or are they based on the assumption of working 2,080 hours for the year?”

    The former. Ours are around 1800 hrs, which is basically around 7 hrs/day on average; in fact, if you hit 2,000 billables, you actually get a significant bonus. During the recession, we dropped them even further (so associates wouldn’t feel like they were “failing” if they couldn’t hit targets because the partners weren’t bringing in enough work). We coupled that with about a 10% cut to the base salary, but then added a new bonus at the @1800 level, so that if you had the work and hit the old target, you’d make the same money. But now we’re back to the old standards.

    Note that it’s still not easy to hit 1800, because billable work doesn’t always appear when you want it to, so you end up having 12-hr days followed by 2-hr days. But it is specifically designed on the assumption that people aren’t working 8 hrs/day for 52 weeks/yr — if you did manage an 8-hr/day average, that basically gives you 225 working days out of the @260 in the year (plus a few more for the marketing RFPs you get pulled in on, firm-wide meetings, etc.). Again, not that that ever actually happens. . . .

  65. If I am eating something that doesn’t require much cutting, I tend to switch back and forth. But, if a lot of cutting, tend to keep fork in left hand. Regardless of what needs cutting, if it rolls, like peas, I use the knife like a dam and push the fork up against it – whichever fork is in, knife is in the other. Again, this was what I was initially taught as a kid. Then, as a teen, my mom suggested pushing rolling things up against other food on your plate and eating the rolling things first.

  66. Ah, you sweet innocents who think that vacation / sick time should logically count toward billable hours. A ton of the stuff you do at work, that is part of your job, doesn’t count toward billable hours! Not to mention all the ‘you really should’ stuff like networking and development and pro bono and CLE. The expectation is that you just work a ton of hours so enough of them will be billable.

    Re fork use, European style is neither classy nor fake-fancy if you’re a European (or from another country that eats that way). If you’re an American, that style will come off as pretentious EVEN THOUGH you explain that it’s simply more logical, you picked up the habit the semester you spent in France, etc etc.

  67. I worked in an area where we had to log hours to projects even though we didn’t technically bill them. The biggest problem was our boss assumed: 52 weeks a year – less 2 weeks vacation, less 1 week sick taken (yes, use time in 15 min increments for going to doctor etc) over the course of the year = 49 work weeks, then assume 6.5 hours a day to direct project time. Sounds sort of reasonable, until you realized that the vacation time (based on organization wide policy) the average person in our department was eligible for 3 weeks vacation and some people up to 5 weeks, and some with young kids were maxing out sick time (everyone had 12 days per year). Nor, did the manager subtract holidays. But, you were held to 49 weeks at 6.5 hours logged to projects or you weren’t eligible for a raise.

    Funny no one stayed in that department long.

  68. Denver – hahhahaha! What Scarlett said. :) I’ve never been at a law firm that had PTO either – it is just vacation that is spelled out, and then sick days/other personal time are taken separately, but basically any time away from the office is time that you are not billing. Also, as LfB says, the billable/nonbillable usually shows up when you are entering your time, so you know how many billables you have for any day when you put it into the system.

  69. It’s amazing that these managers don’t reward efficiency. I am so thankful I’m not an attorney.

  70. It makes sense to lawyers in private practice.

    No, it really doesn’t. If you need to bill x hours and do z hours of admin and pro bono than it makes no sense to offer you PTO or sick days.

    It would be like someone at Acme Inc taking a vacation day Friday and then the boss asking them to come in Saturday to make up the hours. The whole point of PTO etc. is those hours count against hours you ordinarily have to work.

  71. so blindingly obvious that no one actually thinks they have to explain it.

    The billable hours thing makes total sense. The part that makes no sense is the pretense that you have vacation/sick days. Why even pretend to have them? What purpose do they server?

  72. It’s amazing that these managers don’t reward efficiency. I am so thankful I’m not an attorney.

    WCE, there is no incentive for efficiency because they make money based on billable hours. If you do the billable work in 6 hours instead of 8 hours, they lose money.

  73. “If you’re an American, that style will come off as pretentious EVEN THOUGH you explain that it’s simply more logical, you picked up the habit the semester you spent in France”

    Wouldn’t explaining that it’s a habit you picked up on your semester in France rather confirm the pretentiousness?

    @WCE: Well, since we get paid on the billable hour, and more hours = more money, then why would they reward efficiency? But as a practical matter, we do — as an associate, I always got merit bonuses, even though my hours were always toward the middle/lower end of the scale, because I did good work very quickly, so the clients were very happy and felt like they got very good value from me.

    @Rhett: think of it as a tracking metric more than anything else. E.g., two associates come in with 1600 billables. One has 4 weeks entered as sick leave — turns out he was in a car accident. Another has 4 weeks entered as vacation. First guy will be told not to worry, second guy will be told he needs to get his hours up. Or add in a third guy at the same numbers who has 4 weeks entered as personal time — depending on the reason, he may be told not to worry (e.g., his mom died) or advised to go on a part-time schedule (e.g., he has childcare responsibilities that are keeping him from making his targets).

    Similarly, a guy who comes in with 2000 hrs and 4 weeks of vacation will be given a bonus and patted on the back; a guy who makes 2000 hrs with no vacation for several years in a row will be advised that he should make sure to take some time off because we don’t want him to burn out.

    Etc.

  74. The billable hours thing makes total sense. The part that makes no sense is the pretense that you have vacation/sick days. Why even pretend to have them? What purpose do they server?

    Right. Obviously it’s good that I’m not a lawyer because I wouldn’t last long at one of those firms.

  75. Wouldn’t explaining that it’s a habit you picked up on your semester in France rather confirm the pretentiousness?

    Of course, but people like to try to justify it. But there’s no point in justifying it — it doesn’t make it come off as less pretentious — so if you’re going to use Euro-style table manners, just own it and don’t try to insist that others perceive it the way you want them to.

    Full disclosure, I’ve been putting little lines through my sevens ever since high school French. I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to.

  76. WCE – yup, efficiency can work against you, especially if there is not quite enough work to go around. That definitely happened to me at my first firm.

  77. @Rhett: think of it as a tracking metric more than anything else.

    Your description makes it sound even more nonsensically ridiculous.

  78. HM – I used to do the little lines through my 7’s too for several years. I stopped and my 7 looks naked now.

  79. I think as the whole lawyerly system more in terms of client satisfaction. This means not only the work that you do but how much the client is willing to pay for that work. I am guessing good partners are very successful at gauging this.

  80. HM – I had no idea this was seen as pretentious in the USA. I’ve been here for decades and have never noticed the Americans around me aren’t eating the same way. Seriously — NO ONE here eats like that??? Everyone switches their forks around a hundred times each meal? I can’t believe this. I’d have noticed, wouldn’t I? In any event, I’m like you and your sevens. I can no longer stop it than I can stop saying oot and aboot.

    I’m going to pay close attention for the next few weeks. Evidently, I’ve paid none to this in the past. But I still can’t believe this is true

  81. I started making the lines through my 7’s in Germany, where I learned most of my handwriting style, and still do it. It is very common in the software world, so never had a reason to drop it.

    Why is it I learned my handwriting in Germany? Because they tried to teach me cursive in the US, and I utterly failed at it. I actually got a failing grade and had to stay after school for remedial cursive. Me and several ADHD type boys, all in a room together. That didn’t do the trick either. But in Germany, we were required to use fountain pens, and they taught a cursive model totally different from the one in the US, which made sense and was easy to write. I finally learned cursive! So even today, I use a fountain pen and have the weird upright handwriting that comes from that German mode. That is the only thing that makes my handwriting legible.

    My oldest kid had a similar pen-based breakthrough. Like me, he couldn’t learn cursive and his writing looked like chicken scratches. When he finally dumped pencils and moved to these really fancy gel pens, his handwriting changed to this beautiful elegant style. Now everyone compliments him on his beautiful writing. But we have to keep him supplied with those pens

  82. Yes, yes HM! I can eat “continental style” – from my year abroad. It took a few months of spilling food down my clothes before I could reliably connect left hand with fork in it to my mouth. However, upon arriving back to “real America” I realized that it is seen as pretentious. I also realized that Europeans see the act of shoveling food with right hand as lazy and not an alternate style of eating. I haven’t let go of the lines through 7s.

    Last night we had mashed potatoes and meat loaf. Would you have put out knives? We don’t put out knives at every meal. Also, restaurants here have salad forks, but not salad knives. Is it assumed that you don’t use a knife for salads? Or it is okay to use you bleu cheese covered knife for cutting up your meatloaf, but not your bleu cheese covered fork?

  83. I am such a messy eater that no one would think me pretentious no matter what style I use. I am the person who managed to dump a gooey piece of baked Brie on a expensive carpet from Tajikistan at a party once.

  84. Last night we had mashed potatoes and meat loaf. Would you have put out knives?

    You’re blowin’ my mind.

  85. One of the side effects of American vs European eating styles is seen in salads. Because we don’t use knives, our salads tend to be chopped up really small. In France, especially, salad is serve with whole leaf lettuce, and you kind of fold up the leaf on your fork with your knife, or else cut it (I liked the folding method better). SInce I never liked chopped up salads as much, I tend to serve whole leaf salads and deal with it with my knife.

  86. So wait – how do you all set the table then? Not knife on right, fork on left, spoon outside knife?

    Do you only put a knife on the table if something needs to be cut?

  87. HM – I had no idea this was seen as pretentious in the USA.

    Me neither. I’ve never heard anyone say that before. I started doing it when I was a kid because switching hands seemed like so a waste of time and totally pointless.

    Last night we had mashed potatoes and meat loaf. Would you have put out knives?

    Of course. You need a knife to cut the meatloaf.

    I’ve never understood using the side of the fork to cut things. DW finally gave up on trying to get me to stop using a knife to cut pancakes and waffles and such. If something needs to be cut, you use a knife.

  88. I always liked eating in the homes of some of my Indian friends, where we could sit on the floor and use hands and piece of bread to eat our food. It always seemed more comfortable

  89. Fork on left (that was why as a little kid I needed to check my vaccination scar to remember which side was left!), knife and spoon on right. I would put out a knife with meatloaf ^_^.

    If the Euro-style is common in Canada, which wouldn’t be surprising since it’s also Brit-style, perhaps it’s more common up in the borderlands where you live than in other parts of the U.S., Risley? Anyway, I love the image of you peering at people’s hands during business lunches.

  90. Meatloaf should NOT need a knife to be cut – if it does I think that is a sign that you have the wrong recipe or overcooked it.

    Also, at our house we serve the peas in BOWLS and use SPOONS to eat them. And the kids eat theirs STILL FROZEN! So sue me. :)

  91. Risley, don’t worry, I always think of you as Canadian, not pretentious. There’s a subtle difference.

    I tried to look up how Obama eats (or how he eats when he is being photographed), as he is a “real American”. However, he is left-handed, so that confuses everything (and makes me question mu 2008 vote). I see Michelle shoveling food with a fork in the right hand, however.

  92. “The part that makes no sense is the pretense that you have vacation/sick days. Why even pretend to have them?”

    Our firm didn’t really pretend that we had them. There were only about 50 lawyers total, so easy to know if Joe was out for four weeks because he was in a bike accident and Sally was out for four weeks trekking through Nepal. I don’t recall a billing code for vacation or sick days. The firm cared about quality, billable work and not face time, so if you could do that whilst trekking through Nepal (impossible in 1990), then more power to you. The benefit of such a system for associates was that, if you spend months billing evening and weekends on a major matter, when it resolved or settled you *could* go trekking in Nepal for a month and still meet your quota. That usually worked only if you had cleared your docket for that major matter and didn’t have other pending projects.

    Most of our extended family never figured out the private practice and academic gigs. They would always want to know if we had various holidays “off,” and whether DH had the entire summer “off.”

  93. Meatloaf should NOT need a knife to be cut – if it does I think that is a sign that you have the wrong recipe or overcooked it.

    That’s irrelevant. Even if it is able to be cut with a fork, you still use knives for cutting, not forks. :)

  94. “I had no idea this was seen as pretentious in the USA.”

    Neither did I. I just thought it was another option that some folks used. I sometimes use the European method, but I switch back and forth.

    For a family meal we would not put a knife out for meatloaf and mashed potatoes because we would cut with the side of our fork and shove the food in our mouths. :)

    “I always liked eating in the homes of some of my Indian friends, where we could sit on the floor and use hands and piece of bread to eat our food. ”

    Just wait until you get older and sitting on the floor may not seem so comfortable, but that’s a topic for a future post. :)

  95. Yesterday we had crab. DS used the crab cracker. That was a messy meal and the kids used their fingers a lot. My Dad and I love lobster. We put our bibs, arm ourselves with the cracking tool and enjoy our meal. We are not messy but people look at us with shocked amazement.

  96. I should try using a knife to push stuff on my fork. It really bugs DW when I use my finger for that.

    DW and the kids get around the pushing food onto the fork issue to a large extent by eating from bowls most of the time. I’m the only one in the family who normally picks a plate over a bowl for most meals.

  97. “Your description makes it sound even more nonsensically ridiculous.”

    Only if you really don’t care why people miss targets, because you just fire everyone who is slow.

  98. Only if you really don’t care why people miss targets, because you just fire everyone who is slow.

    That’s the reality isn’t it? Can you really make partner missing your numbers year after year due to being sickly?

  99. I eat indian food and pizza with my hands. I like my salad chopped up. If I have to do the wrapping around the fork acrobatics for a piece of Lettuce, I will go mad.
    Thinking back, I use fork in my left hand and knife in right if I am eating something that needs to be cut. If I am eating something like peas or rice, I will put the knife down, switch fork to right and shovel in my my fork. I will use the knife in left hand to shovel the strays onto the fork.
    See I eat perfectly! ^-^

  100. Hmmmm… No knife? Did he use the side of his fork? Fork in right hand = Real American, fork with pizza, however…

  101. “Do you only put a knife on the table if something needs to be cut?”

    Of course. Why would I put out utensils that aren’t needed?

    That said, I would put out a knife for meatloaf. And I would use my knife to maneuver it onto the fork if necessary.

  102. That’s the reality isn’t it? Can you really make partner missing your numbers year after year due to being sickly?

    Not for one year. Even lawyers have a certain level of compassion, or fear of lawsuits. But year after year? Yeah, you’re out eventually.

  103. The thing that bothers me about Trump is that he wears his ties way too long. Maybe he things doing so will make him look less overweight. Certainly, if a tie is tied too short, it will accentuate a gut, but his are falling several inches below the beltline.

    (this is the best picture Google images brings up, and it’s not quite so bad here):

    He must be buying extra long ties, too, because I’m much shorter and slimmer than he is, and even with only a half-Windsor, there’s not much length left on the other end.

  104. “I tried to look up how Obama eats (or how he eats when he is being photographed), as he is a “real American”.”

    Given where he grew up, I’m wondering if he uses chopsticks a lot.

    I’m pretty sure he eats his spam musubi with his hands.

  105. You’re never making partner if you consistently miss your hours unless you are a big rainmaker. But you can miss your hours a year or two at the firms where I worked and make partner. Lawyers aren’t totally heartless. The largest raise I got was the year I missed 6 months (3 of which were totally unplanned). And that half year didn’t set me back on the partnership track.

  106. My friend’s biggest protest at school was eating with her fingers instead of using silverware. Now, culturally most people used their fingers to eat at home but at school they tried to teach Western table manners. My friend though that the teachers were colonial oppressors or the like for forcing her to eat with silverware.

  107. “That’s the reality isn’t it? Can you really make partner missing your numbers year after year due to being sickly?”

    1. No.

    2. Not year after year, but one or two years, absolutely. All of my examples were derived from real-life situations. I mean, one year, the annual review discussion of the guy who was my first example was, basically, “What happened to X this year?” “He was in a car accident and broke his hand.” “Oh, damn, hope he heals quickly. Next?” Total non-event.

    But it also depends on the firm. We have all chosen to work somewhere where we make less money, because we like other aspects of our work and the firm. YMMV.

  108. Forking a pizza? How does that even work? Does he just scrape the topping off?
    Pizza in the US = hands
    Pizza in Europe = fork AND knife
    Both are practical means of eating a pizza. But a fork? Most pizza crusts are hard to cut with a fork and you end up with the topping squirting all over.

  109. Which hand you use for your knife to cut food is a style thing. But pushing food onto your fork with your fingers is a manners thing. Use the knife! Or at the least, a piece of bread.

  110. I am guessing they don’t use chopsticks in Indonesia. Still, I bet Obama can use them because he lived in Hawaii

  111. Of course he can use chopsticks. It would be embarrassing to be a Hawaii teen unable to use chopsticks, so even if he hadn’t used them at a younger age he would certainly have learned when he was back here in grades 5-12.

    What kinds of food are giving people so much trouble corralling them? I’ve never thought about how to get food onto the fork. Either I’m pushing it on in some way I don’t even think about, or I’m not eating whatever is the problem. (Or maybe I’m just eating those foods with chopsticks, ha ha.) I’ll have to pay more attention next time!

  112. There’s this pizza place with extremely thin crusts that DH and DS love. I prefer Pizza Hut. Anyways, the pizza crust is so thin that I have to use a knife and fork.

    Yes Ada, we, too, use knives with our forks. Exact same methodology that Austin described.

    I, too, could never be a lawyer. You guys make the whole billable hours thing seem like a nightmare.

  113. “I’ve never understood using the side of the fork to cut things. DW finally gave up on trying to get me to stop using a knife to cut pancakes and waffles and such. If something needs to be cut, you use a knife.”

    I agree with you. DH even moreso. We would definitely put knives on the table for meatloaf. Not sharp ones though.

    There are lots of foods that are hard to get on a fork – rice, peas, small pasta (e.g., couscous), small pieces of vegetable, etc.

  114. I definitely switch the fork back and forth to eat, and I like that it makes me slow down during a meal.

    This has been quite the year work-wise for me. Need a vacation now. None in sight.

  115. You guys make the whole billable hours thing seem like a nightmare.

    It really is. And bear in mind that it’s not necessarily good enough to just keep your time in 6 minute increments by noting the client it’s for — you’re also supposed to describe what you’re doing, ideally in a way that will ‘sell’ it as something clearly worth paying for, because there are businesses that your clients can hire to ‘audit’ legal bills with the promise of knocking them down by some percentage, which they do by going through and basically arguing that everything that was done was not really necessary, or could have been done in less time. So you spend extra time on the timesheets trying to make everything you did sound important, and you never quite know how to account for an extra-long time in the bathroom, or staring at the wall for a while while turning a problem over, or the insight that comes to you the next day in the shower.

    This is a big part of what I didn’t like about private practice.

  116. I have to remind my kids to not even think about being lawyers. It sounds like the tenure track on steroids

  117. Ivy, maybe it’s just me. I do eat those foods and I think I just kind of slide the fork under a pile and eat them that way — I haven’t noticed them as challenging. Of course our rice is sticky, not that Uncle Ben’s stuff, but I eat peas, couscous, and finely cut vegetables too.

  118. It sounds like the tenure track on steroids

    Right down to an unquestioning fealty to the system.

  119. I have what is known as mixed dominance, not quite ambidextrous, so I can cut my meat with either hand. I never leave the knife in my hand after use, though. It always looks to me like the European diner is hovering over the plate with implements of destruction. I often cut a couple of pieces of meat at a time before putting down the knife and starting to eat. I never put out a teaspoon at our place setting for the same reason as Ada with the knives, but always a knife and fork. and a larger spoon as needed. We drink our coffee and have dessert later.

    One of the endearing things between DH and myself and also my first husband and myself is that all three of us as kids practiced eating European style so that we could become spies. I even learned how to count differently on my fingers as needed – one is thumb and not first finger in many countries.

    Tangent to the tangent. I created a vacation photo calendar, something I do every year, via Apple photos. It arrived misprinted (their fault). I looked up “returns”, it said you can bring it back to any Apple store, I was going toward the mall anyway, so I said, great. No staying on hold. Not so fast. The store personnel (all sweet and young) looked at me like I had three heads, managed to scan the item in such a way that they could not process the return. One really tried to help, but they kept saying, we don’t do this. Why did you bring this in? When they looked at the on screen instruction they basically said (Westworld reference) it doesn’t look like anything to me. So I called the number, and after being on hold for 15 minutes a nice young man took care of my refund.

  120. “What kinds of food are giving people so much trouble corralling them?”

    The kinds that don’t lend themselves to being stabbed.

  121. And as to the difficulty of getting food on the fork, I attach a picture of my pattern. I guess it might be an upscale 1950s version of the spork.

  122. This thread is cracking me up! It has been a source of conflict for their (55+ years !) of marriage between my parents that my dad uses bread to push things onto his fork. When they eat dinner at my house, I often didn’t have bread, and then when he asks for it the whole fight starts again. So now I always remember. (Well… full disclosure- our cook started remembering because of the huge ruckus that would ensue.)

  123. In the home country we ate rice with a spoon and fork. We rarely used knives. IIRC meat was usually curried, in small pieces and eaten with rice. For pieces of chicken you used your fingers.

  124. “I often cut a couple of pieces of meat at a time before putting down the knife and starting to eat.”

    @Meme – I always do this too. I cut a good amount of steak at a time in order to keep down the switching. I am completely hopeless in all things with my left hand, which amuses my lefty child to no end. He loves to make me try to do things left handed to laugh at my incompetence. DH is a righty, but maybe only because he was forced into it in grade school. He does a lot of athletic things left-handed and is much more ambidextrous than me.

    And I really like your spork. I once searched for them online & mostly what came up with camping gear. I was thinking of getting something a little more elegant like your pattern.

    I got promoted into a new role early this year, and I finally feel like I am settling in a bit. Lots of change in my industry, but not so much in my function until the robots take over.

  125. “IIRC meat was usually curried, in small pieces and eaten with rice.”

    Historically, a society or culture generally had to be wealthy to be eating meat in a manner in which each person could afford to be served a large, intact portion of meat that required further cutting into bite-sized chunks. But, based on the preparation methods of what was affordable or available, poorer people probably didn’t need to do any further cutting by the time the meat got to their plates. It was already smoked and pulled (Southern BBQ), or ground, or chopped into small pieces and cooked in a curry or stew or mixed with rice, or it had to be gnawed off the bone, like ribs or wings.

    Just a random thought.

  126. OK, while we are on cultural eating oddities… the one I have trouble with is the way you eat in China, at least in restaurants. Lots of dishes are piled onto a lazy susan, which is fine. But then each diner gets a teeny tiny plate – the size of a dessert plate or even smaller. Depending on how fancy the place is, you either use your chopsticks, or a serving spoon, to bring a few bites of the food onto your plate. You eat the bites, and then go for some bites from another dish. The problem I have, and it seems to be endemic to non-Chinese, is how to keep debris – crumbs, litte bones, extra sauce, from piling up on the tiny plate so you can no longer eat. Also, how to keep noodles from slithering off the plate.

  127. Depending on how fancy the place is, you either use your chopsticks, or a serving spoon, to bring a few bites of the food onto your plate.

    And you’d better reverse your chopsticks when you’re sticking them into the serving platter! Or at least that’s the expectation here.

  128. Actually, it seemed to depend in China. I had heard that the reversing chopsticks thing is very recent in China, and more of a city thing

  129. Ivy – I, too, have a left hand that is purely decorative. It is there for symmetry only. When we were dating, my husband would occasionally toss things to me on my left side just to see if I would ever use it. The older I get, it seems the less I use my left hand for anything.

  130. Well I quit my job this year so that was the big change for our family which has mostly been great. DH’s firm sets your salary based on last year’s performance (there’s still a lockstep but they will move you down if you have two bad years in a row) and then your deferred compensation payment is based on how much money came in the door attributed to you. Great for DH’s team who mostly gets their full rates from their clients, but not so great for others who have cut deals on their rates or take cases on contingencies. DH and I were looking at his revenue last night and he actually may not hit his additional compensation targets this fiscal year with four months left (which is a bit of a bummer since I quit my job). He went over his revenue target by $100K last year and got nothing extra for it so I really wish he had not pressed to have one big deal paid at the end of last fiscal year as he needs that revenue now. The no additional payment for extra revenue sometimes leads attorneys to slack off the last month of the year to try to move revenue to the next year in the same way the old billable hour requirements used to.

  131. I always put fork and knife at a place setting unless maybe we were having soup and sandwiches? I use a knife to put rice or peas on my fork and switch back and forth (fork in right hand to eat, knife in right hand to cut meat). I also use a line on my seven’s and say spot or dot for the decimal point when reading out numbers (which I tend to do a lot on calls for my work).

  132. “So you spend extra time on the timesheets trying to make everything you did sound important, and you never quite know how to account for an extra-long time in the bathroom, or staring at the wall for a while while turning a problem over, or the insight that comes to you the next day in the shower.”

    @HM: No. Just no. I do not play that game. You hired me to think, to research, and to explain the results of that thinking and research in plain English that other people can understand. You did not hire me to use active verbs that make it sound like every day involves scaling Alps, and I am not going to insult either of our intelligence by pretending that that is what I am doing. I write “revise brief — 6.0” and call it good. You can trust me to do the job you are paying me a ridiculous amount of money to do, or you can hire someone else. If you think I’m lying, why would you trust me with your work in the first place? If you don’t think I’m lying, don’t waste both of our time.

    We have a client who is pretty ridiculous about this — if there is any time over an hour noted, she will not only want it broken out, but she will want to see the draft and the final to see what kinds of changes took such a ridiculous amount of time. She is also the first client who expects you to drop everything else to handle her issue. We (meaning “another attorney at the firm who is much nicer than I am”) have had a number of conversations about how insulting it is to have everything flyspecked and second-guessed, and she has backed off a fair bit on the backup documentation. For her, I will carve out the phone calls and emails into separate entries, and I make a reasonble effort to break up the briefwriting into “research issue X (2.3); draft issue Y (3.2).” But that’s as far as I go.

    I also figure that the nonbillable time in the bathroom at work is offset by the time in the shower when those ideas crystallize. When I go to the restroom or get a refill, I really don’t pay attention to whether it is 2 minutes (round down!) or 4 (round up!).

    Of course, this is also where FU money comes in handy. :-)

  133. The pattern is Dansk Odin. Dansk was a US company that hired Scandinavian designers in the 50s to design household goods for the US market. My set was manufactured in Germany. Later on the stainless was made in Japan and Korea, not as substantial and not exactly matches. I bought a different Dansk pattern as a bride in the early 70s, something a bit more conventional. This set was purchased from a little midcentury shop in Berkeley about 18 mos ago. DD1 has spoken for it already. The Miele dishwasher with the tray helps keep it in good condition.

  134. I just arranged with Mr WCE to spend a couple evenings with equipment during the first week of Christmas break while he watches the kids. I need open-ended time to work through issues and the electrons always show up at my convenience. Sometimes I’m jealous of y’all, but not today.

  135. I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of opening my solo law practice, and I am happy to report that this year will be my most successful one so far.

    At this point, I don’t think I could ever return to working at a firm. It would be too hard to give up my freedom — freedom to practice the way I want, freedom to work however many hours I want, and freedom over my schedule. I imagine I’ll stay in solo practice until I’m ready to retire from the law altogether.

    Re. those of you who don’t push food onto a fork with a knife: What do you do about peas or corn or other small things that will roll around your plate if you just try to scoop them up with your fork unassisted?

  136. I eat my peas with honey;
    I’ve done it all my life.
    It makes the peas taste funny,
    But it keeps them on the knife.

    –Ogden Nash

  137. We just had our office Christmas potluck. The only utensil options were chopsticks and forks.

  138. “I am coming up on the fifth anniversary of opening my solo law practice, and I am happy to report that this year will be my most successful one so far.”

    Congrats. It doesn’t seem that long ago that you were contemplating going solo.

  139. “Actually, it seemed to depend in China. I had heard that the reversing chopsticks thing is very recent in China, and more of a city thing”

    Around here, not reversing your chopsticks is the sort of thing that can lead to not getting invited to dinner any more.

    The one exception is when you first start serving yourself, before the chopsticks have gone into your mouth. This also applies in buffet lines.

  140. NoB – that’s terrific about your 5th year anniversary and your success! Congratulations! It was a gutsy move–very happy to hear it paid off.

  141. What do you do about peas or corn or other small things that will roll around your plate if you just try to scoop them up with your fork unassisted?

    Sliding my fork under them works for me, I guess, though I’ve thought about it more today than maybe ever before!

  142. Finn, from a website on dining etiquette in China “Some consider it unhygienic to use the chopsticks that have been near (or in) one’s mouth to pick food from the central dishes. Serving spoons or chopsticks can be provided, and in this case you will need remember to alternate between using the serving chopsticks to move food to your bowl and your personal chopsticks for transferring the food to your mouth.”

    There is more here – the one on not fishing through the food with your chopsticks I have heard many, many times. I think they consider that more offensive in China than using the eating end of the chopstics
    http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-food/dining-etiquette.htm

  143. I imagined totebaggers all over the country tonight paying attention to how they used their eating utensils. We had macaroni and cheese (Fannie Farmer’s classic, the best recipe) and green beans. I used a knife to cut the green beans, and switched between European and American style.

    My (cynical) H said he’d rather be exposed to mouth germs than to hand germs, so he’d prefer other diners NOT reverse their chopsticks.

    This video was widely circulated.

    Chinese tourists blasted for ‘shameful’ food waste as they use plates to scoop up everything at all-you-can-eat buffet
    The customers can be seen using plates as makeshift shovels to hoard as much breaded shrimp as they possibly can

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/tourists-blasted-shameful-food-waste-7589359

  144. Oh, that is hilarious. Tourists from the mainland have a really bad rep in Hong Kong, where they are seen as rural rubes with too much money. It is kind of like the old European stereotype from the 60’s of the ugly American. I flew once from Nanjing to Hong Kong on a flight filled with such a tour group, and they fit the stereotype. Most were middle aged, and I am sure, had not flown much before. The flight attendants were having a hard time getting them to sit down and fasten seat belts.

    When I flew TO Nanjing from Hong Kong, my flight had a big group of Buddhist monks…

  145. On the language arts situation, DW emailed the assistant principal this morning asking if a full year of LA is required to graduate. He said it is. She emailed him back asking about alternatives to the regular class. He has not replied yet.

  146. Congrats, NoB, that’s an enormous accomplishment and something that I’d be scared to attempt.

  147. “My (cynical) H said he’d rather be exposed to mouth germs than to hand germs, so he’d prefer other diners NOT reverse their chopsticks.”

    I think I only touch the back end of the chopsticks with my hands if they’re the disposable wooden type, while rubbing off any splinters.

    But most Chinese restaurants we frequent provide a serving utensil with each dish.

  148. Yeah, and if you’re reversing your chopsticks you really don’t want to hold them up near the end b/c your hands will get sauce on them.

  149. I changed jobs in August. Nice pay bump, better title, very generous PTO, longer commute. I lost my office, but I’m in a corner of the building so there is still some privacy along with lots of natural light and a good view. The pace here is much faster than my old place and there is a lot to learn but I’m glad I made the change. I kind of enjoy being out in the open and bantering with my co-workers, especially the younger ones. The boyfriend stories, the girlfriend stories. It’s very entertaining and often amusing. When I need to focus, I pop in ear buds.

    I’ve always eaten with fork in right hand, knife in left. My mother would always ask if we really need a knife and it would drive me crazy. Just put it on the table! Why even question it?

    Whether or not I cross my 7’s depends on who will be reading it and what they are used to seeing.

  150. Thanks for the good wishes, everyone. Solo practice certainly has had its challenges, but all in all it’s been a good move for me. It’s funny how life plays out — if you had told me when I graduated from college that I would be running my own business one day, I would have told you that you were crazy. Maybe that’s a topic for another post: Does your life today at all resemble the life you anticipated having when you were first starting out?

  151. NoB – do you have to be involved in local organizations as a means of getting your name out there ? A solo practitioner I went to was involved with the local Chamber of Commerce and he seemed to pop many places.

  152. NoB — belated congrats. That’s awesome. Also something that I wouldn’t have the guts to do.

  153. This year has been topsy turvy for me on the job front. I am looking for a new position, working at my old job part time, and working at a start up company. I am happy now that I’ve dialed back on my old position. I had a great boss who left and then my new boss sucked.

  154. “What if your job started sucking?”

    I’d probably retire and look for something else to do. I am in a major geek environment with specialized skills — I am both not qualified for an individual practice and reliant on the ability to work with others who have complementary specialized skills. Plus I serve a specific nonbillable role in the firm now, in an area that no one else does. So even if the practice started sucking, I could probably negotiate a deal to do that part of the work for a tide-me-over salary.

    But, yeah, worst-case scenario and the firm implodes or something, I might just call it good.

  155. “But, yeah, worst-case scenario and the firm implodes or something, I might just call it good.”

    IOW, take your eff-u money and go home. And the lower income could mean your kids qualify for need-based financial aid.

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