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DoWellAndGood

Is it possible for big law associates/articling students to go to the gym midday?

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Hey team,

As the title says, I was wondering whether any articling students or associates in big law firms take time out of their day to go to the gym. I start articling next year at a big corporate firm in Vancouver, and I anticipate the heavy workload based on everything I have heard from peers, mentors, and posters on this forum. That said, I haven't found any specific conversations about people that leave the office to hit the gym. In 2L/3L I was fortunate enough and committed enough to go to the gym 5-6 days per week, 2 hours per day, to focus on weightlifting. I understand that level of time commitment for fitness is likely impossible early in my career, but I would still like to maintain a decent gym routine.

My concern is that even if I am at the office 8AM-8PM daily, but leave for 60-90 at some point, it will make me look bad or not committed etc. Is there a way to maintain a consistent gym routine while working in downtown Vancouver, but not create the appearance that I am "always missing" from the office etc? I'm genuinely looking forward to the long hours for articling because I want to learn as much as I can as fast as I can, but I'm worried that I'll have to sacrifice my gym routine entirely in order to do it, which is unfortunate because I actually use fitness (morning run, mid-day gym, evening yoga) as a way to maintain my energy levels and be more productive, but it may not give that appearance.

Does anyone have any experience or suggestions?

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I doubt anyone will be watching your office and noting when you are and are not there. When we were using our office, I used to roll in between 9:30-10am (I am not a morning person) and nobody said a word to me about it. In my experience (litigation), people are themselves very busy and just have better things to do. If you’re meeting your deadlines and are responsive, nobody will care when you do your work. 

There will be some days where it’s just not possible to get away because you’re going to be working on something and will be expected to be responsive. But that’s not every day, and I doubt anyone will notice or care if you’re out of the office for 60-90 minutes. If they do, you don’t want to be at that firm anyway.

I don’t like working out midday because then it feels like hell to hit my personal daily target. I prefer to hit the target and then work out. But you’ll find your own rhythm. Many big law people exercise, despite the shape of some of us (me included).

Edited by easttowest
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Thanks for the response! I am leaning towards following your strategy and heading to the gym on my way out the door in the evening, which I had intended for the appearance aspect, but you make a great point about syncing it up with daily targets etc. and would make it easier to workout alongside my wife. Cheers!

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I guess it might depend on the firm. Obviously it would be a lot easier to make it work if you're going to a gym in your building. 

I am articling at a big firm in Vancouver. I still workout daily, but before or after work. I definitely don't think it would be feasible to be gone for 60-90 minutes in the middle of the day on on a regular basis. 

It depends a lot on firm culture. We are in the office from 9-5 unless we're grabbing a quick coffee or out of office working on something. We work earlier/later than that, but those are the hours we were told we were pretty much expected to be in the actual office. It's fine to go for lunch with a friend sometimes or run an errand or grab a coffee, but I do think it would be a problem at my firm to be gone for 90 minutes midday every day. 

Not so much that they would care about appearances, but since people expect you to be in, lawyers email and call a lot between 9-5 and we're generally expected to reply within an hour during the workday if an associate or partner contacts us. Obviously that's not applicable if you're on a deadline, at a trial, etc. but I do think being unavailable that much would be too much. 

Edited by Starling
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As an articling student WFH at a big firm in toronto, I was worried about when I could get my work outs in.
 

The reality is your time is not really under your own control as an articling student. As posters above mentioned, you’re expected to be responsive def between working hours. Moreover, you are likely going to be quite busy on most days and may not be able to comfortably leave for 60-90 minutes mid day. By that I mean, you may not yourself feel comfortable leaving an assignment with an impending deadline (one of many I may add) to go work out for 60-90 minutes. Also, the time you don’t work during the day likely causes you to extend the time you finish work. 
 

I personally hate being interrupted during my work outs, and I am very anxious to respond ASAP to inquiries from lawyers. So that makes the idea of leaving mid day for a work out not doable for me. 
 

And IMO, while it is true that no one is monitoring your presence, you never know when a lawyer will come by your office (in a world where we do not WFH) to chat with you or assign something to you... and you don’t really wanna increase the chances that you’d be missing when they do come around should they come around in that 60-90 minutes you’re out of the office! Just something to also think about. 
 

Personally, I started out articling waking up early to get my work out in, but the laziness of WFH set in a couple weeks in and now I tend to get my work outs after work. Sometimes this means late night. I’ve never felt comfortable working out in the middle of day, literally except for the last 2 days where I’ve had nothing on my plate and I suspect that will continue until after the holidays. 

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As others have said I don't think it's very possible as an articling student because your schedule is really not your own.  You can certainly try, but there will inevitably be people wondering where you are or sending you urgent emails. There's more of an expectation that you'll be around at their beck and call. 

As an associate however, it's very possible, especially as you get more independence. I work at a large 100+ lawyer firm and a few of the junior associates go to the gym during their lunch hours. You're much more able to control your schedule and balance work around  a gym break. On the plus side they then stay in the office until later and look like 'harder workers' 😂

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41 minutes ago, DoWellAndGood said:

Thanks everyone for the advice and feedback! It sounds like any such ideas are better left for when I'm an associate haha

when you became a partner

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I articled at a big firm on bay and a few of our students went to the gym mid-day multiple times a week. No one noticed or cared! Obviously, if there was a day they knew they were needed they didn't go, but on slower days it didn't seem to be a problem. That being said, my firm wasn't a face time firm at all.

Edited by CoffeeandLaw
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It's totally doable, but you have to temper your expectations. Supersets are your friends. 

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There's something to be said about setting boundaries even in biglaw. Agree with hymo, it's totally possible to get close to the gym lifestyle you want. 

It depends on what accommodations you are willing to make to your workouts, your work, and your own time. If you are willing to:

  1. Do every Sat/Sun - that's two sessions usually uninterrupted.
  2. Cut down from five sessions a week to four, that leaves only two sessions you need to find time for within Mon-Fri. If you're willing to have only three sessions a week, that's only one per weekday (very doable). If you absolutely need to have five sessions, you can consider having two sessions per day on the weekends. 
  3. Cut down your sessions from 2 hours to 1 hour, you can fit sessions into times that otherwise is unavailable (i.e. lunch, end of business hours, etc.) 

All that's left is to manage your time and (i) take any gap in urgent work to get a session in (and be decisive) (ii) set boundaries for reasonable (or unreasonable at the possible expense of your reputation) times you like to block off (I left to work out around 5:30/6pm and it was usually ok) and (iii) understand that your session could always be ruined by urgent work. 

Consider really busy weeks as natural break weeks. 

Obviously much harder to structure compared law school, but still all very achievable. All of the above is also subject to how you manage work and how much you value your free time - its all a balance. 

Source: Managed 3-4 gym sessions a week during biglaw articling, still do as associate. 

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Used to go 2-3 times a week. Gym was very close to the office which helped. 

Most people I know are either in the 7-9am gym crowd before work, or otherwise the 6-7pm time slot when they find a lull. Tough to do afternoon because you still have to shower/eat lunch and you'll be at 5pm starting at your computer with only 4 billable hours logged at times. 

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Note that this is pretty variable for each person, their lifestyle and their workplace so take it all with a grain of salt and find what works best for you with trial and error. However, a few thoughts (almost all them made irrelevant by COVID/WFH):

  • It's truly not difficult to be active and workout regularly while also working long hours. It just takes a bit of discipline and a bit of flexibility.
  • I suggest morning workouts because it's the most predictable time and when people are expecting the least from you.
  • Friday nights, Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings are all basically guaranteed workouts.
  • Don't schedule rest days because your work schedule and your life will inevitably force rest days upon you.
  • Only you can know what's best for yourself but sometimes there is a balance to strike with sacrificing sleep for exercise.
  • Two-a-days when things are slow will pay dividends when you're stuck with zero-a-days when things are busy.
  • Use the time you have available. If you were planning for an hour and now you only have 20 minutes, still get those 20 minutes in. Better than nothing and keeps you honest.
  • Most importantly: if you're otherwise making a consistent effort, be forgiving when you have to skip a day, or several days, or you want to get that extra sleep, or attend that social event.
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I had the same plan as you when I was starting articling. My firm is not face-time firm. My principal suggested limiting it to 3 days per week. He said even if I'm getting all the work done, the optics of heading out at lunch with a gym bag every day are not ideal. I switched to 7 am workouts and that worked better. For what it's worth I think it's a great routine though. 

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Thanks everyone for all the advice and perspectives! I'll probably feel out the firm and use these tips well. It's comforting to know I won't necessarily have to give up the gym for a year/decade haha. 

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11 hours ago, Icharus said:

I had the same plan as you when I was starting articling. My firm is not face-time firm. My principal suggested limiting it to 3 days per week. He said even if I'm getting all the work done, the optics of heading out at lunch with a gym bag every day are not ideal. I switched to 7 am workouts and that worked better. For what it's worth I think it's a great routine though. 

lol this is a crock of bull. 

What is the difference of going to buy lunch for an hour, and going to the gym for an hour? Would it have been better if i put my clothes in a laptop bag? 

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I don't think you would find that most of your colleagues will take an hour to buy lunch on a regular (and frequent) basis. At least not 2-3 times a week.

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14 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

I don't think you would find that most of your colleagues will take an hour to buy lunch on a regular (and frequent) basis. At least not 2-3 times a week.

Maybe the actual act of going to buy lunch will not take an hour. But walking to a vendor, waiting for the vendor, eating at table, returning back to the office, perhaps buying a coffee on the way back? That probably about an hour. Generally, an hour is allotted as the lunch hour, whether explicit or implied. I don't think this is egregious at all 

I'm not saying to go to the office in your trackpants and sweatsuit and be blatant about it every day. But at the same time, there's no need to scare students/young associates that they will never be able to find a one hour gap here and there to hit the gym nearby.  I personally went to the gym 3x a week once I realized how the firm functions with assigning work and the interpersonal dynamic of my group. I even went on a "regular" basis in that it was 3 days a week, but it was never the same 3 days each week.

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No one is going to the food court for an hour 2-3 times a week.

I'm with the group of people who think it's probably doable once you've settled in as an associate, even a relatively junior one, but it would be pretty challenging when you're articling.

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