ARTICLE: Billable Hours in Ordinary Time: A Theological Critique of the Instrumentalization of Time in Professional Life Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 2001 Loyola University Chicago School of Law
Loyola University Chicago Law Journal

ARTICLE: Billable Hours in Ordinary Time: A Theological Critique of the Instrumentalization of Time in Professional Life

Fall, 2001

33 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 173


M. Cathleen Kaveny *



Many lawyers are very unhappy, particularly lawyers who work in big firms. They may be rich, and getting even richer, 2 but they are also miserable, or so they say. Several commentators on the state of the legal profession have turned their attention to this phenomenon, probing its causes and exposing its effects upon the legal culture and the wider society. 3 They suggest that a major culprit is the sheer amount of time that lawyers must work in order to justify their high salaries. Lawyers, especially those on the partnership track, have little or no time for family, friends, or public service. Their lives are consumed in an endless stream of work, much of which is increasingly specialized, tedious, and repetitive. They would be happier and more balanced people, or so it has been argued, if they agreed to earn less money in exchange for working fewer hours.

I am in full agreement that the number of hours worked by lawyers, particularly those in big firms, is a substantial cause of their unhappiness. But I think that the problem runs deeper than the sheer amount of time they are required to devote to their professional lives. After all, many physicians, clergy, and even academics seem to put in comparably long hours, apparently without experiencing the same level of dissatisfaction. Furthermore, a large portion of any job is consumed by repetitive, uninteresting tasks that nonetheless require a great deal of attention. Surely, the sixth baby with an ear ...
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