What my out of office really means…

The other day I put a polite but hopefully firm OOO on my emails, explaining that I am not taking on new work and will deal only with emails relating to existing commitments.

This morning I seriously contemplated rewording it to simply read: “For the love of god, STOP. EMAILING. ME!” I flirted with the idea of adding some swears as a parting flourish (I love a good swear, it’s therapeutic).

Of course, I haven’t done that. It’s nobody else’s fault that I need to draw a line. And they aren’t psychic. Also, I am a professional.

But I have reached a stage where for the sake of my sanity and those around me, and to make sure I do right by my clients, my family and myself, I need to impose some serious boundaries. Otherwise I am at risk of providing a poor standard of work, parenting, partnering and daughtering. So I’m pausing on new commitments. All of them.

Our household, our whole family is undergoing a period of acute difficulty, following on from a period of chronic stress and change, and now is the time to refocus for a bit. If I burn out or run myself down physically to the point I can’t work then I let everyone down. On the work front I’ve had a great first year in silk, adjusting to all that it means in practice and working out who I am professionally. And if that was all that was going on it would be fine. But of course it isn’t. Life carries on. And it’s been increasingly hard to juggle any full time job with what’s going on at home, let alone this one.

I was going to say there is no shame in saying this, but the fact I am anxious about saying it suggests that really there is, so let me adjust that to say there shouldn’t be any shame in this. Looking after myself, my wellbeing and my family is good business sense. And goodness knows we get frequent enough reminders of what happens when lawyers don’t listen to the signs. So, I’m a big girl. I’ll say it. Doesn’t make me any less of a lawyer, or any less reliable. It makes me sensible (But the fact I am having to rationalise this at length is a reminder of how ridiculously dysfunctional our profession is).

So, I’m vetoing all new instructions and, for the time being at least, I’m just going to ignore unsolicited requests for help, pro bono work, free advice, ‘just five minutes of your time’, extra committees, to deliver a talk, or do anything that isn’t essential. Please don’t think me rude, but right now there isn’t enough of me to go around. Be assured, I will most likely continue intermittently tweeting inane or profound nonsense in between things.

Be back soon.

Look after yourselves. And for the love of god don’t send me emails asking if I’m ok. I’m fine. I will be fine.

6 thoughts on “What my out of office really means…

  1. Good for you. Enjoy the break!

  2. Absolutely fantastic. My friend, a former colleague, in our seventies and 80’s, have to regularly give each other such pep-talks . Congratulations on your insight and courage in setting out your protective boundaries so publicly. I am sure there will be many readers wishing they could do this. I love reading what you write. May I wish you the continuing strength to resist the inevitable pressures that there will be trying to encourage you to do more than you might want, need or can take on.

  3. Just a quick reminder of this thread:
    You claimed there was discrimination against female barristers and judges, but here you are saying you’re prioritising family over work. The work you’re turning down will be picked up by another barrister and that barrister will probably be male.
    By choosing your family over your career you’re making a choice. That is not being forced on you, you’re free to choose. Others are also free to choose, it just so happens that in general men will put greater emphasis on their career and that’s why the statistics look the way they do.

  4. Thank you for articulating this very important message and good luck as you re-balance.

  5. […] to the man who just commented on my post from a couple of weeks ago which said that I was taking a step back to prioritise family, just so he could mansplain that it […]

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