Poll: How much vacation time have you taken in 2009?

As 2009 draws to a close, inevitably many of you are preparing for vacation. As some of the weekend commenters noted, it is vitally important for one’s sanity that you take vacation regularly — but then, it’s often difficult if you’re particularly busy. (In fact, as we write this, a good friend has been up working for 36 hours straight — while on “vacation.”) So let’s talk about this.  (Pictured:  intense aruba sunset, originally uploaded to Flickr by atomicshark.)

First, a poll:

For our $.02, our goal has always been to use as much vacation time as possible, particularly since we’ve never worked in a job where vacation days “rolled over” or could be used in a subsequent year. Our preferred method of using as many vacation days as possible has been the 4-day weekend (or perhaps a 5-day weekend, such as around the 4th of July) — if you’re still there for some of the week, it seems a bit less like your vacation is disrupting the workflow.  This, unfortunately, means that many hard-to-get-to locales are left unexplored — after all, if you’re only taking a 5-day vacation you can’t very well visit a place that takes a day just to get to — but at least means that you’ve had a break from work, mentally.  It also avoids the heartbreak of planning a 10-day trip to an exciting spot only to have work interfere and prevent you from going.  (Hint to all those finishing school and planning a trip before you start work — this is one of the only times you’ll have to travel for two weeks or more without guilt, so use them wisely.  Similarly, honeymoons tend to be respected by superiors.)   Last-minute jaunts can be a great way to make use of unexpected slow times at the office, also — we like the website Jauntsetter for last-minute jaunts for NYCers; most airlines also have e-mails listing weekend sales.

Another trick we’ve used is to plan the entire year’s vacations at once — in December, for example.  If you have some time over the next week or so, we highly recommend looking at the entire calendar for 2010 now — figure out when major events are (a wedding in Miami, the last day of finals, your child’s spring break) and try to plan a few days’ worth of padding on either side of the events — reserving the space for your vacation now.  Put reminders on your calendar far in advance so you’ll remember to buy the tickets and accommodations.  (Be warned: a lot of major holidays are on the weekend this year — July 4th is a Sunday, Christmas and New Year’s are on a Saturday — which inevitably will mean 2010 will be particularly hard to plan.)

Readers, what are your thoughts about vacations?  What tricks have you developed to ensure you get yours?



  1. Well, I’ve been a lawyer in a mid-sized or BigLaw firm for 7 years (post-law school I had a two-year clerkship that was lovely!). In that time, I have had more years that I didn’t take a traditional vacation than years that I did. I did manage one two-week vacation in 2005, and it was a feat of logistical planning unlikely to be repeated in this lifetime. I tend to take a total of 2 weeks off a year, but a lot of long weekends as C described. And I will generally attempt a “stay at home and get crap done” week once a year or so.

    Now, I’m a litigator, so ask me how many weekends, weeks, trips, etc. I have cancelled when work demanded it. That is soul crushing, but a TRO for a major client takes precedence over everything but probably a honeymoon or having just given birth.

    Definitely, everyone should take their vacation time when they can. Particularly if you are a younger associate. Trust me, there will come a time when you can’t.

  2. newassociate :

    there needs to be another choice: “i have no official vacation time.” my firm doesn’t have any vacation accrual policy and people don’t seem to take time off much. when work is slow, we leave by 6 though, so it’s not all bad.

    i haven’t taken a vacation yet in 2009, but will finally be escaping dec 25-30, assuming the doc review doesn’t follow me over there. that’s a pretty big assumption at this point.

  3. Sadly, I am a contract worker this year, so I never get vacation. booooooo!

  4. Yeah… I get ten days, so I hoard them like crazy. I try to take days around a long weekend as well — last year I went to Belize (which I highly recommend as a vacation spot) for six days over the July 4 weekend.

    One of my coworkers has four weeks’ vacation to use, and he takes it all at once to go to Italy. My boss is not a fan of this.

  5. I have a question for those of you out there who don’t have a set number of vacation days….my firm (medium sized in Chicago) has a policy of letting people take as much vacation as they want, as long as its prudent. Some of the partners in my firm seem to be gone every Friday (especially when its quiet) and some of the partners take very little vacation time. What would you consider “prudent”? I’ve been at my firm for about 2 1/2 years and while I have taken some time off, I feel like I probably would have taken more if I had a set number of days. Sometimes flexibility is not all its cracked up to be!

    • Had this at my last firm, but I specifically asked before hire about vacation days – I could never get my boss to commit to a number of days, so I took whatever I wanted. Generally, a total of about 5 days around Thanksgiving/Christmas – my parents are divorced and don’t live within driving distance. And, a week for a “real” vacation – I second the comment on Belize – we stayed on Ambergris Caye this year and loved it! Plus a couple of days here and there for long weekends. A couple of sick days and it amounted to about 14 -17 days per year – give or take.

      I now get 21 days per year in-house and think that I may have sold myself short on the vacation time at the firm!

      • I’ve heard of a couple of Chicago firms taking this approach – seems to me that they just don’t want to have to pay out for unused vacation days upon termination. Otherwise it’s no different that firms with a policy, really – bill your hours, get your work done and no one really cares beyond that so long as you aren’t gone for more than a couple of weeks at a time. In theory, at least – I can’t remember a vacation when I didn’t work here and there throughout the day. Post-bar trip, I guess.

    • I have this setup, and I’m in a small firm in the midwest. I generally take 2-3 weeks per year. The partners in my firm are the same: one extreme of the spectrum is the partner who takes 6-8 weeks of vacation/year; the other end is the partner who works 7 days/week and only takes off on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    • I’m in my 3rd firm with a “no set vacation days” policy. What I’ve come to determine is this (for the record, I’m not in a big city, but one firm was a BIG LAW multi-national firm):
      (a) If you are meeting and/or exceeding your base billing requirements, then your time away is not likely to be scrutinized; and
      (b) If you’re getting your work assignments done efficiently and on time, no one will scrutinize your time away;
      (c) If you have remote access and a laptop with connective capabilities (i.e. wireless air card), you can be quite productive while physically away from the office (hence, meeting elements a and b).

      Some people prefer taking time in shorter chunks – long weekends – vs. a big trip, as they believe it doesn’t appear that they are using as much time.

      I typically took about 1 full week per year and then would take several long weekends to travel with my husband. On average, I’ll take about 3 weeks (15 days) a year. Though, we’re looking to take a major month trip in 2012 – so I’ll be away from my office about 5 weeks. So, I’m keeping that in mind over the next two years. Hopefully by 2012, I’ll be in a shareholder position with the firm, and that will take a little of the edge out of it. But it is nice not having to worry about “banking” weeks off or doing anything special in anticipation of that trip.

    • What’s “prudent” is subjective. For a partner who’s paid his dues and brought in plenty of clients, “prudent” is going to mean however much he wants. For a young/midlevel associate, I’d consult with your boss before taking leave, and avoid taking regular days off (i.e. every Friday) or more than one long trip (i.e. over a full week) per year. Otherwise people will start to notice you’re not around the office, and they’ll gossip and possibly you’ll look like you aren’t pulling your weight (even if you are).

  6. Law firm associate here w/ no designated number of vacationd days. We are able to take as many or as few as we want while still meeting our annual minimum billable requirements. In past years, I have taken a two week trip along w/ a few other three day weekends. This year, a big project pushed me ahead of hours schedule, so I’m taking off the last week of the year as well. (Firm’s bonus structure does not make going beyond minimum hours worth while.)

  7. I work in a medium-size firm in Pacific NW, and we tend to not have a set vacation time schedule. I think the general guideline is about 2 weeks, but if you need more time off (and meet your billables), the firm will not care. Last year, I traveled to Asia for almost three weeks, which was quite lovely. I had my BB with me, and had to have some interactions with clients and colleagues throughout the vacation, it was worth it. This year, though, I took a off a day here, a day there, but not a real vacation. Had one planned, but had to cancel it due to work flow.

    The challenge for me is to explaining to my non-American, non-lawyer boyfriend why I don’t take the time off to which I am theoretically “entitled.” He is used to having 3-4 weeks of vacation, and actually using them. The number of arguments I had with him over my inability to go away for a week (or having to cancel a vacation due to work) makes me wonder if being a lawyer and being in a relationship with a non-lawyer is actually possible. He is very supportive, by and large, but planning our time off together has been challenging

    • It is possible. My husband is an architect. But you have to decide what your boundaries and limits are.

    • I think that you just need to sit down and explain to him that you work at the demand of clients, that you are not fungible, and when clients want something done you have to do it. Sometimes that means a whole year or two of very intense work, and sometimes that means time for a three-week break. A lot of nonlawyers fundamentally don’t understand this until a lawyer explains it to them.

  8. redheadesq. :

    Agree that flexibility can be more a curse than a blessing at times! Not knowing your parameters can paralyze you. When I was a younger associate, I did the opposite, thinking that taking vacay reflected poorly on my work ethic. Then, one day, an older, wiser associate reminded me that “nobody’s going to give you any awards (or bigger bonus, or more kudos) for NOT taking vacation.” Since then, I have taken every last minute of vacation awarded to me.

    You have to put your foot down at some point.

  9. redheadesq. :

    I think that we Americans really need to start wondering what’s normal about TWO WEEKS – 10 BUSINESS DAYS – of vacation for the ENTIRE year. Europeans, even lawyers, take 3 weeks at once and 3 more throughout the year without flinching.

    • Yeah, I really think it’s an indicator of our unhealthy attitudes about work.

    • Yes, this. I’m reading these posts and weeping. No amount of money could convince me to take only two weeks a year, and never consecutive.

    • absolutely agree. europe seems to have a much healthier attitude about vacation time.

      • I’m in Asia and we get anywhere between 3-5 weeks annually depending on where we work. BUT it’s very common for people (whether or not they’re Asian) to take 2-3 weeks in a chunk for family visits (large number of expats where I live)/ holidays etc. It’s scary to think that 2 weeks is considered “normal/prudent” and even then not consecutive!

  10. I took more vacation this year than in years past –a 2 week trip, a 1 week trip, and a few Fridays here and there. (I am lucky in that our vacation time rolls over from year to year.)
    My advice is to block out the time from your calendar MONTHS in advance and then keep that commitment, just as you’d keep any other commitment. Do not allow court hearings, filings, meetings, etc. to be scheduled during that time. Call opposing counsel ahead of time to let them know you’ll be gone & get their commitment to not file anything while you’re gone.
    Get a colleague to cover your mail & your cases; you can avoid 99% of surprises that way. Leave a voicemail & e-mail message indicating that you’re gone, you’re not available, and that they should contact your colleague Ms. Smith should an emergency arrive.
    There’s really no reason the office should ever need you if you set your expectations early and keep them firm.

    • It’s called a TRO. It happens all the time. I do everything you said, but I’m not telling a big client that I can’t handle their emergency trade secret case because I’m going on vacation. It’s also, particularly in expedited TRO/preliminary injunction proceedings, not always possible to tell the court no on a trial date. You can avoid maybe 85% of conflicts by doing what you said – at least in my line of work, but then I do a lot of trade secret work that tends to involve emergencies.

      • newassociate :


        • I’ve done trade secrets litigation too. Abhored it. Cases always ended inconclusively, with lots of money wasted. And left me crying on the day of my daughter’s birthday/Christmas/wedding. Ugh! God bless you who can make a career out of it.

          • I really love it – most of the time. It is not pleasant when you have to cancel a trip at the last minute because of an emergency.

      • Do you not have coworkers who could file/deal with the TRO for you? They cover you and then you cover them in return?

        • It depends – on the client, on the case, on the partners involved and whether they will allow someone else to do it, on whether I want to give up the entire case (because the person who does the TRO and starts on the preliminary injunction is probably going to be the person who finishes it), on whether I have particular expertise, on whether I trust the coworker involved, on whether anyone has time, etc. There have been times in my career when, no exaggeration, I couldn’t have taken time off for a funeral. It’s just the way it is. I chose this life, and I get the benefits and the crap. :)

          • Hi @Rachel, yes it’s really impressive to say you’ve worked on a TRO — litigators know it’s the Superbowl of litigation. It’s great to see women like you standing tall with the “big boys.” Best of luck to you!

    • anon - chi :

      This isn’t really practical advise for younger associates. I have absolutely ZERO control over when things are scheduled, nor is opposing counsel likely to work around when I’d like to take time off. I doubt this would work with big cases even if I were more senior.

  11. divaliscious11 :

    Taking the balance of mine this week and next because we have use it or lose it…. last year left a few days on table, but this is a weird year. Being in-house, I try to use all my vacation, usually every 4 months, so spring break, late summer and end of the year….

  12. How far in advance do most people take their vacation time?
    I never know when a good time to ask would to be — with the exception of specific events (weddings, etc.), it feels weird asking for time off too far in advance, but cutting it too close is irresponsible, too. I know some offices have deadlines for when you want to ask for time, but mine doesn’t, which makes figuring this out more difficult.

    What’s the etiquette on this?

    • divaliscious11 :

      I put my requests in as soon as I know my plans…like while I am on vacation, I am doing my planning for next year…. I know, sort of, what my spring and fall requests will be, its my summer week that is in the air, but that is mostly around destination, not timing…its easier to get time off, and easier to plan around… i also plan a few long weekends in between my weeks off. We get sick time separately, and I can work from home if I or my kids are sick… As a manager, I want as much advance notice as possible in the event I need to have outside counsel prepared to backfill…. Another unspoke rule…the higher up you are on the totem pole, the more notice and planning. As division counsel, I need to make sure no one else on my team is going to be off, contact plan etc… when I was in a previous position, I could take time with much less notice, because there were other attorneys at my level in addition to my boss.

  13. I get 28 paid days off/year and never take a sick day (I can telecommute), barring the once-a-decade terrible flu or the like. Therefore I have lots of banked time off.

    I typically take ~4 weeks/year – 2 (together) in the summertime and the rest at other times in the year.

    I wouldn’t work for any employer that didn’t allow me to take two consecutive weeks of earned vacation, or for that matter that stopped me from taking planned vacation due to work needs. Yet another reason not to go back to private practice.

  14. Alas-the most vacation I’ve taken this year has been two days in a row so far. I use other days here and there for a three day weekend or two. My issue is economic, rather than time, which accrues up to 260 hours total before you have to use it. Unlike the MBAs and lawyers here, I’m a stone-broke librarian, and have to stay close to home because of money. The upside of being a broke librarian that works at a college, is that I get the last two weeks of the year off, and it doesn’t affect the vacation time accrued. Of course I can’t go anywhere, but at least I don’t have to go to work.

  15. In BigLaw, I got 4 weeks of vacation, and used them all, every year (I was there for 5.5 years). I would generally ask about a month in advance, then send a reminder email the week before. Usually not big trips (I am in Boston – would normally take driving trips), but one year I went to London between Xmas and New Year’s. I would generally take 2 blocks of a week each, and use up the rest with 3-day weekends etc.

    I never had to cancel bc of my practice area (T+E – no emergencies), which was awesome.

    Now in SmallLaw I am still getting used to my schedule (80%) so I haven’t taken all of my vacation this past year.

  16. C, thought you’d be interested re: blog disclosures if you haven’t seen it:


  17. North Shore :

    Glad to work for the feds when it comes to vacation time. I get 26 days a year in annual leave, which is in addition to sick leave, so I can use it all for vacation. I typically take off 2 weeks in August and a week or two in December, plus those odd days when school is cancelled for my kids; maybe spring break if I can do it. I’m in litigation, and August and December tend to be slow months for the federal courts, so I can usually get away with it. I plan the vacations well in advance to alert the courts during any scheduling conferences, plus I usually have a back-up person on all my cases. And then there’s the Blackberry for emergencies.

  18. redheadesq. :

    All goes to show that it’s as important to negotiate for vacation as it is for salary when you change jobs. Meanwhile, no matter how much time you have, sometimes the hardest thing to coordinate when planning a vacation is finding a shared time that works for your significant. I like to plan ‘big’ trips at least 4 to 6 mos in advance so that my husband and I can both block out the time on Outlook as soon as possible. Same rule applies that applies to savings and investments – ‘pay yourself first.’

    • Agreed — Spouse vacation coordination is such an issue! We’re both lawyers. Between our fluid schedules and lack of official vacation policies, we’re lucky to take one non-CLE trip a year, usually for less than a week, and then a few long weekends.

  19. I second all the comments about not having a set number of vacation days. It’s such a pain and even if two partners don’t care if you’re gone, there’s always a third who does, even if you’ve asked for the time off months in advance and have taken care of your work. Everyone says “take time, take vacation, ignore your cell phone!” but then they get upset if you do. I bailed on a one week vacation in August due to work constraints and am hoping to be out next week (it’s been on the calendar for months and partners have been apprised). It’s also a family vacation which are few and far between at this age and my family does not understand the issues with planning and being a litigator. They think I just don’t plan my time well. I definitely find 3-4 day weekends are the way to go. An entire week ends up being more stressful than relaxing.

  20. I took 2 separate Fridays off so that I could have 3-day weekends for mini-trips (Las Vegas, etc), and about 6-10 spontaneous half-days here and there when the office was quiet – granted, I don’t think sneaking out for a good workout in the early afternoon is a “vacation,” but it DOES help me stay sane.

  21. Speaking of vacations and travel – what are you recommendations for good carry on luggage? I find that the price range is ridiculous and it’s unclear to me how much is for the brand name and how much is for a good, functional item (that, say, won’t tip over). What do you look for in picking function carry on luggage? What are helpful features that shouldn’t be missed for taking along a mix of nice clothes, vacation wear and shoes? Any pieces you love?

    • Sadly, still at work…

      You’ll probably laugh, but I bought a carry on at Costco years ago and it has still held up very well. It’s the Kirkland brand, which I think is Costco’s own brand. My husband has a Tumi carry on and frankly it doesn’t fit properly in the storage carrier and doesn’t seem worth the money.

    • newassociate :

      i got a briggs and riley 22″ superlight for birthday + holidays one year and i love it because:

      -it is always carry-on compliant
      -it doesn’t expand so i can’t expand myself out of carry-on size,
      -the rails for the handles are on the outside so the interior is flat for easier/more space efficient packing. this might be my favorite feature.
      -it doesn’t tip over. i sit on it sometimes.
      -good wheels means it corners pretty well. not like those samsonite ones, but i have a much easier time with mine than the SO does with his
      -the fabric seems indestructible
      -the handles are strong. the telescopic handle stays open or closed, and the side handle actually supports the luggage
      -the superlight weight. i can actually hoist a full one into the overhead…usually anyway

      i’m sure i will use it for years and years. that said, i hear the lands’ end ones are great, and i’m a huge costco fan so i bet those are great options if you have to buy it yourself. the briggs ones are indeed pricey.

    • Do you try TJ Maxx or Marshalls? I got two pieces of spinner (4-wheel) Samsonite luggage (21″ and 24″) there for $160-170 for the pair about 2.5 years ago. I absolutely love them. My sister has a similar set. What’s good about spinners is that the 4 wheels tends to keep them from tipping over as easily and you can roll them sideways through narrow spaces or if you use two, wheel them back-to-back with one hand.

      They both came with 2 shoe bags, a laundry bag, and a garment bag. There’s a zipper compartment in the center so you can separate the shoes/toiletries/laundry bag from the clean clothing. I feel like that helps me manage the space than one bigger compartment. I’ve used it for weeklong trips in the past and have been able to fit 3-4 pairs of shoes and my toiletries on one side and all my clothes for the week on the other.

    • You could also try a Samsonite outlet store. I hate spending money on luggage because I have seen the way it is handled. I have found some great deals on luggage (both check and carry on). The key for me is to make sure that it is easy to wheel. At the store, I always ask them to fill the suitcases with items and then I try and wheel the suitcase around. I often find myself hurrying through airports and I need to know that my suitcase won’t be a hinderance.

      • I have an American Tourister set that I got at (don’t laugh) Walmart. It is only a couple of years old but has held up well so far, and for $70 for 4 pieces, who’s complaining? :)

    • I love my OGIO bag that I got from my company 4 years ago. I’ve used it every week for almost four years and it is still holding up really well. The handle comes out long, which I love since I’m tall. The pockets will hold an amazing amount of stuff, the fabric is very sturdy, and the rollerblade-style wheels allow for a lot of control. Highly recommend the brand!

      • another feature I love–there are handles on all sides and two on the front for easy handling from different angles. I haven’t found this on my less expensive luggage.

  22. I work for state government and get 12 days of sick leave and 12 days of vacation leave per year. The number of sick days increases with years of work up to 24 days per year. Positive work performance evaluations are rewarded with up to 2 additional vacation days. The time carries over from year to year, but there is a max number of vacation days. Any days over this amount is converted to sick leave. Also, employees at lower levels can choose between pay or compensatory leave for overtime. Higher level employees cannot choose overtime pay. They must be compensated with time accrual. There is a max amount of comp time before any employee is basically forced to take leave.

    In 2009, I have used quite a bit of leave. I have gone on 2 vacations. I took a week and a half off for each vacation. I gave very little notice for the first one of the year. My supervisor was absolutely thrilled to hear that I was taking a vacation. When the opportunity arose to go with my husband on a business trip to the West Coast, I jumped at the chance. I gave at least a month notice, and my boss was thrilled yet again. This is proof to me that everyone needs a vacation sometimes for sanity’s sake (even if it is the sanity of those around you.)

    I also took time off for various illness in 2009. This totaled about 4 weeks for a severe sinus infection, stomach virus, spell of dehydration, and swine flu. I also took off a day here in there for “mental health” breaks from workplace annoyance.

    I have managed to do all of this in 2009, plus 3-4 weeks in 2008 and 3-4 weeks in 2007 using balances from compensatory leave only. This is truly one of the few perks of a government job. It almost offsets the low salary earned in comparison to the private sector of my industry…almost.

  23. Oh, man, you think the US has it bad? Over here in Asia the *only time* a vacation longer than a week is acceptable is if it is your honeymoon. Week-long vacations are something that happen once every few years and are a Big Deal. I think by law (here in Japan at least) the company only has to give you 7 days vacation – and no sick days.

    I have a bit of a mixed bag. Because I am not Japanese, I am not expected to follow the same rules – so I have taken several week-long holidays. I have a total of 20 days of vacation – but no sick time – so a lot of the time gets used up on doctor’s appointments, the occassional afternoon off, etc. On the other hand, the entire country closes down for 3 weeks a year – New Years holidays, Golden Week (May) and Obon (August). Of course, since everyone is travelling then, it is like trying to travel at Christmastime in the US.

    I am being transferred to our European offices soon, and I can’t wait! 6 weeks paid vacation plus sick leave, people actually using their vacation…Not to mention a much more generous maternity leave policy (I’m preggo now so it won’t come in handy this time around, but when/if there is a second time…)

    BTW, Dasha, my hubby is European but worked in the US for years and understands that I can’t do European-style vacations…but his family sure doesn’t. Despite that, I have a good relationship with them, and I don’t doubt that if things are meant to work with you and this European, he will eventually get used to the US style of things – if nothing else then by virture of seeing it in action. If nothing else, having someone to push you to take more holiday time may be good for your work/life balance – you can always blame the vacation on the European SO (an excuse I have unabashedly used with DH’s full approval). :)

    • Thank you, Yasmin, and good luck in Europe!

    • Yasmin

      Japan is unlike the rest of Asia – in so many ways! I live in singapore and trust me, 4 weeks is the norm and everyone takes leave assuming they’ve planned for it. 2 weeks consecutive leave is fairly standard (my husband is in investment banking and even he’s managed 2 sets of 2 week holidays for the past 10 years) across companies. Hope you have a better time in Europe with leave:)

  24. It’s really difficult to take a proper vacation when you work for yourself and one client invariably calls you at 11 at night on a holiday weekend.

    • Anonymous :

      Yes, but the benefits still far outweigh these occasions! No more crazy partners who can only ineffectually, partially communicate what the client needs done at 11 at night on a holiday weekend–which leaves you chasing down the wrong path for many wasted hours until you figure it out for yourself. And, no more taking up the slack from associates who were hired by the same pards for god only knows what reasons…. Phew.

  25. I can’t really answer this question because my firm does not give me a set amount of vacation time. The general rule is that I can take all the time I want, so long as I get my work done. I’ve probably taken about two or three weeks, but spread out over the year through leaving early, coming in late, or taking random days off. It works for me. One of the partners at my firm regularly takes 6-8 weeks of vacation per year and STILL bills 2500 hours/year.

    • Yeah, we technically get 21 days, but no one keeps track of it and no approvals are required. So long as I meet billables and I manage my workflow properly, no one cares how long I’m gone.

  26. Another federal lawyer here. I receive 24 days per year (I have prior federal service in the military) + 13 sick days. I also telecommute 2dats a week. I typically take 2 weeks- 1 in summer and 1 in winter and use the rest for long weekends. No complaints here!

    ST, You made reference to our low pay as government lawyers. I work 8.5 hours a day. When I crunch the numbers, I think we are on par with our hard working sisters in the private sector.

  27. I work in a rare, unionized, State-government legal job. At the moment we currently get 3 personal days (use or lose), a number of paid holidays, 12 sick days that can be carried over for an indefinite period, and I currently get 17 vacation days. Vacation days range from 10 to 25 depending on number of years of service. We can carry over some vacation days, but the number is limited. Leave policy is pretty generous but I’ve never taken more than a full week off at one time. Usually it’s just a couple of long weekends.

    I’ve never managed to take all of my vacation days until this year. I’m now in a use or lose it position, so I’ll be taking Christmas Eve and all of next week off.

  28. Our office does not have a set policy for vacation for the attorneys. It is whatever you can manage and get your hours billed and your work done. This year was the first time I have taken a non-cle “vacation” since my kids were born. We also don’t have a set maternity leave policy and part of my deal with them was 8 weeks of paid maternity leave, but no vacations those years (staff only gets 6 weeks–unpaid). This year I will probably total about 5 actual vacation days plus holidays. There were also probably 6 days for out of town cle, 5-6 days of working from home with sick kids and then 4-5 days of leaving at noon pre-weekend or holiday.

    • Wow. I’m dying to know where you work that offers no formal maternity leave. Plus, it’s probably illegal to offer only 6 weeks unpaid – the FMLA mandates that companies with over 50 employees 4 months of leave.

      Then again, at my company we have paid maternity leave under the disability policy. Because childbirth apparently causes a disability. Also because that way they can avoid offering paid parental leave to men.

      • We don’t have 50 employees. We average about 15 attorneys (five of which are partners–so not employees) and about 12 staff.

      • I should also mention I’m the only female attorney they’ve ever had who had kids while working here. They had never needed a policy before that. (No staff had ever used it either although it’s in their handbook–they always just quit and stay home) When hiring female attorneys, they typically hire either older females who don’t have kids and have no intention of ever having any or younger unmarried females. Not sure how I slipped in . . .

    • Wow, no paid maternity – that sucks! We have 16 weeks maternity + all women with kids get 6 days of childcare leave + 5 days of “working mum’s child sick leave” (not that you ever want to utilise the last). all of this = paid leave!

  29. I get 2-3 weeks/yr, but am hoarding it – planning on having a baby in a year or so. Will take a vacation over Memorial Day (blocked out far in advance!). Telecommuting eases the pain.

  30. I am very lucky on the vacation front, because not only do we get a generous amount (for an American employer, anyway – 4 weeks/year for professional staff and it can be saved up to a maximum of 8 weeks), our accounting system is such that our department gets no benefit from us not taking vacation. The fringe rate on our salaries funds a vacation pool, so the department is paying for our vacation in advance, basically, as we accrue the time. Then when we actually take vacation, the department is reimbursed from the pool for that day’s/week’s salary. If you don’t use enough vacation and max out at 8 weeks, the department still gets charged the fringe rate, but will never get reimbursed for the time you would be earning during that period. In the shorter term, if you don’t take all of the vacation you earn within the fiscal year, it could put the department over budget if they weren’t making allowances. End result, we are all very much encouraged to use most or all of our vacation – the challenge of scheduling it around project deadlines remains, but as long as that’s dealt with, we’re more likely to be frowned upon for not using enough vacation time.

  31. I get 9 personal days (which must be accumulated and carry over year-to-year but one cannot accumulate more than 9) and 10 vacation days (which carry over and can be accumulated up to some high number like 30 days). The personal days can be taken unscheduled (e.g. for sick leave) while the vacation days need to be scheduled, but the two types of leave are otherwise fungible. And I can telecommute, so unless I’m really ill I don’t have to use a personal day when I’m sick. Unfortunately, though, if one uses up all one’s personal days due to illness, one has to use one’s vacation days or go on unpaid short-term sick leave/paid disability. Also unfortunately, while everyone gets 9 personal days, the number of vacation days one accumulates per year is based upon the number of years of employment with my company, not one’s level of seniority. So a 24-year-old assistant who’s worked here for 3 years gets more leave than a newly-hired senior manager with 20+ years experience.

    We’re encouraged to use our leave, and many people save it up to take long trips, but it’s hard to take a long trip without needing to bring along a blackberry or something. I usually take one week-long vacation plus a few long weekends and assorted days off per year.

  32. TaxDollah Bill :

    I work for the Feds where the pay is a little low, but I get time off out the bunghole. According to my timesheets, I’ve taken off 33 days this year (inclusive of federal holidays, and accrued overtime leave) and still have over two weeks of vacation left in the bank.


  33. I get 10 days… hence why I use every last one!! In 2009 I got married & took a honeymoon, so I have only one day remaining to take for the holidays this year. So, I’m the one in the office this year covering everyone else’s accounts. (Someone’s gotta do it!)

    For 2010 I already have 6.5 days out of 10 accounted for – a one week vacation and a friend’s wedding. This year in my review I plan to ask for an extra three days of vacation time… in another 2 years I’ll earn another week, but in the meantime another 3 days would mean so much!! Happy Holidays!