When I was a kid, one of the most memorable vacations my family ever took was to a remote place called Attean Lake in northern Maine. My dad was a big believer that any business that advertised in the first section of the Wall Street Journal was worth patronizing and Attean Lake had advertised itself prominently. We were the typical middle-class family in America at that time. We took a two week driving vacation every summer. We lived in Washington, D.C., at the time so we explored the east coast in a 1960 Chevy Impala. My two sisters and I fought like cats in a bag the entire time. I have no idea how my parents could stand it. However, we all have very fond memories of that trip and we have talked about it many times through the years.
So, three years ago my siblings and I decided we’d take our families with us to Attean Lake for a throwback summer vacation. The same family runs it today as ran it when I was a kid except that their father died in a logging accident, so the next generation is now running the show. Back in “the day,” a guest had to sign the Guest Register upon checking into a hotel. The proprietors pulled out the Guest Register from 1963 and found our father’s faded signature, noting the three daughters and wife with him. That family has grown from five to 19 members since then.
Attean had not changed since 1963, and it has lots of wonderful attributes. It has no cell service. The skies are huge and blue. Each family stays in their own log cabin with hot running water but no electricity. Every cabin is lit with a kerosene lantern, which is cleaned every morning by a very clean-cut college kid. That same clean-cut kid delivers a bucket of ice at the cocktail hour each evening. The food is delicious and plentiful. The lake water is freezing cold but that didn’t stop everyone from jumping off the dock into the water and racing across to the other side. We hiked for miles and enjoyed the spectacular views. At night, we competitively played board games and caught up with one another’s lives. My siblings and our grown children are spread throughout the country like so many 21st-century families are, so there were lots of stories to tell.
We couldn’t wait to share colorful reports of our version of National Lampoon’s Vacation with our parents when we returned. They loved hearing how nothing had changed and how the Langdon boys were now in charge. They laughed about how my husband nearly hit a moose after picking up our son at the airport arriving on the red-eye from Los Angeles at 3 a.m. We joyfully reminisced for many hours about both of our trips to Attean Lake, 50 years apart.
My mother died two weeks later, followed by my dad 60 days later. Both trips were priceless.
I’m sharing this very personal story as a “senior lawyer,” now with grandchildren, to urge every young lawyer to take the time to make memories with your children. No one ever wishes they’d worked more or spent less time with their families, yet so many people look back and have regrets.
Your law practice will not dissolve if you leave it for a week or two. I’m always happy to see that a lawyer needs a continuance to take a family vacation. You probably won’t have plenty of time and money for a vacation until you’re retired and your kids are too busy with their own lives. So don’t wait.
And, to the managing partners, I would hope that your own personal story confirms the value and importance of family experiences for those firm members who are junior to you. I’d encourage you to demonstrate the value you place on your own family time by encouraging and compensating your associate attorneys taking time to make memories with their families. Time flies faster every year and if you don’t grab it and hold it tightly, you’ve wasted it. It is the most valuable thing you can spend. As Dr. Seuss said, “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”•