Thoughts From A Professional Sabbath Breaker

Thanks to the macinations of the plaintiff’s attorneys, I am spending most of my sabbath today ensconsed in my office with the Bankruptcy Code. For better or for worse, I have a job where Sundays at work are hardly unexpected and although I do my best to avoid them, it isn’t really possible to work at a K Street law firm and completely miss out on this particular fringe benefit. What is the precise scope of my sabbath violations and do I have any defenses?

Of course the easy — and no doubt correct — response is that working on the sabbath is a violation of the commandment in question and further discussions are little more than fruitless rationalizations for sin. However, I am wondering to what extent there are sabbath rules for the imperfect sabbath keeper.

For example, today I was able to attend sacrament meeting, but I missed out on Sunday School and Elders’ Quorum (no doubt much to their benefit). Hence, I have not entirely given up on keeping the sabbath. On the other hand if, as looks likely, I am here until dinner, I suspect that I will buy something to eat. Does the purchase of the food compound the evil of my sabbath breaking or is the violation perfected at the point when I pull into the law firm parking lot?

Generally speaking me and my ilk justify our sabbath sins with reference to the “ox in the mire” example offered by the Savior in Luke 14:1-6, which reads:

AND it came to pass, as he [ie Jesus] went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; and answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the asabbath day? And they could not answer him again to these things.

The story here is a bit ambigious for at least two reasons. First, Jesus offers the ox-in-the-mire example as a way of justifying healing on the sabbath. One might argue that healing is a particularlly meritorious form of service (as opposed to say determining the scope of the government powers exception to the automatic stay in bankruptcy), and it is the merit of this service that justifies some deviation from strict sabbath observance. Second, it is not clear from the context if the ox-in-the-mire example is meant to justify sabbath breaking, or if Jesus is merely suggesting that the Pharisee’s actions do not comport with their stated beliefs about the sabbath. In other words, is Jesus offering the ox-in-the-mire example as a legal exception that analogously justifies his healing, or is he offering it as an ad hominem against the Pharisees?

If the ox-in-the-mire is a legal exception, then it seems to suggest a much broader exception than that suggested by Jesus’s own actions. Healing the man of the dropsy seems to count as a meritorious form of service to another. In contrast, the ox-in-the-mire example suggests that sabbath breaking is justified to perserve a purely economic asset (the ox; or in my case, my job). Another interesting thing about considering the ox in the mire as a legal exeception is that it may provide a poor analogy to Jesus’s actions. Presumeably, leaving the ox in the mire until the end of the sabbath will result in the loss of the ox. In other words, the work in question cannot be delayed. In contrast, dropsy seems to be a chronic rather than an acute condition. Unlike the ox in the mire, the man with dropsy would be there at the end of the sabbath to be healed. Of course, there may be facts not available to us that eliminate this difficulty. Perhaps Jesus would not be able to get to the man after the sabbath because he was travelling through the town and would not be there to be healed after the sun set on the sabbath. (This would make the man himself into a sabbath breaker. Is this relevent or significant?)

Alas, I rather suspect that the ox-in-the-mire example was not meant as a legal proposition, but as an inditement of lawyerly hypocrisy. It was not meant to justify Jesus’s action but rather to point out the sins of the Pharisees. This would explain their silence in the face of Jesus’s question. In other words, it was not meant to explain the scope of exceptions to the rule that we ought to keep the Sabbath day holy by refraining from work, but rather it was meant to show that the Pharisees were hypocritical twits. All I can say, is that I am glad that modern lawyers never fall into hypocrisy or nit-picking.

And with that, I return to the facinating world of 11 U.S.C. 362(b)(4) and the true meaning of “the commencement or continuation of an action or proceeding by a governmental unit . . . to enforce such governmental unit’s or organization’s police and regulatory power.”

45 comments for “Thoughts From A Professional Sabbath Breaker

  1. D. Fletcher
    October 31, 2004 at 4:31 pm

    I think there are exemptions. The golfer Billy Casper famously asked Church leaders for an exemption, since all golf tournaments are played on weekends, and end on Sundays.

    Also, anybody working in the cafeteria at Deseret Towers has to work on Sunday.

    I think it isn’t a big deal.

  2. quinn mccoy
    October 31, 2004 at 4:41 pm

    a little here, a little there, when does it stop,?

  3. October 31, 2004 at 5:13 pm

    >All I can say, is that I am glad that modern lawyers never fall into hypocrisy or nit-picking.

    I’m glad to see humor alive and well here today.

    IMO, the point of the ox in the mire is that *some* things out of the rest and worship realm are legitimate to do on the Sunday.

    >further discussions are little more than fruitless rationalizations for sin

    True. Yet we all do it, right? If not this sin, then other ones. We all could make choices that would enable us to sin less. But often those choices would require major sacrifice – uprooting our family, taking a cut in pay, changing occupation, being more frugal, bucking the system and starting our own business, etc. Most of us either have never given these options thought or we are paralyzed with the challenges they present. Hopefully, most of us are striving towards less sinning regardless.

    >I think it isn’t a big deal.

    Surely if it was seen fit from higher realms to include keeping the Sabbath holy along the same plane as putting God first, not killing, not stealing, not committing adultery, and other commandments from the “big 10” then it_is_a_big_deal. Given our propensity to minimize the seriousness of this commandment and, well, many others, it is no surprise to see it viewed as not being a big deal.

  4. October 31, 2004 at 5:58 pm

    “Surely if it was seen fit from higher realms to include keeping the Sabbath holy along the same plane as putting God first, not killing, not stealing, not committing adultery, and other commandments from the “big 10″…”

    Hmm… I don’t want to misunderstand you, Renee. If you mean that the Sabbath is important because it receives emphasis from “higher realms” like other commandments, then great. But there’s nothing in the scriptures to suggest that all commandments in the “big 10” are of equal importance. Sure, they’re all in a list together and they all seem important. But putting Sabbath breaking in the same category as killing or committing adultery concerns me a bit. Just because these commandments are on the same list doesn’t imply that we should treat them all exactly the same.

    Nate, I’m with D. I don’t know that there is anything intrinsically beneficial from keeping the Sabbath day holy for 24 hours straight instead of say, 16 hours. I bet if you really wanted to, you could keep the Sabbath day holy for those 16 hours in a way that would put the rest of us 24-hour Sabbath day keepers to shame (extreme example: I could sleep for 24 hours straight, not break any rules, and feel good about keeping the day holy while you “break rules” for 8 hours and then proceed to read your scriptures and spend time with your family for 16 hours). I just want to make sure none of us are kidding ourselves into thinking that we’re automatically ahead in our Sabbath day observance than those who have to work on Sundays.

    Side note: What does “work” mean, anyway? Whenever we have these conversations I feel like Nate takes too much time asking whether or not he can be a good person who works on Sunday just like talking about whether or not a Democrat can be a good Mormon. Come on, Nate, post something of substance! :-)

  5. October 31, 2004 at 6:05 pm

    I guess I have a hard time knowing exactly what it means to keep the Sabbath day holy. Nate, you seem to assume that everyone agrees that doing any job on Sunday is breaking the Sabbath, but it’s not as obvious to me. The Brethren talk about it and encourage us not to work on Sunday, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any set way given to know what is and isn’t appropriate. To me it’s the epitome of a commandment that is left for us to interpret it, taking into account our own situations.

    In fact, I really struggle with knowing just what it means to keep the Sabbath day holy. As far as resting, renewing myself, coming closer to the Lord, and increasing my spirituality, I have to say that Church attendance in my ward here in the Bronx presents a bigger obstacle than having to work would.

  6. specks
    October 31, 2004 at 6:19 pm

    I think that working is okay, but even at work you should try your best to keep the Sabbath. If you have to be there, bring your own lunch and sneak in your scriptures to read during your break, etc. Hmmmmm…… I’m bad at commenting. ^_^

  7. VeritasLiberat
    October 31, 2004 at 6:28 pm

    If one is going to patronize an eating establishment on the Christian Sabbath, then it should be a Jewish deli. (That way, you’re not causing anyone else to break their Sabbath.)

    This may be a rationalization, as I like deli food…

  8. October 31, 2004 at 6:34 pm


    Yeah, that’s why Logan and I are going to an Indian restaurant today.


  9. October 31, 2004 at 6:47 pm

    As a pediatric resident I have had to ask myself this very question over and over. Because of the nature of residency (and the fact that for some reason children refuse to get sick only at convenient times) I have been in the hospital many Sundays over the last 2 years. Of course I feel that if I have to miss church meetings and everything else that goes along with keeping the Sabbath holy, doing so in the service of healing the sick is a reasonable alternative activity. However, I have found that even though this is a worthy activity, working on Sundays has its drawbacks.

    Most months my schedule requires me to work at least half of the Sundays. Because of this I may be at work for 4-5 Sundays at a time and then not work for 2 or 3 before I have another Sunday “on.” This has allowed me to sort of experiment with my own activity in the church on a controlled basis. While I was attending church regularly I never realized how important church service/attendance, sitting through Sunday School and Elder’s Quorum lessons, and partaking of the sacrament meant to my own spiritual growth. Not only does it help me grow but the times when I have been most “inactive” I have regressed in my spirituality.

  10. Rob Briggs
    October 31, 2004 at 7:05 pm

    Nate, not to worry. I’m busy writing you an indulgence. You’re covered. Just so long as you didn’t bill for your blog time. The ox-in-the-mire indulgence won’t cover that. Entirely different indulgence.

  11. Aaron Brown
    October 31, 2004 at 7:14 pm

    Whatever celestial demerits you’ve earned for working on the Sabbath, I’m sure they’ve been compounded by your spending even more time at work than you otherwise would, in order to blog about this.

    Aaron B

  12. Larry
    October 31, 2004 at 7:23 pm

    Read J. Reuben Clark’s biography. When he was in the government he worked every Sunday because he wanted to show that (to paraphrase) latter-day saints were no less diligent in doing their duty than anyone else.

  13. October 31, 2004 at 7:36 pm

    I think that if one’s motive for choosing employment that requires work on Sunday is noble and virtuous, then actually working on Sunday is permissible. I would include playing in the NFL, or practicing law at a swanky firm like Sidley, to be noble pursuits. I would be stoked to do either!

    That said, the principle of the Sabbath should not be lost. You can respond to a Friday at 4:55 p.m. hearing notice, or play professional Golf every Sunday, and still find a way to have a day of rest. Getting outside of our routine, and spending 24 hours not doing what we do the other 6 days, is what I personally find to be indispensable. Rest, setting apart, sanctification–these are best done on Sunday but they don’t have to be done on that day. If your profession requires you to do it another day, then I think you do fit in a “narrowly tailored exception”.

  14. October 31, 2004 at 7:45 pm

    Some days are holier than others and some professions and tasks are of greater urgency than others. Doctors, firemen, soldiers (and many other professions) often don’t have a choice as they are required to serve in their professions on the Sabbath day.

    Since professional sports and sportsmen have been mentioned in the comments, I thought I’d throw in this link about Sandy Koufax, the Jewish ballplayer who refused to play a World Series game because it fell on Yom Kippur. He’d play regular games on other sabbath days or holy days … but not on this one!

  15. Bryce I
    October 31, 2004 at 8:45 pm

    For the record, I saw Jeff Anderson at church today.

  16. October 31, 2004 at 9:22 pm

    I think that there is a corollary between the Sabbath Day and the Word of Wisdom. First there is the idea that the Sabbath was instituted for humans and not for God. The text of D&C 59 support this:

    9. And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High; Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times; But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord. And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.

    Ambivalently, there is the principle of the WoW as outlined in the D&C and there is the commandment of Temple worthiness proportions that we have taken upon ourselves. It is quite possible to go to the Temple and break the principle as outlined by the Lord. I myself just ate 3 “Fun Size� snickers instead of a good dinner (as part of my Halloween consumption of probably a whole bag in the last 12 hours). Luckily, I have the metabolism of a greyhound and no one will know. Anyway, the more fully you keep the principle of the word of wisdom, the more blessings you get.

    The Sabbath day seems very similar to me in this way. Yes 12 high quality Sabbath day hours is better than nothing, but the Lord is explicit about what you can get for the full Monty.

  17. Rob Briggs
    October 31, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    Larry: “Read J. Reuben Clark’s biography. When he was in the government he worked every Sunday because he wanted to show that (to paraphrase) latter-day saints were no less diligent in doing their duty than anyone else.”

    Yeah, but J. Reuben was, as they used to say, an “Adult Aaronic!” I’m only half-joking.

  18. Rick Thomas
    October 31, 2004 at 10:17 pm

    If we take keeping the Sabbath to its fullest, we should not use any electricity or water on a Sunday, either. People have to work to keep those utilities running on a Sunday. It really comes down to common sense and doing what is right between the individual and God, IMHO.

  19. Jonathan Green
    October 31, 2004 at 11:21 pm

    Nate, forgive me for treating your post as if it were merely a meditation on the nature of the commandment to keep the sabbath day holy, and responding in kind.

    I made it to all my church meetings today, but at home I graded essays and prepared a lesson for one of my classes tomorrow. It had to be done today, because I spent all day yesterday in my office but still had to leave early so that I could man the trunk at our ward’s trunk-or-treat activity last night. I still should have been doing other things today, and I had to turn down a couple of requests to play checkers with my kid. In order not to disrupt my sabbath even more, I did my work at home, rather than in my office on campus. That would have upset the rest of my family, and I would have felt bad about that, unless I really had a lot more work that absolutely had to be done. That may yet happen in the next few weeks.

    The question I’ve been asking myself lately, ever since teaching an elders quorum lesson on work, is to what extent I am complicit in a system that forces me to sin. It’s possible to do some really rotten things while you’re only doing your job, and I wonder if some of the things I’m required to do are really beneficial to anyone. I’m struck by the example of two prophets from the Old Testament, Joseph and Daniel. Both willingly and ably served leaders who can only be described as capricious and bloodthirsty tyrants. The imperfections in the system didn’t prevent Joseph or Daniel from being the best advisor they could be, but they both drew clear boundaries as to what they would absolutely refuse: no worshipping statues, no ceasing to pray, no wild thing with Potiphar’s wife. On the other hand, Lehi took a hard look at his society and then fled into the desert; he decided it wasn’t a system he was willing to be complicit in any longer.

    My situation is more like Joseph’s, I think. There are things I absolutely would not do to promote my career, but so far the ethical compromises–like grading papers at home on a Sunday–strike me as reasonable accomodations to an imperfect system. This doesn’t let me off the hook entirely; there are bound to be jobs and careers that are entirely irreconcilable with the gospel, and I may yet find myself in one. For the moment I don’t think I am. I’ll let the doctors and the firemen and the pro football players figure out their own situation.

  20. Nate Oman
    November 1, 2004 at 12:19 am

    I had heard that part of the reason that J. Reuben Clark skipped out on church in DC was that the only Mormon branch in existence met in Reed Smoot’s living room and Clark couldn’t stand Smoot…

  21. November 1, 2004 at 2:28 am


    I think this is pretty simple. Sabbath observance allows us to “enter the presence of God” on a regular basis. This is the spiritual equivalent of having a personal trainer. If you skip your appointment, you don’t get the benefits of having visited, even if you have a good excuse. On the other hand, you might show up for a partial appointment (attending your meetings), and that will have some value. I do not see the point of getting pharisaical about it and suggesting that anything short of complete compliance is a “sin.”

    Also, I admit to some ambivalence about when you perform such an observance. While designating Sunday is administratively efficient — and allows for the taking of the Sacrament — I cannot imagine that there is anything magical about the day of the week. Indeed, I have been told that members living in predominantly Muslim countries celebrate the Sabbath on Friday. Can anyone confirm that?

    By the way, I liked Jonathan Green’s thoughts on this.

  22. November 1, 2004 at 4:57 am

    The discussion here tends to be legalistic rather than focusing on principles and consequences. While I think there probably *is* such a thing as a law of the sabbath — a set of commandments, given to honor — and a legalistic discussion is probably therefore somewhat appropriate, the principles underlying a sabbath are likely as worthy of examination. We’re told that the “sabbath was made for man” — as a day where we’re commanded to offer sacraments and dedicate our time and thoughts to the Lord…. presumably given because human beings need time dedicated to recharging spiritually, to drawing closer to their maker. If we don’t dedicate that time, the consequence is distance from God and his spirit.

    I’d also presume it takes it’s current form as an entire dedicated day because it’s easier for human beings to think that way: this is a holy day, there are things that I don’t do on this kind of day. However, it is likely possible that you can achieve a similar effect by making sure that you dedicate a similar amount of time and effort as you would if you had dedicated an entire Sunday, and if required to work on Sundays, offer that work in a Sabbath spirit, making sure you don’t engage in other things you’d consider sabbath violations.

    Finally, I really like Wendell Berry’s words on the subject:

    “The mind that comes to rest is tended
    in ways that it cannot intend
    is blessed, preserved, and comprehended
    by what it cannot comprehend.”

    The point of the Sabbath is partly compliance with a commandment, but ultimately about being tuned into (and tuned by) a spirit that simply isn’t ours and has a harder time working with us when we’re absorbed by the cares of the world.

  23. November 1, 2004 at 9:04 am

    Amen, Weston! Anyone who quotes Wendell Berry is all right in my book.

    I basically agree with Nate (and Weston)–Jesus’s ox-in-the-mire story is probably not an appropriate analytical tool for discerning a very specific set of Sabbath-appropriate activities and restrictions. That’s not to say that any such activities and restrictions are wholly subjective: there clearly are some dos and don’ts out there. But the ground for determining what, in any particular case, qualifies as a do or don’t has more to do with the overall purpose of the Sabbath than any concrete teaching of Jesus’s.

    The whole point of the Sabbath being “made for man” is, I think, that God wants us to have a relationship with Him, to draw near Him, and we can’t do that when we don’t allow Him a “space” in our lives. So we are to consecrate a day to Him, a day for worship and service, a day which takes us away from baser, more transient things. Can we do that while working? Obviously, in some cases we’re simply going to have to; unless we want to reject modern society entirely (which is not an implausible decision; the Amish rejection of electricity and contemporary economic life is a principled and, I think, in many ways admirable one), we are going to have to, either directly or through our taxes, support work on the Sabbath day. Like Jonathan suggested, we’re just going to have to ask ourselves: given the “tyrants” (both direct and systemic) that we’re subjected to, we need to see what can be done in the Sabbath spirit, and what can’t, and carve out a consecrated space accordingly.

    I don’t go into the office on the Sabbath–if I have work I have to do, I bring it home on Saturday. We don’t travel on the Sabbath–if I’m at a conference, or we’re on vacation, we schedule things so we’re home by Sunday, or we stay over until Monday. We go shopping on Saturday, and pack a cooler if it looks like we’re going to be away from home the next day. I think this is a good bit of carving, and I’m willing to defend it, but for some the resulting space isn’t nearly large enough (Melissa and I still struggle over Sabbath-appropriate media, movies, music, etc.); for others (especially those with jobs with a good deal more pressure attached than exists in academia), it’s pretentiously large. If God can still pull you out of this world and into His every week or so though, the specifics probably don’t really matter all that much.

  24. Ivan Wolfe
    November 1, 2004 at 9:52 am

    Gordon – I’m unsure if Friday is a “sabbath” equivalent for Muslims. I know that prayers on Fridays are considered more important than prayers on other days.

    Weston: you are dead on. That was a great way to frame the debate.

  25. Geoff B
    November 1, 2004 at 11:18 am

    Nate, forget Sabbath-breaking. What I really want to know is if the lawyers on this board are billing clients for time they spend blogging.

    But seriously, my personal rule on Sabbath-day working is: is it an exception or something I find myself doing every other Sunday. If you have to work on a Sunday, say, once every two months because your job demands it, then you are probably OK (imho). If you are regularly working on Sundays, then you’re probably breaking the Sabbath.

    As for people whose job demand they break the Sabbath and work every Sunday, my question would be: is this really the only type of job you can get?

  26. Adam Greenwood
    November 1, 2004 at 11:24 am

    I agree that the legal-minded approach to the Sabbath is not commanded by the Church, nor is it as important as the principles involved.

    But what I’ve seen, though, is that when my wife and I started taking a pretty narrow, legalistic approach to the Sabbath, we started living Sabbath principles much more also. We are creatures. Changing the outward man changes the inward man.

    My general impression is that the Saints could live the Sabbath more than they do. This saddens me, because the Sabbath is sweet.

  27. Rosalynde Welch
    November 1, 2004 at 1:01 pm

    I have no interest in deciding whether or not Nate is sinning by working on Sunday; my husband (as a medical resident) works most Sundays, and when I was in graduate school I also worked (at home) on Sundays when I had to. But I’m concerned about the trend against Sabbath observance, both in the church and out if it. Modernity offers so few opportunities for sacral experience, for existence outside of “productive” labor hours and casual recreation, for a temporary entrance into sacred time; in light of the fact that some sort of sacral experience has regularly punctuated human experience transhistorically, modernity seems all the more bereft. Sabbath observance and temple worship can supply that out-of-time of experience. Furthermore, I think increasing corporate expectations for overtime labor from its employees signals a dysfunction in modern capitalism, a reliance on a non-sustainable form of profit-maximization.

  28. November 1, 2004 at 1:12 pm

    “Modernity offers so few opportunities for sacral experience, for existence outside of “productiveâ€? labor hours and casual recreation, for a temporary entrance into sacred time; in light of the fact that some sort of sacral experience has regularly punctuated human experience transhistorically, modernity seems all the more bereft.”

    Exactly Rosalynde; very much what I was getting at in talking about a “space” away from the working world. Plus, you connected it to a Wendell Berryesque critique of modern capitalism! Double points.

  29. Tania G
    November 1, 2004 at 1:16 pm

    In Tom Sawyer, after the whitewashed fence incident, the author comments that “Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger- coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign.”

    There are many things I do every Sabbath day that I consider work — preparing and cleaning up after meals for a family of eight, for example.
    There are also things I enjoy doing on the Sabbath that other people might consider work, but which I find relaxing and which make me happy — baking cookies and quilting are examples.
    My mother-in-law just flies off the handle when she hears that I’ve been quilting on a Sunday. She says “every stitch you make on the Sabbath, you’ll have to take out with your nose in the eternities.” (Don’t know where she got that, but it’s really what she says!) I usually listen to hymns on CD while quilting and often my children quilt with me or sit nearby, reading out loud to one another. It’s a peaceful, uplifting activity. Can this be a bad thing?

  30. Jonathan Green
    November 1, 2004 at 1:53 pm

    Tania, after reading about your sabbath activities, I feel like a complete fraud. I’ll hazard a guess that quilting and reading with your children while listening to hymns is probably OK.

  31. Tash
    November 1, 2004 at 4:16 pm


    None of us are qualified to judge this. Of all the commandments, I may say one that is routinely overlooked is “fear God”. Should you be worried about this Nate? What can we say? Fear God, and work it out with him, not on the Internet.

  32. Amira
    November 1, 2004 at 5:18 pm


    When I was in Egypt and Jordan, LDS meeting were held on Friday. We had lessons about “The Lord’s Day,” instead of “The Sabbath Day.”

    Church leaders can go to meetings on Friday in Cairo, Saturday in Jerusalem, and Sunday in Turkey.

  33. Aaron E
    November 1, 2004 at 9:17 pm


    It is not impossible even in the big law firm context to avoid working Sundays. There are plenty of examples in every large firm of jewish associates who won’t even answer the phone on the Sabbath. I knew one LDS associate at STB who refused to work Sundays. It probably affected what deals he was staffed to and who knows what effect it may have had if he had stuck around to try for partner. It worked fine for the 3 years he was at the firm though (and honestly, who wants to stay at biglaw longer than that)?

    For my part, however, I worked Sundays, a lot of Sundays.

    Aaron E

  34. November 2, 2004 at 9:21 am

    Nate: I can’t speak for the entire plaintiff’s bar, but the class action plaintiff’s firms wish you well.

    (although personally, I thought the causal arrow worked the other way; and it was the defense firms who came up with ridiculous items that had to be litigated letter by number).

    Aaron E has a great point; although it might only be “nate” specific. If you are planning an academic “escape” anyway; what difference is it going to make to the law schools you interview with that you were a non-partner track associate?

  35. November 2, 2004 at 11:24 am

    Nate, here at Skadden I don’t work Sundays. I was very clear from the get-go what my sabbath goals were, and they’ve been excellent at respecting those priorities. Perhaps you have not been as insistent as you could have been?

  36. Kaimi
    November 2, 2004 at 11:37 am


    That’s a good point. But remember, there are important differences between your situation and Nate’s. Nate is an attorney, for instance, and not a paralegal. That might explain the different treatment.

  37. November 2, 2004 at 11:40 am

    Do they practice law at Skadden? I thought it was a corporate firm…

  38. November 2, 2004 at 11:43 am


    You litigators are sooooo droll. I’ll be thinking about how droll you both are when I’m in church on Sunday, instead of writing a memo no one will ever read.

  39. November 2, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Steve: True. But then we get the thrill of going to court, standing in front of a jury and swaying the minds and hearts of real human beings by the force of our oratory. There is a drama and human intimacy in litigation that mere transactional lawyers will never know…

    Oops…wait a minute. We don’t go to court, stand in front of juries, sway with our oratory, and experience drama and human intimacy. Never mind. I am going back to my hydrogen bi-sulfide regulations…

  40. Mark B
    November 2, 2004 at 12:07 pm

    Folks getting a little tetchy, eh?

    My own experience at the big firms was like that mentioned by Aaron E. Both at Reid & Priest in the early 80’s and Winthrop, Stimson in the late 80’s, I made it clear that I was not available for work on Sundays. Though there weren’t any official accomodation policies in place at either firm, I never suffered any overt discrimination–I was treated like dirt, just like all the other associates.

    On the other hand, I never made partner either. (Thank goodness!)

  41. November 2, 2004 at 12:09 pm

    Steve: And in all honesty, I can say that I really do envy you the due diligence work for SEC filings. Thrilling!

  42. November 2, 2004 at 12:11 pm

    DD vs. document review: battle of the crap-tastic orgy of wasted lives.

  43. November 2, 2004 at 9:48 pm

    But I’m concerned about the trend against Sabbath observance, both in the church and out if it

    I guess I’m concerned about that as well.

    I grew up with stories about people who felt the spirit of Isaiah 59 (and of the Sunday attack on Pearl Harbor), and what I see more and more is a de-sacralization (hmm, need to check Eliade for the spelling) of everything.

    I appreciated Nate’s thoughts, but I am uneasy with the basic idea that we should sacrifice everything to look good to the world. But then, it worked for Clark, so who am I to take a job where I don’t have to work Sundays when I could double my income by moving to one where I do?

    As for my wife, one of her friends keeps telling her that those pregnant ladies really don’t need anesthesia on Sundays and that they will understand ….

  44. lyle
    November 3, 2004 at 4:22 pm

    yes steve, but think on the bright side…you help keep me employed! cuz after the the securities litigation is filed; and discovery begins, then I start reading the DD work you have done! :)

    p.s. have you met James FitzGerald, esq. there at Skadden? I think you would enjoy his company.

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