lawyers share how they take vacation

 

Vacations and downtime are critical to staying mentally healthy—especially for lawyers. Of course, that’s not always easy. We recently ran a piece on how lawyers actually find time to get away, and we got such a tremendous response to the piece, that we’ve decided to share even more of their tips. Bottom line as we head into the 4th of July holiday: With a little planning, even lawyers can take a break. Here are some great tips from those who have been able to find a way how:

“I take vacations during national holidays, so I can take advantage of the fact that my clients are on vacation as well. I also try to break my vacation into small bites as opposed to a five-week run outside of the office, which can have a major financial impact on my practice.” –Renata Castro, an immigration attorney in Florida

“As a solo practitioner, it can be difficult to take a vacation. Once I decide on my vacation time, I first notify my clients about my intended absence. I maintain access via cell phone and email so that I can be accessible for my clients, particularly in emergency situations. I then file a Notice of Unavailability in all of my cases. This is a notice to the opposing side and to the court that I will be unavailable. Ideally this should help prevent matters from being scheduled in my absence.” –Eric Trabin, former state prosecutor and practicing criminal defense attorney in Florida

“Based on my practice area, I know that August happens to be a slower month for the firm.  I usually book my vacation abroad during this time so that it reduces the likelihood that urgent matters will arise in my absence.  I train my staff in advance on how to deal with administrative matters while I’m not in the office.  For firms that do not have full-time staff, virtual assistants are a fantastic option because you can buy a bundle of hours based on your needs and train that virtual staff member accordingly.”  –Deepa Tailor, a lawyer in Ontario, Canada, who practices in the areas of civil litigation, corporate law, employment law, family law, and estate law

“My best advice is to plan vacations well ahead of time. That way, you can insure that your team members, opposing lawyers and clients are prepared for your time away.  Why is this so important? So, you don’t get calls, emails and texts while you are away. I truly believe that the benefits of being completely unplugged are seriously underappreciated.  To clear your mind, to connect with family and friends and to reestablish perspective are mission critical.” –Marc Lamber, a personal injury lawyer in Phoenix

“In a small practice, being able to go on, and more importantly enjoy, a vacation requires planning. I try to reschedule all my cases ahead of a vacation so that there is nothing on my calendar that could be missed, or even cause anxiety. I begin clearing my calendar about two months ahead of a vacation. I also tell my legal assistant that I will be available by phone for an hour or two in the morning between 8:00 -10:00 to help address any emergencies, respond through my staff to client inquiries, or any office questions that pop up (generally I am on the phone for less than half an hour a day during vacation). Once my window of availability for the day disappears, leaving technology behind and being fully present in the vacation is essential for me to enjoy my time away from the office. If you are responding to emails or on the phone all day, you are not on vacation regardless of your surroundings.” –James Minick, a criminal defense lawyer in North Carolina

“I manage vacation and down time by looking ahead on the calendar and coordinating with the family.  Usually we begin planning in November or December for the upcoming July summer vacation, thus I can block off my calendar well in advance and inform the court and opposing counsel of dates that I will not be available. Since I am a solo practitioner, I take my laptop with me in the event an emergency comes up or I receive a call from a client.” –Darrin E. Johnson, a Florida attorney, practicing in the areas of criminal defense, social security disability, DUI defense, and sports and entertainment

Calendaring, delegation, and efficiency are the key to a successful summer vacation for attorneys.  First, lawyers should make sure to calendar their vacation during a slow period of business (in Texas that is August—the hottest month) and to make sure it is protected from trial settings or deadlines.  Second, lawyers should delegate to other lawyers or support staff should clients need immediate assistance.  Lawyers should also consider an “out of office” reply to e-mails or voicemails (whether the lawyer wants to include that he is on vacation, or notify his clients of that, is up to him or her).  Third, efficiency is key—lawyers should have access to calendars, emails, and phone at least once a day in case some emergency arises.” –Neal Davis, a criminal defense lawyer in Houston

Planning is the key to making sure things run smoothly when lawyers take vacations and extended holidays. We are very specific with the responsibilities that each person has when an attorney or other staff member is out of the office. In particular, we always ensure that voicemails get checked and calls get returned. We’ve found that even just letting a client or adversarial attorney know that a person is on vacation is always preferential to a lack of reply.” –Jonathan Rosenfeld, Founder of Nursing Home Law Center in Chicago

“As an attorney in a small three-lawyer firm, it always was very stressful going away for any length of time. We’ve recently instituted several changes in order to make vacations better and reentry less painful. The most significant change is to the calendar. We now block reentry time on the calendar as soon as we schedule our trips. Reentry is either for the first day back or for a couple of mornings or afternoons upon return. During this sacred time, we don’t see clients or handle new matters until we’re caught up. We basically had to shift our mindset from believing we had to pay the piper for vacations to the realization that vacations are fundamentally important. Now that we’ve accorded vacations the proper deference we’re able to enjoy our time away without being interrupted or dreading our return to work.”   –Cheryl David, an elder law attorney in Greensboro, NC

 

Kristin Johnson is an executive and corporate communications professional, and founder of KSJ Communications, a communications and public relations firm. She consults with a diverse roster of clients spanning the technology, professional services, financial services, public sector, consumer, and healthcare industries. In addition to Rocket Matter, Johnson writes for various other publications as well.