Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and this year, according to the American Automobile Association, more than 41.5 million Americans will kick off the season by traveling this long weekend.
However, getting away is easier said than done. So we asked lawyers how they carve out vacation time while keeping their practices running. Here’s what they had to say:
“I think it starts with hiring good people. Bringing dependable people on board really helps when you are away from the office (and trying to relax) for an extended period of time. No one wants to worry when on vacation, and dependable, reliable employees can certainly put a business owner at ease during vacation.” —Chris Earley, a personal injury lawyer in Boston
“Planning ahead is vital. With my own family, we take the same few weeks every year, so we can plan years in advance. This lets me manage my calendar and my team much more easily than if it were only planned a couple months in advance. A second key component of a successful vacation is really feeling that work is going fine without you. Good software helps because you can check in once a day or so just to quickly assess work, assign any tasks, then get back to enjoying the vacation.” —Jared Richards, a personal injury lawyer in Las Vegas
“Working in a firm with colleagues who can help cover for me while I am out of the office is a significant benefit. As a group, we support each other and recognize the importance of time out of the office. Additionally, I am careful to clearly communicate with my clients before I will be out of the office, which helps to set expectations and enables a clearing of the decks to some degree. The other step I take, which I have taken through observation, is to write a good out of office message (both email and voicemail) that informs anyone emailing or calling me that I am away with my family and will not be able to respond unless it is an emergency.” —Matt Fisher, a Massachusetts lawyer focused on health law and all areas of corporate transactions
“The key is to call or email every single client that you are assigned to before you leave. You make the phone call, and give them a quick update on their case, and tell them that you are going to be out of town during the specific dates and that you are calling them in advance to make sure that they have all their questions answered. It can take 1-2 full days to complete all of these calls, texts and emails but trust me it is worth it. I have done a 14-day vacation with no new emails from clients the entire time I was gone. The clients appreciate it because they know I am personally reaching out to them to make sure that they are OK before I leave.” —Alex Ozols, a personal injury lawyer in San Diego
“Essentially, keeping my firm running smoothly in my absence is about good communication and using all the technological tools that are available to me to assist in maintaining contact, if necessary. It’s definitely do-able and, with our online society, it’s more possible now than it ever has been.” —Lisa M. Hirschman, who does estate planning and focuses on various other areas of law in Wisconsin
It’s important to leave someone in charge, such as a managing-attorney, and to also check-in periodically to make sure everything is running smoothly. Prior to leaving on vacation, it’s a good idea to go over your court calendar, assign attorneys to various appearances like conferences, depositions, mediations, and trials. With a little planning, every lawyer should be able to enjoy some downtime in the summer months.” —Arkady Frekhtman, founder of a law firm in New York City that specializes in serious and catastrophic accidents
“As far as keeping the firm running, this takes a partnership of not only a good paralegal staff, but also the office management staff. Relying on a good staff is the only way to keep the wheels turning, but allow for a quick break from the hectic life of practicing law.” —Lee Hoffoss, a personal injury lawyer in Louisiana
“I am fortunate to be able to take vacations during summer without having worry about the status of my law firm. For one, I am certain that my partners and employees are well trained and capable of handling everything while I’m away. Eliminating worry is a key aspect of scheduling and achieving a successful vacation. For entrepreneurs like myself who are still concerned with business, vacation does not have to be a complete disconnect. I put aside a small amount of time each day to go over crucial emails and answer important questions.” —Jesse Harrison, who practices in the areas of employment law and labor law in California
“Any great law firm needs a great support staff. Customer service is critical as is making sure there is always someone available to answer client questions. During non-office hours, someone at our firm is always assigned to receive phone calls that are forwarded from the office and ensure calls are returned. We also make sure there is always an attorney in the office able to handle anything that needs immediate attention, so attorneys at our firm do not overlap vacation schedules.” —Edith A. Pearce, a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia
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.