According to a recent study by Bloomberg Law, lawyers experience burnout in their jobs 52% of the time, reporting symptoms including exhaustion, disrupted sleep, depression, issues with personal relationships, and drug and alcohol abuse. That’s a serious problem for law firms, as burned-out employees are more likely to report lower levels of job satisfaction and to look for new employment (or leave the legal profession entirely).
Burnout is the result of chronic stress. Lawyers who repeatedly feel they’re unable to meet the demands of the job—due to lack of time, resources, leadership, or energy—are more likely to experience the negative effects of burnout.
Avoiding burnout is a joint responsibility between the workplace and each attorney. Workplaces must make cultural shifts to prioritize employee well-being, such as allowing autonomy, recognizing employee efforts, and fully staffing offices to prevent overly high workloads, but attorneys can also take stress reduction into their own hands.
For lawyers, vacation can help reduce exhaustion and increase satisfaction, but many attorneys have trouble finding time to get away, and others work remotely even when they’re out of the office. To get the most benefit out of your vacation, try these 4 tips.
Plan in advance
Chances are, your firm has a busy season—there are months where all your deadlines pile up at once and others where you’re spending more time scouting new clients than working on matters. If possible, plan your vacation during your slow season to prevent stress during your time off. Doing so will also help your partners better manage tasks for your clients while you’re out of the office.
There are other benefits to planning your vacation in advance. Thinking ahead can help you avoid having to reschedule meetings or court appearances that fall during your vacation. Additionally, planning in advance can help you get ahead of issues and address common client concerns that may arise while you’re gone.
Communicate your travel plans
Once you’ve made your vacation plans, it’s important to protect them by setting boundaries. Tell everyone who may be impacted, including clients, judges, and coworkers, and set expectations for your time away. If you’re planning on being completely offline during your time off, set the expectation that you’ll return all emails and voicemails upon your return. If you’re planning on checking your email or messages once a day at a particular time, let all interested parties know how and when to contact you.
Before taking your trip, set clear phone and email out-of-office messages to communicate your availability. It can also help to put email filters into place during your time off to reduce unnecessary messages like newsletters and promotions. This practice can help you quickly identify important communications if you choose to check your email while you’re on vacation.
Unless you’re a solo practitioner, your firm is likely filled with competent, capable attorneys who can manage most tasks for you—as long as they have advance warning. Investing in cloud-based practice management software can help ensure your colleagues can access all relevant information, even when you’re out of the office.
If you have matters you know will require attention during your time off, prepare your colleagues so you can enjoy your vacation. Delegate tasks you can’t reschedule, like returning phone calls or appearing in court, to boost your peace of mind while you’re away.
Plan for the unexpected
For some attorneys, being offline is more stressful than being in the office. If you have a hard time turning off from work completely, make sure you bring your phone or laptop when you travel.
You can’t anticipate every development that may occur in your matters while you’re away, but you can prepare to manage them by vacationing in a location with reliable internet and keeping your laptop close by in case of emergencies.
Schedule reentry time
Attorneys who schedule client meetings or court appearances on their first day back from vacation are going to have a harder time fully relaxing during their time off. They may be preoccupied with cleaning up their inbox or returning messages and end up doing these tasks during their vacation.
Instead, schedule reentry time for a day or two once you return from your trip. Keep these days free from meetings and use them to catch up on the developments that have occurred while you’ve been away.
Use CosmoLex’s practice management software to keep your firm running while you’re away
Vacation for lawyers should reduce stress, not add to it. Optimizing your practice management process with CosmoLex can help you get paid, automate the client intake process, and access matter information from anywhere. To give it a try, schedule a consultation today!