The Lawyer’s Guide to Going on Vacation

Lawyers carry a lot of responsibility, which can make it feel like there’s no good time to take a break from work. But just as you don’t want your doctor to be frazzled and overextended, your clients don’t want their legal representation to keep piling on the stress, either.

Vacations provide much-needed recharge time. The key to making them actually happen? Planning.

Plan ahead

You can create space for your vacation—if you plan ahead. Even when there’s no apparent “slow” time in your practice area, you likely know what time of year is busiest.

Consider any seasonal shifts, caseloads, court dates, trials, and conferences when finding the most practical time of year—even if it’s not perfect! Then make your plans. For most lawyers, you’ll have to plan several months ahead.

The good news about prepping so far in advance? Not only will flights and lodging be less expensive, but it gives you time to let others know you’re going to be out of town.

Communicate

One of the reasons it’s more challenging for lawyers to plan a vacation than many other professionals is that they have an ethical obligation to communicate promptly with their clients.

If you’re going to actually relax on your vacation, you can’t reply to every email and call. Instead, talk with your team members. Tell them you’re going on vacation as soon as possible and come up with plans for who will be responsible for which communications in your absence. 

Having a modern practice management system that organizes information by client or matter can help smooth the process by allowing staff to access needed notes while you’re gone. And when you return, you can see what they added to the file while you were away.

Talk to your clients, too. Come up with a communication plan so that they know who to contact if something comes up—and be sure to let them know when you’ll be back.

Get your ducks in a row

Set yourself up to enjoy your downtime by streamlining workflows beforehand. Leverage your practice management system’s automation features for billing, accounting, client intake, and more. And send out any lingering invoices—in bulk, of course!—rather than punting them until you return.

Write an automated reply for your email and make sure your inbox filing categories are up-to-date so that everything isn’t showing up as one huge list. It’ll also make it easier to respond to important emails if you do occasionally check your inbox while you’re gone.

Plan your support

Even the best-laid plans can go awry. Having a last-minute problem arise when you haven’t been checking your messages with the consistency you would during a typical workday can upend any sense of relaxation. So plan for that, too.

If certain tasks need to happen to keep the ball rolling on a matter, determine who will cover them. Even if you’re a solo, it’s always a good idea to tell someone you trust where the office key is, just in case. 

And certainly do what you can to make the entire process run as smoothly as possible. You don’t want to spend the last days of your vacation fretting about what awaits your return. So instead of jumping right back into a heavy workday, give yourself a couple of days’ buffer to catch up on messages and to-do lists when you’re back in the office.

While the goal of a vacation is not to do work, if you have a cloud-based practice management system, you can have a little extra peace of mind knowing that your client files are accessible from any mobile device if you really need them.

Let yourself relax

Double-check everything before you go—including your schedule and any team communications plans—and then leave the office behind! Between your planning, team support, and practice management system, you’ve earned your downtime.

Now, go enjoy your vacation!

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