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Well, I’m not sure about how “well-deserved” it is but I’m the author so that’s the expression I chose.
But back to managing a small law practice and specifically within the context of vacation planning. I wrote here about a good voicemail tip to use while you’re not available but wanted to post the very specific things I’ve literally just done as I’m headed out of town later today for 5 days (3 business days).
1. Plan Ahead. This is more general but it’s really not that hard to control your calendar as a small firm attorney, right? Even as someone who has a very court-involved practice, things get set in only 3 ways: **I schedule a motion, **there’s a date set while I’m in court (and thus can control when it’s set), and **an opposing party sets a court date. So I’ve had this vacation on the office calendar for 6ish months and nothing is scheduled over the next 5 days. And I had a more unexpected “vacation” back in February due to a death in my family where I only had a couple weeks to plan. Contrary to popular opinion most lawyers aren’t jerks and I recall the two cases I had up while I was gone were easily moved with a phone call to opposing counsel.
2. Communicate your absence to clients. In this particular case for me all I’ve done is spoken to 2 clients with whom I have Court hearings late next week just so they know where things stand and that I’m prepared in advance. I wouldn’t want to not have communicated with those people and then they call when I’m gone and suddenly there’s worry that I may not be prepared for their court hearings.
3. Arrange for coverage attorneys. A friend and fellow sole practitioner knows I’m out of town and he’s able to cover any court matters for me in the event of an emergency…only talking 3 business days.
4. Out-of-Office e-mail/voice-mail messages. Oftentimes I don’t even mess with these if I know I’m going to be checking e-mail/voice-mail at least 1-2 times a day…why raise the fact that you’re out of town if you’re totally connected and functional, like in a conference/hotel setting? I’d say don’t. In this particular case I’m going to be in a fairly remote and not well-connected location so I have set-up these messages per this guideline and do provide the contact number for my “emergency attorney” in both the e-mail and voice-mail messages.
5. Staff. As someone with one part-time legal assistant she’ll check office voice-mail daily and contact me only in a severe emergency. Once you have a larger, full-time staff I’m not sure if there need be any “vacation planning” other than internal planning with your staff.
6. It’s a vacation. Definition: a respite or a time of respite from something (like legal work!). Being like some lawyers I hear talk of essentially just working from a different locale is does NOT meet the definition of vacation thank you very much. I’ll admit that I’m going to bring a laptop with me and plan on one trip to some WiFi location for 30 minutes or something…but I don’t think that makes this not a vacation. On the laptop daily and making multiple calls daily…UN-vacation!