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A Pre-Holiday Checklist for Law Firm Associates

You've seen the Christmas commercials and the Thanksgiving commercials, all filled with snow and jingling bells (which are wholly foreign to you if you're practicing in Los Angeles). The holiday season is upon us, and that probably means you'll soon be going on vacation.

If you're lucky enough to get some time off in your first year as an associate -- and even if you are technically "on vacation," you might be tethered to your phone -- there are some housekeeping chores you need to complete before locking your file cabinet and jetting off to parts unknown (or your parents' new house in Florida).

Here are a few "to-dos" you may want to add to your list:

1. Let Everyone Know You'll Be Gone (Including Clients!)

It seems obvious, but "everyone" includes clients as well as your senior associate or partner. If the client keeps calling your office without knowing that you're away, he or she might panic. Even if your voicemail says, "I'm out of the office," it's a good bit of courtesy to let important people know in advance that you'll be away so they can plan around you -- and build padding into their schedules for emergencies.

2. Set Up an Out-of-Office Notification

Again, it's good for voicemails but imperative for emails. In this futuristic society we live in (I feel like I'm channeling Andy Rooney), people go nuts when an email isn't returned in a few minutes if it's marked with that little red exclamation point that means "I happen to think this is urgent." The out of office auto-reply provides the dopamine necessary to get people through not receiving a reply from you.

3. Black Friday Shopping for Folks at Your Firm

Please, please don't be one of those people who goes shopping on Thanksgiving. There will be plenty of deals for the next month. But don't forget to spend part of the Thanksgiving weekend looking up deals online (you don't have to wait for "Cyber Monday," a holiday myth invented in 2005) so you can buy awesome dress socks and money clips for your co-workers.

4. Make Your End-of-Year Checklist

The end of the year is a time for wrapping things up -- and not just presents (see what I did there?). It means making sure you've met all your billable-hour requirements, and if not, figuring out how you're going to do it. It means counting up all your CLE credits and figuring out if you need to attend one of those "beat the clock" events before your cycle is complete. And it means wringing every last penny you can out of tax-deductible business expenses.

5. Write Down Your Goals for Next Year

I used to think writing down goals was terribly silly, but it's actually a good way to gauge your progress year over year. And these don't have to be HR-speak "goals" using the "SMART" model; they just have to be things you want to improve on for the next year, like quitting smoking, losing 20 pounds, and remembering the difference between "who" and "whom."

Any more ideas for a law firm associate's pre-holiday checklist? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

Editor's Note, November 19, 2015: This post was first published in November 2014. It has since been updated.

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