Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
Most solo practitioners I know find it is difficult to take a vacation. Hearings or trials get scheduled. A client needs something immediately. Or some other legal "emergency" arises.
Those who take a vacation generally work twice as hard the week before to prepare and then twice as much after playing catch up. Plus they worry the entire time they are away that something is going wrong at the office.
So how can a solo practitioner take an actual vacation? Here are 10 tips for you to take a vacation:
1. Start small. Plan a long weekend if this is your first time away or your case load is too great. Take a trip from Friday to Tuesday. It is no different than preparing on Friday for a two-day trial on Monday and Tuesday. You don't meet with clients, answer calls or emails, or worry when you take that time for a trial. Follow the same rules but take the time for yourself instead.
2. Start planning early. Put it on your calendar, even if it is only a couple of days to avoid inadvertently scheduling other commitments. Make sure any upcoming deadlines are completed before you leave.
3. Set boundaries. If worrying about the office will keep you from relaxing on your vacation, set a specific time each day that you will call the office and check emails. Let staff know they can call your cellphone for emergencies only. Otherwise turn your smartphone and iPad off.
4. Provide notice. Provide notice of your vacation to the court and opposing counsel in accordance with local rules.
5. Take care of the money. Get your time records and billing done. Provide an itemized accounting of clients' money held in your trust account and arrange for an emergency signer on the account for reimbursements while you are away.
6. Have a backup. Have an attorney you trust attend hearings on your behalf and be an emergency contact for clients. Make a list of where files are kept and a synopsis of matters.
7. Prepare your clients. Tell clients you will be away. Obtain their consent to provide their name and file to that attorney covering emergencies.
8. Prepare your phone/email. Change your voicemail and email. State the dates you are away and that you will not be returning calls or answering emails. Add one extra day to keep from being overwhelmed with requests immediately upon your return.
9. Prepare your staff. Arrange for a staff member to come in at least twice a week to open mail, conduct banking transactions, file pleadings, and be your contact for calling in.
10. Prepare yourself. Don't plan to conduct business during your trip. Don't take work with you. You need to relax and escape the pressures of your practice.
Jennifer K. Halford is an attorneywhose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.