As an attorney, forgetting to set up an out-of-office reply can be a dangerous move. Even if you're only missing one day for the holidays, if an emergency comes up, clients need to know what to expect.
Setting up a quick out-of-office reply is a good start, but taking some extra time to be thoughtful about it is even more beneficial. Here are our Top 5 tips:
Baby steps. In case you haven't set up an auto-reply before, it helps to know where it is. In Outlook it's under Tools, called the "Out of Office Assistant." In web-based email like Yahoo and Gmail, it's generally called a "Vacation Message" and listed under Settings or Options. Once you find it, it's easy to follow the directions and set it up.
Do it in advance. The vast majority of auto-reply tools allow you to set the message well in advance, and even schedule it to begin at some point in the future. Doing it soon means you won't be rushing at the last minute to set it up before you head out the door. That leaves time right before you leave to put out bigger fires, or to just relax.
Test it out first. Before you set it up and walk away, make sure the message works and it looks the way you want it to. Send yourself an email or have a friend or coworker do it so you can see what the auto-reply will look like. Don't leave it to chance that it will work the way you want.
Think about what you want to include. Make sure the message includes important information like the dates you will be out of the office, how often you'll be checking your email (if at all), and resources clients can use if they need help. It's important to spell those things out so that clients know what to expect. It will make everything go much more smoothly when you return.
Make sure you have a backup contact. This is part of what is included, but it's important enough to get its own bullet. It is your professional responsibility to make sure your clients have some kind of legal assistance while you're away. If you'll be out of the office more than a day or two, make sure you have someone who can cover your cases for you. There's nothing worse than coming back after the holidays to a professional responsibility hearing because your client couldn't reach you during a legal emergency.