Strategies for Vacationing as a Solo Attorney

Beach
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OK, lets get this out of the way. You need to take vacation time. My personal opinion is that most lawyers need at least 4 weeks a year, preferably much more. What we do is damn stressful. So time away from the office grind is essential. It helps you refresh. It helps you reboot. It is good for you and that means it is good for your clients.

But how to take that much time, heck ANY time, if you, like me, are a solo attorney. Well, I’m here to tell you that it can be done. In fact, I’m doing it as we speak.  I manage to take at least the 4 weeks a year, and usually more. And I tend to take at least one 2 week vacation. The trick is to leverage your technology and your time.

A Paperless Office Lets You Roam

I’ve written before on going paperless: here, here and here. Once you’ve established your paperless work flow, you can take your practice on the road. You can access your files from anywhere, if necessary. Before I went paperless, I carried a briefcase packed to the gills with paperwork that I “might need” and with projects that I “might work on.” No more. My briefcase consists of my Macbook Pro, my iPhone and my iPad. In fact, for long weekends away, I simply carry my iPhone and iPad and nothing more. I’ve never run into a situation over a weekend that I couldn’t handle on my iPad. For longer trips, I like the sense of security from having my Macbook Pro. I know there is virtually nothing I can’t handle with it. When I first went paperless, I’d bring along my portable scanner “just in case.” But the fact is, I’ve almost never used it while on vacation. Now, if I absolutely need to scan something, I simply do it with one of the many apps available for the iPhone and iPad.

How Much Work Should You Do?

Well, the fact is, you’re supposed to be on vacation. But as a solo, its almost impossible to leave everything behind. You need to be available to follow up on important calls, schedule upcoming matters, and even lock down new business. I’ve found that I can quickly take care of most of those things by email or with a quick phone call. I spend an hour a day or less on these matters. There is always down time on a family vacation you can utilize for this purpose.

What to Do About Incoming Snail Mail?

If you’ve established a paperless work flow in your office, you not being physically in the office shouldn’t affect the way mail is handled. Access your mail the same way you would on any work day. If there is something urgent, have someone in your office alert you by email. Or simply have them scan and email everything to you. That way you can be sure you haven’t missed anything important.

Preparation is Key

Try to set aside the day before you leave on vacation to wrapping up loose ends, giving out assignments and organizing yourself to hit the ground running when you get back. Know before you leave what absolutely has to be accomplished while you are gone and in the week when you get back. Take care of those things that you can and those that you can’t you’ll know in advance that you’ll need to find the time.

That’s it. My simple strategies for vacationing as a solo. Now, I’m off to take a walk on the beach.

Image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/cubagallery/8703292147

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  • Brendan Chard

    I have a few tips to add
    A week before I go on vacation I use my email auto responder to send out an “almost out of the office” message. That way, everyone who emails me leading up to my time away is automatically notified that I’ll be out soon.

    For longer trips I also be sure to communicate clearly with my spouse to make sure we’re on the same page as far as time I may need to set aside to do some work or how I plan on handling emergencies.

    Depending on where you are in the country, or how your practice is set up, http://www.earthclassmail.com may be a good option for handling snail mail and checks. I’ved used them for 5 years for all regular mail and they’re great.

    For my vacation auto responder I always announce that I’m going to be out a day or two longer than I really am. This buys me some time to get caught up. I also only broadcast when I am returning, not when I left, that way someone who emails me right before I get back doesn’t know I was gone for so long.

    Finally, I don’t schedule any meetings for that first day back so that I can give the backlog it’s due justice.

    Hope these help you get away!