I Am Not Bringing My Laptop on Vacation Next Year

My wife and I recently took our first vacation since I started my practice — a full week away, leaving the office in the capable hands of my partner, Jordan.

I read over Todd’s advice on vacationing and took it to heart. I changed my voicemail greeting, organized my calendar, briefed Jordan on the few hearings he agreed to cover for me, and shut off the lights to the office. I was ready. Almost.

You see, since we’re only a two-man shop, and I am a control freak, I couldn’t just walk away from the practice entirely.

As I started packing for the beach, I included the standard beach items: sunscreen, sandals, pulpy beach novels, sunglasses, beach hat, towels, chairs, etc. I also packed some decidedly non-vacation-y items: my briefcase, laptop, iPad, two volumes of West’s Pennsylvania Practice, and Volume II of Defending a Criminal Case. My wife was not pleased.

In fact, I’ve written before about the value of going off the grid to give yourself some time to relax and recharge your batteries. Unfortunately, I was not able to follow my own advice.

I was nervous about what was going to happen while I was out of the office. Jordan and I spent the last 18 months working non-stop to build our practice. And while it’s not rational, I was concerned that somehow it’d all explode over five business days—which is why I brought my entire mobile office with me. It didn’t help that much of our practice is cloud-based, so I was giving myself access to every client file we had, so I could be immediately responsive to my client’s needs. I somehow thought this was a good idea.

I realize this was a mistake.

What Did I Do on My First Few Days of Vacation?

  • Reviewed discovery in a case where I was just retained;
  • Entered my appearance in another new case;
  • Spoke with an AUSA (who was, coincidentally, also on vacation);
  • Researched a sentencing issue;
  • Called a few different probation officers and a court clerk to resolve a probation issue;
  • Conferenced with Jordan regarding some minor office matters;
  • Sent lots of emails; and
  • Sat on the beach while reading law-related tomes.

Basically, I was working all day. And I was a neurotic mess.

But after I called Jordan for the fifteenth time, he offered some words of wisdom: “Leo, I am not going to answer your calls anymore. Enjoy your vacation.”

He hung up.

I took a minute to think about what he said. And he was right.

My brain had never left the office. I had been so concerned with what was happening back there, that I wasn’t able to enjoy what was going on here. At the beach.My wife and I had worked hard for this all year, saving up enough money to take a step back from the daily hustle, and I was ruining it by doing. Too. Much. Work.

So next year, I am not bringing my laptop. Or my iPad. Or the legal treatises.

Next year, I am actually going on vacation.

Originally published 2013-08-22. Republished 2017-08-18.


  1. Avatar Chris Hill says:

    Great post. I take a laptop mainly because if I don’t take it I really stress out. Most times though, I never even pull it out of the briefcase. It’s the difference between can’t and won’t.

  2. Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

    By the way, this post ended up being a lie. I had a Federal Sentencing for this case scheduled the Monday after I got back from vacation.

    • Avatar Sam Glover says:

      I don’t know why but I’m laughing so hard at this.

      • Avatar black_metal_lawyer says:

        You should. I sent in my sentencing memorandum after getting up at 5am to proof it and get it to the judge the Wednesday before. I was sitting at the table of my shore house drinking coffee while doing it.

        Life as a small firm lawyer, eh?

        Although as an attorney admitted in NJ, I do get to take some overnight trips for cases in Atlantic County that turn into beach mini-vacations. Worth it.

  3. Avatar The truth says:

    The harsh reality is that when you have a small operation you always have to work even if you are away. You can scale back a bit like limit your availability but you still have to do something everyday. Painful but true.

  4. Avatar Jay says:

    I am shaking my head, not out of laughter, but out of pity. You have been practicing on your own for seven years now. If you do not know how to disengage on vacation,that is on you. I am out of my office 30 days per year, most of which are on vacation and some of which are in Europe. The key is to change your voice mail to tell your clients you are out of the office and email you if they really need you, check your emails a few times per day, tell most of your clients that you will get back to them when you return, and then enjoy your time with your family. It is pretty simple at the end of the day. Anything more and you are over-complicating it. The simpler you make it,the more time you can spend out of the office.

    • Avatar Harry Hackney says:

      Exactly. The other thing is keep your trips to two weekends and work week. I spend a week at the beach every July 4. I find scheduling near and around holidays also means people are less likely to be working hard themselves. I took a two week vacation once. Although there were no problems at the office, my wife and I started going nuts in week two figuring out what we could do next. It was just too long.

  5. Avatar Randy says:

    I take a lot of time off, but I do bring my mobile office. I’ve found that I can leave Thursday night for the shore, and when I get up early in the a.m. on Friday, knock off some work in the a.m. — and still have plenty of time after noon to get to the drinks, sand and sun. Last year I was off 9 weeks (A week a month except Jan, Feb and November). This year I’m shooting for 10. I’ve done this stuff for 30+ years, and I continue to marvel at those guys (and gals) pumping 70 hour weeks for 51 weeks a year, because otherwise they’d lose a file! This year I road-tripped to Wyoming for 2.5 weeks and I used the laptop and dongle while my wife did some driving. Spent a couple hours a day ‘keeping’ up, except Yellowstone has very limited cell coverage (thank goodness for wilderness), so that was a complete disconnect. I’m a solo, but share space with a like-minded counsel that agrees and believes in taking time away from the office. I started getting this mentality about 8 years ago, when two good work-a-holic friends of mine dropped dead (one in the Courthouse and one in the office (both were my age), and an older attorney who always planned on retiring at 62 was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 59. Do some NOW stuff, because later may not come!

    • Avatar Harry Hackney says:

      I’ve been practicing for 31 years and have always taken vacations. I do take my laptop but it stays in the case most of the time. I set an away message on my phone and another on my email. If I take out the laptop, it is mostly to respond to email and voicemail. I think the clients are pleasantly surprised to get a response when they’ve been told that I’m on vacation, and that way I’m not deluged when I return. Don’t wait until your kids are grown and family vacations are impossible or your too old and sick to enjoy yourself. Go now. It isn’t impossible.

      I may never retire completely, but I also haven’t waited until I’m 70 to travel and enjoy myself.

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