One of the best things about working for yourself is being able to take days off as necessary. Of course you can’t go overboard with these, because then you won’t make any money. But if I want to get a lot done on a Wednesday and leave early on Friday, there isn’t anything stopping me. Or if I want to stay late on a Tuesday and not get to the office until ten on Wednesday, that’s fine.
But what about unplanned absences? When solo or small firm lawyers get sick, there isn’t an entire department to help with coverage.
The Mercy of the Court
If you have court hearings scheduled, this is one of those times that your good relationship with courthouse personnel can really come in handy. Just call the court up and beg the judge’s indulgence for a continuance. Be honest. If you’re sick and there is nobody available to cover, they should have a little bit of pity on you.
It should go without saying, but don’t make something up. The judge I used to work for had an attorney call in and say she was not able to make it because she was in front of another judge. On a hunch, the law clerk at the time called that other judge’s office, and found out the attorney was not there, and not scheduled to be there. Neither judge was pleased, to say the least.
The Aid of Your Colleagues
Now is the time to call in favors from your colleagues in your local bar association. We’ve all been sick, and we will all get sick again. Cover for someone when they’re sick if you can. A rushed afternoon for you may save their necks.
If you find someone to cover something for you, don’t forget to be grateful. A thank you note or token of appreciation is not out of line at all. It’s one form of courtesy that is not outdated.
The Understanding of Your Clients
If you are going to have someone cover for you, make sure to cal your clients. I have been on both sides of this issue. When I show up at a hearing to cover for another attorney and the client doesn’t know it, it’s very awkward. All it takes is a phone call to let your client know that their issue is being taken care of, and that whoever will be there in your stead is fully capable of representing them.
When rescheduling a meeting, clients may be less forgiving. This is understandable. Presumably they’ve taken time off work or re-arranged their schedule in order to meet with you. Unfortunately there is nothing to do but kill them with kindness and hope they are understanding.
The Benefit to Your Co-workers
If you’re sick, you should not come into the office. You’re just going to get everyone else sick, and then they’ll be in the same pickle you were. If your firm is paperless and everything is stored in the cloud, a sick attorney should be able to work from home for the day without an issue. If not, try to just swing by the office, grab what you need, and get out.
Everyone will appreciate you for it.