Attorney's Best Practices for Vacation | Martindale-Avvo

Ask Attorney Jennifer B.: What are the best practices for attorneys to take a vacation?

Summer has arrived, and before we blink it will be over. Summer is the time when kids are off from school, the weather is nice, and it is an ideal time for everyone to travel. It’s almost as if it moves quicker than any other season, so it is incumbent upon us to savor every moment. 

As a family lawyer, summer can also be a busy time. After we get past negotiating summer schedules and dealing with payment of sleepaway camp, we’re onto negotiating school choice for the fall, all along with the usual events of a legal practice.

So given the responsibilities and demands of an active law practice, is it ever possible for a busy lawyer to get away and enjoy the summer before the days grow shorter and fall is upon us?

With some pre-planning and flexibility, vacation is possible and it can even be enjoyable – In fact, following the following tips can make vacation achievable without causing a major disruption to your practice:

Give Clients a Heads Up As Far In Advance As Possible

As lawyers, we should always be available to our clients and responsive to their needs. This is especially true in a family law practice – where emergencies arise outside of normal business hours and clients need advice on time-sensitive issues. So it can be hard for lawyers to break away and be unavailable for any sustained period of time. Some may think simply sneaking away for a week may go unnoticed and that it’s easier to simply disappear than to let the client know that you are actually taking a vacation. However, this is not the case, and in fact, such a move is likely to backfire, resulting in a very unhappy client. 

Rather than trying to avoid telling clients that you are taking some well-deserved time off, it is better to come clean about your impending vacation as far in advance as possible. This way, you and the client can plan accordingly and be prepared for when you are not readily available. In most instances, the client will be understanding of your need to take a break and appreciate you considering them when planning some time off. Being honest about your vacation plans will allow the client to be prepared for your absence, and understanding that you will return refreshed and ready to plow ahead with whatever work is needed. 

Have Someone on Hand to Help Out

Your vacation will be all the more enjoyable if you have a trusted colleague or staff member available to handle client emergencies and respond to client issues while you’re away. In line with preparing your clients for your absence, introduce them to those who will be covering for you and reassure them that you will make sure these folks are apprised of the case issues and ready to jump in if needed. Both you and the client will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that matters will be handled and cases will move forward even when you are taking a respite.

Pre-plan and Catch Up

It is well-known that going on vacation sometimes seems to entail more work than it is worth.  This is because it is critical to pre-plan before you leave and catch up when you return.  Pre-planning requires making sure that you are as caught up as possible on client emails and communications, that you are prepared for any court appearances for when you return and that you apprise those who are covering for you of any issues that may arise when you are away. Expect that the unexpected may occur while you are away, but if you are caught up before you leave, you will be that much ahead when you return.

Go Away But Don’t Disappear

Everyone deserves a break and a time to unplug and recharge, but keep in mind – you still have a responsibility for your practice and clients who are relying on you. Giving clients notice of your vacation, pre-planning before you go, and having reliable staff to cover for you when you are away will allow you to relax and enjoy your time away with minimal disruption. Nevertheless, being a lawyer is a career and a lifestyle, not simply a job, and you can anticipate (and appreciate) that you may be needed even when you’re on vacation. Understanding this before you leave will make it easier to accept when it happens. 

For good and for bad, in this day and age, we all know (clients included) that we can be reached at any time. From an emergency to dealing with a minor disruption to our vacation to resolve an imminent issue, attending to an urgent need is a small price to pay for having a satisfied client and not having to deal with bigger problems upon our return from an enjoyable time away.

So yes, even the busiest attorneys can get away and enjoy some summer time rest and relaxation with the proper planning and the appropriate expectations. And remember, it is important to take some time to rest, recharge and reset –  doing so will guarantee that we come back more prepared than ever to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.

With more than 25 years of experience in the industry, Jennifer Brandt’s practice includes all aspects of family law including divorce, custody, support, alimony, adoption, and guardianship matters in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In addition to family law litigation, she also negotiates prenuptial, post-nuptial and cohabitation agreements on behalf of clients. In addition to her busy practice, she’s a well-known legal commentator on national news networks including CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, Court TV and local and regional television and radio.

If you have a family law issue or would like her to speak about legal issues, you can connect with Ms. Brandt at www.cozen.com.

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