The Ultimate Lawyer Time Off Checklist
Since lawyers are constantly on the go, taking a vacation, even for a few days, may seem out of the question. They may be drowning in paperwork and trying to stay on top of their clients’ casework. However, lawyer time off can benefit the entire firm and how clients are serviced. It helps the lawyer recharge, avoid burnout, and enjoy a well-deserved vacation. When they return, they can be refreshed and ready to give clients their undivided attention.
However, taking a vacation as a lawyer requires planning to ensure clients’ cases go smoothly and thoroughly savor their time off. To stay organized before, during, and after vacation, consider this ultimate lawyer time off checklist.
Why Lawyers Should Take Time Off
As a lawyer, you need to take time off to:
Be more present, focused, and organized for clients
Rest and recharge
Alleviate and manage stress
Attorneys don’t typically have a solid work-life balance, as they must dedicate countless hours to law firm management and tend to clients. Tensions run especially high during busy seasons. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, aggravated assaults rise during the summer months, which may demand more of a criminal defense attorney’s time than at any other time of year.
High-stress work environments that allow little time for breaks can affect a lawyer’s mental and emotional well-being. Although it may be difficult to escape these taxing situations, certain lawyer stress management techniques can make a difference. For example, they can take more breaks throughout the day, prioritize sleep, set aside time to exercise, and listen to music they enjoy.
1. Schedule Time Off With Care
Picking the right time to go on vacation can help reduce the stress you might experience. Otherwise, you would be so preoccupied thinking about work that it would spoil your time off. So, when planning your trip, figure out when things are typically slower for you, upcoming trial dates, conferences you want to attend, and other essential tasks.
2. Create a Communication Plan
Once you have an idea of when you’re going on vacation and for how long, notify your staff, clients, colleagues, and the courts as soon as possible. They’ll appreciate the heads-up and be able to start planning their workload around your absence.
You may also want to consider:
Instructing your staff on what work they need to complete while you’re away
Giving them your contact information in case of an emergency
Informing them of when is the most appropriate and inappropriate times to contact you
Telling everyone about your vacation in advance may make them less inclined to get in touch with you while you’re away.
3. Organize Your Workload
Although you’ll be off work, you must still fulfill certain obligations. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), your workload “must be controlled so that each matter can be handled competently.” Of course, you don’t want to be working on a case while you’re on vacation. Instead, take care of crucial tasks you must complete before you leave.
You don’t have to do everything a day or two before, though. If you can, set aside some time each day in the few weeks leading up to your vacation. That way, you’re not rushing to finish, can better attend to the task at hand, and prevent your cases from suffering.
4. Delegate Work As Needed
You want to ensure that workflow continues as smoothly as possible while you’re on vacation. In doing so, delegate work accordingly and consider:
Filling in your colleagues and staff about your current cases and giving them background information on clients
Having someone cover you while away, whether it’s one of your colleagues or a freelance lawyer
Putting together a succession plan in case you get hurt or something unexpectedly prolongs your trip
Utilizing workflows to help ensure your staff’s consistency and work progression
These steps can be simplified by having centralized law practice management software. PracticePanther empowers your firm to seamlessly delegate work to stay with features like automated workflows which allow you to track progression at a glance and assign staff as necessary.
5. Set Your Tasks on Autopilot
While you’re away, you want to keep your practice up and running. If you’re a solo or small to medium size firm, you may be working with a lean staff. Without overloading staff, you can find areas to automate tasks while you’re away, like client intake.
PracticePanther’s automated client intake form can help you capture leads even when you’re not working. Easily add the custom intake forms to your firm’s website and watch the leads funnel into your Contacts. You can also create an automated message so clients know you’ll be following up with them soon or if you have a virtual receptionist, they can help process prospective clients.
Automated intake forms allow help your firm to:
Cutt down on tedious paperwork
Ensure you receive all the necessary information about the client
Provide an on-demand way to generate new business
Define your brand with the ability to add your logo
Selecting a service that sustains your firm without skimping on legal client communication can help you take a well-deserved break and can be a great stress relief.
6. Prepare Your Calendar
In the weeks leading up to your vacation, regularly check your calendar to ensure you don’t have any important meetings or events while you’re away. It can be easy to mix up dates or have a miscommunication with a client.
With that, you may consider investing in legal software that offers legal calendar management, which can allow you to:
Set deadlines, availability, and meetings
Sync with your Google or Outlook calendars
Invite clients to events
Assign tasks to staff
Give you a bird’s eye view of what to expect for the upcoming months
Having the ability to seamlessly customize your calendar to fit your schedule and keep you organized will ease your departure from the office.
7. Plan for Your Return
When you return to the office, your inbox may be flooded with emails. Thankfully, you can avoid the stresses that come with that by:
Organizing your email and setting up a filter and filing system
Tagging emails from your high-priority clients and colleagues or the courts
Unsubscribing from newsletters you don’t read anymore
Unsubscribing from standard spam emails
You may also want to block out some time in the week when you return to catch up on emails and casework and touch base with clients and colleagues. Jumping back into your daily grind can overwhelm you quickly, especially after a relaxing time away.
8. Get Your Legal Billing in Order
Even though you’re away, client payments may still be due. Rather than leaving your friends or family during your vacation to figure out billing, a legal billing software can help automate all associated tasks for you, such as:
Sending invoice reminders
Offering online payments
Tracking how much time you spent on each client’s case
Customizing your desired payment plans
With a standardized legal billing process and PracticePanther’s built-in payment solution, PantherPayments, your clients have the flexibility to pay in a variety of methods they’re comfortable with. From online payments, payment plans, or a client portal, your clients can pay their invoices in mere seconds from anywhere. Not only does it enhance efficiency and accuracy, but it also saves you the awkward conversation with a client about ensuring their timely payments.
9. Consider Your Law Firm Marketing
Yes, you want to keep your law firm growing, even if you’re on vacation. However, doing a big campaign or trying out new law firm marketing techniques may not be ideal when you’re on vacation. The idea is to maintain your current marketing performance.
Though you may not be as accessible, prospective clients don’t have to feel it. As we discussed, automated intake forms are a great way to sustain lead generation. You can also schedule paid advertisements or social media posts to give the sense your firm is active.
10. Set Yourself Away
It may seem obvious, but you must let everyone know that you’re going to be away from the office and for how long as well as an alternative contact. It can be as simple as an out-of-office message on your email, voice messaging systems, or even your website.
This small price of communication can save your firm from losing a prospective client, or missing communication from current clients or colleagues.
Outlook on Lawyer Time Off
You put in long hours prioritizing your clients, colleagues and managing your firm. After all that, you deserve a vacation. Not only can it help give you a change of scenery and mental reset, but it will also allow you to be fully present for everyone you work with.
If you can’t take a vacation just yet, take short breaks throughout the day and develop healthy habits to keep your energy and focus high.