Keeping work at bay when you’re on vacation can be daunting, but with some preparation and expectation-setting, you can get that vacation vibe while doing what needs to be done.
Well done! You requested your vacation days, booked your tickets and you’re leaving your desk for the first time in a while. But don’t put away your phone just yet. For lawyers, vacation will always have a different feel than those of their non-lawyer friends. The nature of our jobs, and the extent of our workload, ensure pretty much any vacation will require some work availability (honeymoons typically are an exception, but you can’t have those too often before rousing suspicion.)
But even when work has to come along in your carry-on, you don’t have to sacrifice your entire vacation. Instead, we have a few pre-vacation and mid-vacation tips that will help you manage your work expectations. After all, getting a handle before you go means a lot more time poolside—and a much happier vacation for you and whoever joined you.
Pick Your Battles
Being a lawyer is about being present and being willing and able to respond to clients at all times. The more available you are throughout the year, the more you’ll be able to stand behind your vacation request…and the more your co-workers will respect the limits you set on your availability when away.
That being the case, you do need to show your co-workers that you understand your job isn’t 9-5. Generally, you should be making yourself available for late nights and weekends whenever possible. If you’ve taken off a few long weekends in the last 6 months, you’ll find it harder to defend your week-long vacation next month. If you know you’ve had your eye on a family trip, prioritize your time in the office beforehand so that you don’t find yourself justifying ten days in Maui after your long weekend at the beach.
If you’re like most lawyers, then spontaneity was probably never your default approach anyway. Which, when it comes to taking a vacation, is a great habit. The earlier you schedule your vacation, the more time you—and your co-workers—have to prepare accordingly. Once you’ve scheduled your vacation, start planning to clear those weeks ahead of time and avoiding agreeing to any meetings or touchpoints.
The earlier you plan, the more time you’ll also have to fill in your co-workers on any upcoming tasks you’ll need to delegate. By showing your co-workers that you respect their time and work, rather than leaving them high and dry, you’re more likely to receive the same respect for your vacation time in turn.
Coordinate, Coordinate, Coordinate
When it comes to jetting off, the most important step is making sure you have people to step in and help with your clients. That means considering the “when” of your vacation first —you might want to pass up the most popular times to get away if you know your senior partners are out-of-town that week or your biggest client has major deadlines around then.
If you work in a firm, practice smart etiquette by letting your co-workers know well in advance, handing over any pertinent information, and offering to pitch in extra beforehand so that they don’t have to deal with an unexpected caseload. In addition to coordinating with your co-workers, take the time to find out what else you can do to minimize work disruption, from filing a Notice of Unavailability to setting up email auto-responses informing your clients about your limited availability.
On Vacation: Give Work a Time Slot
Once you’ve planned, scheduled, and coordinated your vacation, its time for the biggest question of all. You know you will have to work on vacation, but how do you manage it without totally ruining your get-away?
Our recommendation: Make a mini work-day.
Before running off, let your co-workers (and clients, if needed) know that you’ll be handling businesses at a set time every day. If you maintain a blocked off time dedicated to work, such as 10-11am, you’ll be able to handle any major questions or emergencies that might come up back at home. By specifying the time you’ll be reachable, you’ll also help your co-workers and clients feel confident that they can reach you when necessary, which will keep most of the panic out of those “emergencies” in the first place.
The best part? By scheduling your time frame in advance, you don’t have to ruin the party for the friends and family you’re vacationing with. Knowing you’ll be at your virtual desk at certain times lets them sleep in or choose that time to do activities you would opt out of anyway.
You’re making some slight sacrifices or compromises to work, absolutely, but by being proactive and taking these small measures, you open up your vacation to feel like the break it should be overall.