Get over your worry and insecurity and take your vacation days to re-energize and be a better lawyer in the long run.
Most lawyers (not all, of course–we’re looking at you, solo practitioners) are awarded an average of three to four weeks of vacation time each year and that’s usually coupled with fairly generous compensation.
So with all this vacation time neatly squared away, shouldn’t the average lawyer enjoy at least a week in the sun, or on the slopes, each year? Well, they should. But they typically don’t. In fact, take a quick poll of your co-workers and friends to find out how many took more than a handful of days off in the last year. How many took 100% of their vacation days? The results probably won’t surprise you.
And that’s the irony of a lawyer’s career. While you may be laser-focused on tracking your billable hours, you happily sign away around 20 days’ worth of vacation days that are part of your compensation. All because you’re reluctant to take a (probably long-overdue) vacation.
So why are lawyers afraid to request vacation?
#1 They fear looking flaky or unmotivated
Lawyers are well-known as workaholics, and most are reluctant to seem less committed to the job than their peers—especially junior lawyers still building their reputations. Fearing that requesting a vacation will seem frivolous, lawyers would rather put their nose back to the grindstone than appear unreliable or lazy. But the truth is? In most cases, your co-workers will get it. If you’ve been a reliable peer until now, no one will think your 7-day trip reflects poorly on your work ethic. For the truly worried, you can always put in the extra hours in the weeks leading up to your vacation to ensure you take-off with a great impression.
#2 They’re worried about ruining their projects
How many times have you heard (or thought) the excuse, “I can’t take off, we’re in middle of so many major cases!” While you will want to schedule your vacation for slower seasons, or book well in advance so you can prepare, you also have to keep one important truth in mind. With rare exceptions, you are not indispensable. If you organize your pre-vacation workload properly and coordinate with your co-workers to take over any pending tasks, you’ll happily discover that your firm—and your clients—can succeed while you’re away from the desk.
#3 They’re nervous about falling behind
For most of us, the hardest part about taking a vacation is abandoning our carefully scheduled workload. For the busy lawyer, the idea of taking days off can cause panic—and visions of frantic phone calls, furious clients, and missed deadlines. This is where the time-management and organization skills you picked-up back in law school come in handy. With a hefty dose of planning, you can prepare for your absence. Scheduling your vacation sufficiently in advance will help you clear your schedule and delegate your clients, as well as coordinating with your co-workers to keep everything running smoothly.
But with all the fuss, are vacations even worth it? Absolutely. A lawyer needs to be focused and energized to be successful, and a vacation helps with just that. Whether you choose to sail away or stay local, a few days away from the desk will help you recharge and focus on the other parts of your life that matter. Taking the time to disconnect from the workweek, even for just a little while, will remind you why you’re in this industry in the first place–and bring back the motivation that makes you a better lawyer.
Remember, if you’re falling apart from overwork, how well are you going to be working anyway?