Being a lawyer is an extremely stressful profession. I know this for a fact because I feel the stress quite often and my friends who are lawyers tell me the same thing. Studies have confirmed that lawyers are very stressed out and are thus prone to being dissatisfied with their jobs.
That is why it is so important to take time to yourself and to go on vacation. As the practice of law seems to permeate all hours of the day and all days of the week, there are certain steps you can take to make your time off more relaxing and worthwhile.
The best way to escape the stress of our profession during a vacation is to utilize a “buddy” system. This is what we do at my firm. When an attorney goes on vacation, they must have a buddy who will handle any pressing tasks that come up. Of course, this system has its positives and negatives. It allows the vacationing attorney to completely unwind, knowing that their colleague will take care of anything case-related that comes up. On the other hand, this system gives the covering attorney more work and may force the covering attorney to make decisions on a matter with which they are not familiar. As with most things, I believe that striking a balance is key. In the age of remote desktops and email on personal devices, most attorneys can handle minor things that come up in their matters. At the same time, a buddy is still necessary to carry out tasks that the vacationing attorney may not be able to manage while sitting on a beach.
Another way to get the most out of your vacation is to prepare for it by organizing your schedule as much as possible and as soon as possible. The more notice you can provide to your supervisor or to the Court, the more likely you will be able to enjoy your vacation and get the rest you need. Many lawyers are remiss in taking vacation. They want to show the partners or their supervisors that they are always available and are willing to work around-the-clock. But even if you are working at a high-stakes law firm or prosecuting a high-profile criminal case, you still deserve to take time off and enjoy your vacation. As such, plan your time off and speak up. Do not be afraid to use your vacation time and assert your right to get away!
There is some debate when it comes to covering for yourself when you take vacation. Most companies and firms require those who are taking time off to set up an away message on their email system. But some firms believe that this sends the wrong message to clients as the firm wants it to appear that they are always available to the client. I am torn when it comes to this topic. Without an away message, it is very difficult to disconnect. On the other hand, I understand the concern about always being available to the client or to others. Thus, you must evaluate your own situation and make the best call for you and your employer.
In the end, you have to make these decisions and take the right steps to get away while not jeopardizing your employment or client relationships. As always, balance is the key. In this day and age, you cannot expect to be completely disconnected (unless you go to the most remote locations). But you can still get away, relax, and recharge your batteries. We are members of a stressful profession, so use your vacation time and get away!
Peter S. Garnett is an attorney at Balestriere Fariello who represents clients in trials, arbitrations, and appeals. He focuses his practice on complex commercial litigation and contract disputes from pre-filing investigations to trial and appeals. You can reach Peter at [email protected]