How Do I Take a Vacation As a Solo?
Ahhh summer. The days are longer, the pace is (hopefully) a bit slower and it seems like everyone is getting ready to head out for vacation.
We all know the benefits of taking a break from work. Too often, as solos, we don’t take enough vacation or we don’t take any at all. Or we try, but remain at the mercy of client requests. So if an email comes in on Monday at 11am and a client needs your services, you will drop that lounge chair you were taking out to the beach, and hole up in front of your computer instead.
Not much of a break.
Vacation is vital. You can take a vacation…even as a solo. Here’s how:
1.Schedule it. At the beginning of each year, I plan out my vacation time for the year. I put it in my calendar right away. This helps to ensure that I will actually take it. Without scheduling my vacation in advance, I would be stuck trying to plan something last minute and wouldn’t have time set aside to take care of the steps mentioned below.
2. Find a buddy. Remember the buddy rule when you were learning to swim? You always had to swim with a buddy. You could not swim alone. When you went with your buddy, you watched out for your buddy and your buddy watched out for you.
Do the same with your practice. Who can you rely on to keep an eye out for your practice when you are on vacation? This should be a trusted lawyer who is competent in your area of practice. I wish I didn’t have to say it, but I will. Make sure that you trust your buddy enough that he will not steal your client away from you when you are on vacation. It happens. But if you find the right buddy, this should not be an issue.
In return, when your buddy goes on vacation, you return the favour and do the same for him.
If you can’t find a buddy, there are organizations that provide lawyers who can step in and help out. One that I have used when I was practicing and recommend often is Flex Legal.
3. Yell it from the rooftops. Ideally a couple of weeks before you go on vacation you want to let your clients, potential clients, staff (if you have any) and basically everyone you know that you will be on vacation. You can also remind them that if they have something that is pressing, they should send it to you before you leave for vacation.
You can provide this notice in a few ways.
- Add an out-of-office alert in your email signature. Ensure that it is a different colour or bold so that it stands out and will actually be read.
- Send your clients and potential clients an email to let them know that you will be out of the office.
- Tell your clients when you speak with them.
However you choose to notify people, make it clear when you will be gone, when you will return, and who they can contact when you are away.
4. Stay away from your email. We have all been there. “I’m just going to quickly check my email.” Then you look up and 3 hours have gone by.
For many lawyers, the thought of staying away from email is the stuff of nightmares. But do YOU really need to be the one that checks it? Do you have an assistant or a student who can filter through your emails for you? If so, meet with this person well in advance to discuss what emails will require your attention. Or perhaps set up a filtering system. All emails are read by your assistant. If your assistant is not sure what to do with some of them, they get sent to the lawyer who is covering your practice and if that lawyer is unsure, then they are sent to you.
Perhaps you decide that you can’t go on vacation without checking in with the office. If that will give you peace of mind and allow you to relax, set aside a specific time when you will check and reply to your email (i.e. Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 1 hour each day). But stick to the time limits. Otherwise you will end up on yet another working vacation.
5.Refine, refine, refine. If you get back from vacation and find you didn’t get enough time away from the office because you were stuck doing work, don’t be too hard on yourself. Instead, determine how you can make it work better next time. Perhaps you need to come up with a better buddy system. Perhaps you need to set up more automation in your practice. Or perhaps you need to do more of a gut check in determining whether you actually need to do the work while you are gone.
At the end of the day, everyone needs a break. Don’t feel guilty about going on vacation. Just make sure to come up with a plan well in advance so that you can take the break that you deserve.
I was trained on Bay Street and worked in Big Law for nearly a decade before going solo. I now help other solo/small firm lawyers launch and build their practices, through 1:1 consulting. I help lawyers implement a marketing strategy, hire help, overcome mindset blocks and build a profitable firm that suits their lifestyle. Interested in learning more? Check out my services page.