As we approach the festive season, and while demand for the legal profession is like a tap that never turns off, it’s still a good time to think about when your next vacation might be.
While most professionals work some overtime, there are some who consistently work above and beyond a standard 40-hour week.
In lists that rank professions who work the most hours, lawyers and those in legal jobs often rank highly and consistently. Of course, few go into the legal profession without having some understanding of the pressures of the job and the long hours are often matched with salaries that compensate.
The unfortunate correlation to this work pressure is the toll on mental and physical health, with many of those workers doing a tonne of overtime – lawyers included – reporting high burnout rates and mental health issues. This means that taking vacations, while seemingly impossible in a work slate that never seems to quieten down, is imperative.
But how does a busy lawyer do this? Here are a few tips you might find useful.
This may seem a no-brainer, but planning well in advance is probably the most crucial step to getting that vacation happening.
Looking ahead at your caseload and identifying a window you can slip through for some well-deserved R&R is the first step. Flagging this time away well in advance means your colleagues and clients, and anyone else you regularly deal with, such as judges, can work around you being out of office, meaning you can forget about annoying emails and phone calls (outside of pure emergencies) during your time away.
This also involves you being prepared to miss out on landing a case, so it requires a mental shift that you’re ok with this, something made easier when the physical and mental benefits of taking time off are considered.
Be “date smart”
While the law is a 24-7, 365-days-a-year beast that never sleeps, there are still smart ways to choose when to take time off. Once you’ve been in a practice for a couple of years, you may notice particular times of the year when things slow down, opening up an advantageous moment to sneak away.
Part of your thinking around this might coincide with times of the year when society more generally slows down, such as Christmas, New Year and Easter, or around other national public holidays, or run alongside industries or sectors you work with also going through their quieter periods.
Brief your colleagues
You can plan all you like, and think you’ve done everything possible to slot in that vacation time with least disruption to your colleagues and clients, but you still need to always expect the unexpected.
Put in some time in the weeks before you leave getting together briefing notes for colleagues on any cases you’ve been working on where issues might crop up while you’re away.
Similarly, assure your clients that there are mechanisms in place at the practice to support their needs in emergencies while you’re off the legal grid, and that you’ve done everything possible to ensure things will run smoothly in your absence.
Actually take a break
Our smartphones and digital tech more broadly have made us slaves to being always connected in both our personal and professional lives. It’s hard to switch off – we all suffer a bit of FOMO when we do!
But the positive stuff that comes from taking a break, mostly around the physical and mental recharge you need to be at your optimal professional best upon your return, will be diminished if you decide to sneakily check your work emails, or voice or text messages while you are on vacation.
So, set up that “email away” auto message, change your voicemail (or even turn it off altogether) and be hard on yourself about committing to taking a break – a real break – from professional life. If this means turning your phone off altogether, or at least leaving it in your room while you’re enjoying those long leisurely days on a beach in Vietnam, trekking through the Daintree or wandering the streets of Bucharest, then do it.
You deserve it!
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