Balancing a Vacation With Being a Solo Practitioner
Most solos enjoy vacations, but dread losing contact with practices. Here are some tips that I found useful on a recent family trip to Europe.
1. Clear your docket at least 90 days prior to your absence. By blocking out this time period you will avoid inadvertently scheduling meetings, motions, depositions and other commitments while away.
2. Change your voicemail message to inform callers of the dates of your vacation. Add one more day to avoid being deluged upon your return. State that you will not be returning calls during this period, but will do so when back at the office.
3. Alert your staff of your travel dates well in advance, so that they can arrange their schedules. Be sure to also tell current adversaries and active clients of your dates away.
4. Arrange for at least one staff member to come in at least twice a week. This person can open mail, conduct banking transactions, and file pleadings. Be sure to have pleadings prepared and signed well in advance of your departure. If you trust your staff, there should be no problem signing some client fund account checks in advance for use at the clerk’s office.
5. Have another lawyer “on call” while you are away. This lawyer should be available if motions come in during your absence that would require your presence in court. He can also handle other emergencies as they develop. It is critical that your clerk and adjunct associate work together. The clerk should contact this outside lawyer whenever a question arises about court proceedings or client emergencies.
6. Call your office at a set time at least every other day. Your clerk, receptionist, or secretary should be available to go through calls and mail with you. You can return those calls that you deem urgent.
7. Head away. If you travel outside the United States, be careful of local Internet cafes and hotel computers. Your server may not function the same in Europe as it does here. My attempts to use AOL recently from a hotel computer in Belgium were very frustrating. Wireless devices work best. Investigate call plans and wireless packages before you leave. There are many bargains that will save you money.
8. Don’t try to conduct business throughout your trip. Set aside an hour a day for email and calls, and stick to your schedule. Otherwise, you will spoil not only your vacation but that of your family or travel companion.
9. Block out an “open day” for your return to the office. Doing so will avoid distractions as you re-enter the practice of law.
10. Don’t obsess over your work while away. Your practice will be there upon your return. Be sure to have fun!
William G. Schur is a sole practitioner with an emphasis on commercial litigation and collection. He has practiced law continuously in Chicago since his admission to the Illinois Bar in 1975. He is also admitted to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (including its trial bar) and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He is a director for Kiska Metals Corporation, a publicly traded Canadian mining exploration company. He resides in Highland Park, Illinois, with his wife Donna and sons Robert (20) and Daniel (16).
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