I have not had a vacation in five years.
As a solo practitioner you frequently find it is difficult, if not impossible, to schedule and actually take a vacation.
I know that early in my career, in January of each year I ambitiously scheduled four weeks off in the coming year for vacation. Something always came up, and I felt lucky to get one week. Courts would schedule trials, or I would have a major project that would come about. Whatever it was, I always seemed to be lucky just to get one week and maybe a few days.
The other problem I faced was that when I would have a week that I could take, it seemed I had to work twice as hard the week before to get ready for my vacation, leaving me tired on my vacation. Then when I came back, the catch up was overwhelming.
Approximately five years ago I adopted a new “management style.” As I tell people, “I never get a vacation and never can take one. Forget scheduling a week or two at a time: it isn’t going to happen.”
When I say that to members of my local bar, their eyebrows raise and they say, “Yeah, right— didn’t you just come back from Singapore in December, London in January, Phoenix in March, and Alaska in May? Weren’t you just telling us about Kansas City barbeque this spring? How can that be if you take no vacations?” Very simply, I never schedule a formal vacation, but once a month I schedule a long weekend. This allows me to leave on a Thursday night and come back Monday and have only two days out of the office. This is very manageable since it is the same as if you have a one- or two-day trial. You are not gone long enough to have to really prepare to be gone, and you are not gone so long as that when you come back there is too much work to catch up on. In fact, it helps the staff be more productive because it gives them a chance to catch up, but also doesn’t leave them sitting around with nothing to do.
You would be surprised at how these short four-day long weekends leave you refreshed and invigorated. Don’t look at these short trips as a vacation of a lifetime and try to do everything. Try to take small-sized bites. For example, when I went to London in January, I didn’t try to see everything. I didn’t try to go outside of London, and I didn’t take in all the sights that a tourist might attempt on an actual vacation. I took walking tours of the legal haunts of London and also one of literary sites. I planned on something to keep me busy that I haven’t done before, but not so much that I could not relax. I plan to back this fall to catch up on what I haven’t seen so far.
Is this for everyone? Probably not, but if your practice is such that you cannot afford extended time away, you can always plan on a long weekend. Most of the airlines have e-saver fares that allow you to go at a reduced rate. You may not know where you are going a week or two before you leave, but plan on getting out of your office and away from the area. It has worked for me and keeps me relaxed and rejuvenates me.My travels have become a topic of conversation in my local bar association, where it is not unusual to hear: “Where in the world is Bill Schwab?”
William Schwab is the editor of GP Solo New Lawyer and practices with two other lawyers in a town of 5,000 people in rural Pennsylvania. He frequently travels to Europe in the off season, since he has found that it is cheaper to go there than Florida in the winter and that it is also less crowded. He generally stays not in a chain hotel, but rather a hotel that the locals would stay in, so he better experiences the flavor of where he is visiting. To give you an idea of what can be done on a four-day weekend, his trips have taken him to London (5 times), Edinburgh, Paris, Brugge, Brussels, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Rome, Singapore, Kona, Carmen Del Playa, Charleston, Honolulu, St. Louis, Alaska, San Diego, Kansas City, Chicago (4 times), Tampa, Fort Myers, Fargo, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Phoenix, Denver, Cozumel, San Francisco, and Tijuana.