Vacation Memo

Not surprisingly, most small business owners rarely take vacation. According to a 2013 Sage Reinvention of Business Study, 43 percent of small business owners take less vacation time than they did five years ago. And from what I’ve observed among my fellow solos, vacations are even fewer and farther between. In fact, it’s not uncommon to find many solo and small firm attorneys who haven’t taken more than an extended three-day weekend as vacation in five years or more.

Solos’ reluctance to take vacation isn’t surprising. Some feel that they may miss out on a major client if they’re away from the office more than a couple of days, while others are so overwhelmed with work that they feel that they can’t make the time. Of course, cost is a factor as well, and it’s a veritable triple whammy what with the cost of the trip itself, lost revenues with fewer billable hours and the cost of bringing in an assistant or backup lawyer to cover cases.

Still, there are also costs to skipping vacation for years on end. Solos who never take a break experience burnout, reduced productivity and loss of time with family. Moreover, without vacation (and somewhat counter-intuitively), solos miss out on an opportunity to improve their practices….

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Summer in Japan; Beautiful cherry blossoms; Radiation low.

Some of you are just getting back today after a nice summer vacation. Others are working in half-empty offices because their colleagues left for vacation this week.

But few of you will bring the kind of poetic grace to your out-of-office replies as one of my friends did. This elegant lawyer conveyed all the information anybody needed to know in two haikus….

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July is turning into a cushy month for me in ATL Land (not a real place; more of a state of mind). The first Monday of the month was the Fourth, meaning a much-appreciated day off for my colleagues and me. Then there’s this post today, which is nearly half done and I haven’t even said anything yet. Then I’m off for two weeks on vacation, and back the last week of the month. Two more posts and another month in the books. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. (Yeah, I don’t know what that means either.)

Good thing I don’t get paid by the post. Wait, what? Really? Huh. OK, apparently I do. I’ll try and make this one count then.

It occurs to me as I pack for two weeks off that vacation is a difficult issue for small-firm lawyers. It’s easier at Biglaw: You get your four weeks a year, and there are armies of other lawyers to cover for you while you’re away. (Actually, that’s only half true; many big firm lawyers struggle to take all of their allotted time.) But in small firms, it’s much harder to take vacation or to get adequate coverage while you’re away.

It took me some time, but I finally figured out how to do it. Here then are my vacation-related tips for small firm lawyers, including the most important thing you can do to protect your vacation time….

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As regular readers know, this is usually the time of year I go to Vegas, blow my bonus, and come back to work a week later angrier than ever.

Well, this year, it’s going to be different. Oh, don’t worry, when I return to Above the Law’s pages on March 14th, I’m sure I’ll be all kinds of pissed off. It just won’t be because a security guard prevented me from committing suicide by MGM lion enclosure.

No, for my vacation — which begins now and ends a week from this coming Monday, in case you’re wondering — I am going to start the process of quitting smoking….

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