How to unplug from your firm while on vacation

You just boarded the plane that will take you to your dream vacation spot, where you can have time for yourself, do whatever you want to do, and stop thinking about that upcoming trial or settlement demand that needs to be written.

But instead of thinking about the exotic place you plan to visit, your head is stuck at work. How can you get away mentally, as well as physically?

A legal professional’s work is never done, sometimes even when they go on vacation. Here’s how to make a plan that will give you the best opportunity to recharge:

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Start by being proactive; email your team at least two weeks before you go on vacation to allow them to plan accordingly and get all the information they will need from you.

Be sure to include the dates you will be out of the office as well as a number where you can be reached. If you will miss any big meetings, make the meeting organizer aware of your absence.

A few days before you leave, meet with your team personally to tie up any loose ends. Make it clear that you will be available as minimally as possible.

However, let them know that if they insert “Urgent” or “Emergency” into an email subject line that you will do your best to respond as quickly as possible. For best results, explain beforehand what you consider to be an emergency.

Schedule out important filings

If you’re working on a big case and have some major filings coming up, consider filing them early, even if it’s well before the deadline. This will eliminate the possibility that they will be forgotten while you’re away, or in the flurry of activity that will surely ensue when you are back at work.

Alternatively, you can use a service like One Legal’s Concierge to file documents for you, if the documents need to be filed on a very specific day. Scheduling documents out in this way enables you to enjoy your vacation without worrying about what you might be forgetting at work.

Bonus tip: Is there a person who is typically in charge of filing documents at your law firm? Post the Concierge contact info on the firm’s bulletin board before you leave so that if any filing needs come up, your colleagues have a quick solution to getting the documents to the court.

Set up a smart autoresponder

When you set up your vacation auto-responder message on your work email account, make sure your message provides the date of your return and an alternative person to contact to resolve their issue. This will potentially reduce the deluge of email messages that are usually waiting for you upon your return to the office.

If you won’t be reviewing messages that come in during your absence, make that clear in your autoresponder as well, adding that they are welcome to email you upon your return on X date.

Set up a check-in schedule

If you plan to check your business email or voicemail during your vacation (research indicates that more than half of all employees do just that), set up certain times when you will be doing so in advance. Be sure to make your traveling companions aware of this schedule as well, so that big tours or activities aren’t planned during this time.

Try to only agree to check-in as frequently as absolutely necessary and be strict with yourself about sticking to it. This is your vacation!

Get your priorities in order

The biggest roadblock to unplugging while you’re on vacation isn’t usually technology; it’s your work/life priorities. If you stay late every day and put in time on the weekend as well, it will likely be difficult to completely disconnect from work. But just as you wouldn’t stock your cupboards with potato chips and cookies when you’re trying to lose weight, you shouldn’t tempt yourself with too many devices while you’re on vacation. With a solid plan in place, you’ll be able to relax, even when you hear the ping of an incoming email.

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Do you have some other suggestions for disconnecting from work while you’re on vacation? Tell us about them in the comments!

Productivity tips

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About the Author

Jan Hill is a paralegal and a freelance writer who specializes in law and legal technology topics.

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