Unfortunately, lawyers are notorious for being workaholics. Many lawyers feel like they can’t have much vacation time because they’ll fall behind and be at a disadvantage when they return to work.
However, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of ways to take a vacation leave without sacrificing your work productivity.
In this blog post, we’ll outline how to take vacation as a lawyer while still staying on top of your workload. We’ll also provide some tips on how to relax and enjoy your time away from the office.
So, whether you’re planning on taking a long weekend trip or going on an extended vacation, follow these guidelines and you’ll be able to relax and recharge without worrying about your law practice!
Vacation and PTO Policy in the U.S.
In the United States, federal law does not really require companies to provide paid time off (PTO) to employees. According to a study made by the Center for Economic and Policy Research as reported in 2019, the U.S. is “the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers paid vacation.”
Still, private companies usually provide an average of 10 PTO days. This means that vacation benefits are normally a prerogative under the employer’s vacation policy. Moreover, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Department of Labor have allowed each state to develop their own state laws around vacation policies.
As an example, California’s law on vacation states that California employers are not required to pay a premium to employees who work during the holiday season. The same goes for North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey. However, if the employer chooses to pay a premium for holiday work, it should be stated in the employment contract, collective bargaining agreement (CBA), or established policy. The bottom line is that a company or a law firm must have clear employment or vacation policies explained to their employees on the first day of employment. In this way, there should be no issues once the employee receives their paychecks.
Why Lawyers Need to Take Vacations
Now, imagine working long hours in a highly competitive working environment. This is the reality for most attorneys, especially in the U.S.
As someone with a highly respected job, you would think a lawyer could get vacation time whenever they want. However, that’s usually not the case. Plus, many lawyers are wary of taking vacations, even if they do have the ability to control their schedule in this way.
This is because they fear that being away from the office may put their careers at risk, leave them unable to complete their billable hours, and even get dropped by clients.
Likewise, lawyers are not the only profession that doesn’t take vacation days. According to the latest state of American vacation report in 2018 from the U.S. Travel Association, about 52% of American employees have unused vacation days. This accumulated to 705 million total unused vacation days in 2017.
Among the reasons why employees do not take vacations are:
- Fear of being replaced from work
- Heavy workloads
- Lack of work coverage
- And other workplace barriers.
Because lawyers are extremely busy, they typically have loads of unused vacation time at the end of the year. Still, large firms almost always have a company policy for vacation, holiday, and sick leave.
Some companies even have proposed programs wherein they pay for their lawyers’ summer vacation in order to promote mental health and wellness. The premise is that depending on the lawyers’ year of employment or seniority, the curated vacation is worth about $5k to $10k.
Everyone, not just lawyers, needs a few days of vacation. This is to avoid getting too much strain on a person’s physical and mental health.
To put things in perspective, not taking time off from work can lead to anxiety, stress, substance abuse, depression, and dissatisfaction with work. Therefore, a company’s vacation policy is important. It allows employees to submit a vacation request without having second thoughts about work coverage.
Above all, getting that much-needed R&R can improve work outlook, avoid stress, and increase productivity. It’s not only recommended, but crucial that lawyers strike a balance between responsibilities and self-care. After all, without a vacation, lawyers are at risk of burnout.
How to Take Vacation as a Lawyer
What do you need to consider before taking a vacation though?
Here’s a rundown of what you need to do before acting on your vacation plans.
1. Plan Your Schedule
It’s important to plan your vacation during the slow season, if possible. If you have a heavy workload, check the times that you need to be physically present for things like court cases or client meetings. Plus, If you have your CLE requirements coming up, consider taking the Eduvacation℠ of Destination CLEs. With Destination CLEs, you can take your much-needed vacation while also completing your CLE credit hours. You can choose from a variety of beautiful locations around the world like the Mediterranean, Ireland, or Puerto Rico. Click here to book your next exotic vacation and to see what CLE topics you’ll get to learn while abroad.
2. Let Your Team Members and Your Boss Know How to Contact You
First, it would be a good idea to consider hiring a virtual assistant to do your administrative tasks like research, simple paperwork, or answering calls from colleagues. If you’re a solo practitioner, it’s always a good idea to hire a temporary assistant to help around, especially if you anticipate being absent. Of course, make sure you also consider taking the time to train your VA or assistant to avoid any mishaps with your clients.
Also, it’s a good idea to check if your company has a “buddy system” to cover you while you’re away. Since most firms work in teams, you can be more comfortable going on vacation while your team members work on your projects. Still, it’s important to provide them with your contact information and the time when they can call or message you while you’re away.
Similarly, make time to let your clients know when you’ll be on vacation and the time you expect to be back. Don’t forget to let the judges know, too.
3. Automated System
Before leaving town, it’s a great idea to get a legal software that can help you automate your processes. Legal management software can help automate client billing, appointment setting, calendar events, and time tracking. With a unified system, you don’t have to worry about logging into different systems while you’re away.
4. Make a Succession Plan
And because you have an ethical duty to always be prepared, make a succession plan in case something happens while you’re away. In this way, your clients and family are protected no matter what.
An essential element to a healthy and well-balanced life is to take a vacation.
And there you have it! You now know the basics of how to take vacation as a lawyer. Make sure to start planning early so you can get the maximum enjoyment from your well-deserved break.
Taking a vacation at least once each year is an essential element to a healthy and well-balanced life. Plus, you work hard as a lawyer, and you’ve definitely earned it!
If you still have a hard time justifying taking a vacation, make sure you check out Destination CLEs, where you can book a vacation that also takes care of your mandatory CLE credits.
Have you ever taken vacation as a lawyer?
If so, what tips would you add? Let us know in the comments below!