Over the years many in our profession have come to assume that part of the compromise we must make in order to have a robust practice includes sacrificing holidays, leisure time, and family time.
The longer I practice the more I question this way of thinking. I am far more productive when I am rested and rejuvenated. You likely would be also.
On a regular basis one should keep in mind that you need to maintain your soul and mind as well as your body. So, in addition to exercising, getting enough sleep, and paying attention to a healthy diet try to ensure that you also engage in activities that are relaxing and enjoyable such as conversations with good friends, time at the spa, or reading a good book. Do whatever works for you.
However, even if you regularly do things to relax and unwind it is still important to take holidays each year.
Canada is a nation that provides limited “legal” holidays or minimum vacation days when compared to the rest of the developed world. Despite this, countless vacation days go unused each year. Many people, for whatever reason, do not feel that they are able to or choose not to take time off. Some feel that they have too much work to go on holidays. Others feel they have to meet certain targets or are concerned about their job security. Rightly or wrongly my sense is that this problem is often more profound for those of us in the legal profession than it is for the rest of Canadians who are working away alongside us.
When a lawyer does go on a holiday staying in contact with work and clients by checking e-mail and voice-mail is commonly expected (either by the lawyer themselves or their clients and colleagues). I know lawyers that have taken calls and e-mails while riding a horse on an African safari or while fishing in remote and pristine arctic waters.
The profession of law has somehow led many of us to think of practicing law and generating billable time as productive and taking vacations as non-productive. The prevailing theory seems to be that the more you work the more time you can record. The more time you record the more you can bill. The more you bill the more you can get paid. People who work long hours and do not take holidays are rewarded in most legal environments. Perhaps the better theory should be that a vacation is different but equally productive time. The happier and healthier a lawyer is the more he or she will enjoy their life, part of which includes the practice of law. If you enjoy your work more and are more productive, both your life and your practice will benefit.
Try and enjoy some vacation time this year. Take a little bit longer holiday than you were intending to take. Chances are good that you will not be disbarred or fired when you return. Go somewhere new, become more courageous when it comes to local delicacies, take an adventurous trip, talk to strangers, and explore some out of the way places. You’ll be glad you did.
Dana D. J. Schindelka