When you’re a sole practitioner, you sometimes feel as though you always have to be on the job; never more so than when you first start out in your own office. The worry that you’ll miss the call or e-mail of that “potentially very important client” can be a powerful motivator to be near the computer or smartphone on a constant basis.
Here’s a secret: when that “potentially very important client” is looking for you, more often than not they’ll call back. Usually, the only people who think that lawyers need to be available all day/every day are other lawyers. Granted, there are exceptions: some family law clients or criminal defendants can have urgencies arise during all hours. However, most people understand that office hours are office hours.
Most people also understand that, every now and again, the average human being goes on vacation. They may not like the fact that you’re away and won’t be back for a week or two, but they’ll understand it. They’ll understand even more if you let them know ahead of time. “I won’t be available from August 1 – August 10, but my assistant will be here”, or “I’m away until August 10, but in the event of an emergency, please contact the following…”
Which leads me to point number two: take the time to create, maintain and grow your external “support network”. Find other sole practitioners who are in situations similar or analogous to your own. Share ideas on office processes, files, marketing, everything related to your office. You’ll find that these people may have had similar experiences to your own, and you could even have a solution or two to a mutual conundrum. These people will make for good sounding boards, good discussion partners and possibly good friends.
Third and final point: if you’re not able to leave the office behind completely, then bring it with you on one major condition: remember that this is a vacation. Work should be minimal, and it should be compartmentalized so that it’s either done at specific times (and specific times only), or that you limit the time you spend on work at one sitting. You – and/or your significant other and/or child(ren) will appreciate the fact that your priority is the holiday and not the office.
Your files can wait. Believe it or not. Your clients can wait also. It’s just a week. Or two. And once you’ve made your plans to get away, stick to them. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you take the time to unplug from your office and plug in to your personal time. You’ll be a better business person for it, and maybe even a better lawyer for it.