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Surviving the dog days of summer

According to Wikipedia, the phrase “dog days” refers to the sultry days of summer, usually extending from July 3 to Aug. 11. The Romans associated this period of hot weather with the star Sirius, also referred to as the “Dog Star.” So as we are now in the midst of the dog days of summer, and the temperature/humidity continue to inch upward, my mind drifts to sandy beaches, afternoon libations and a week away from my daily uniform of a suit and tie.

Lawyering during the summer months can prove trying, however. Handling a vacation in the middle of discovery, for example, requires preparation, trust, and the possibility of ruining your afternoon at Bob’s Tiki Lounge and Hangout with a conference call and a date with your laptop. If you are prepared and trust your colleagues, however, the probability of making the 2 p.m. happy hour at the beach significantly increases.

Here the deal — I love vacationing. I love going to the beach and hanging out with my wife as the boys make sandcastles. I love hiking in the mountains, camping under the stars and the smell of last night’s camp fire permeating through all of my belongings. I love being a tourist, whether it’s a visit to Alcatraz, the Statue of Liberty, or the Eiffel Tower.

I also have friends that say they love vacationing but never go. They go for a long weekend or a few days, but they do not leave for a full week (or more). They claim they cannot get away, that there is too much work, that there isn’t enough time. I believe that it is important to recharge your batteries, to get away, gain perspective and take a break. It makes me more efficient and more committed when I return. It makes me a better lawyer.

So I have developed my own “Out-of-Office Vacation Plan for the Office While I Am Out” plan, which starts months before I leave, before any trials or scheduling orders or cases have been filed. So when the time does arise to schedule hearings, trials, or depositions, I will ensure there are no conflicts.

About two weeks before I leave, I meet with my paralegal and an attorney covering for me to discuss and create a list of potential issues that may arise if I am gone. The list constantly morphs until the day that I leave, with the hope that there is nothing on the list before I go. And if something does flare up, it will not be a surprise for anyone covering for me.

The next step to ensure a restful vacation is trust. I need to trust that my paralegal and the attorney covering for me will handle any issues that arise. I used to have anxiety when I left on vacation that my cases would fall apart, the firm would burn down and I would come back to a pile of ashes. I would check-in daily to make sure there had not been any fires (literally or figuratively). I would not come back from vacation rested.

A few years ago, however, I left for an extended overseas vacation with no cell phone or direct communication with the law firm. After a marvelous trip, I returned to find the firm was still standing. It had survived without me. I am fortunate to have a staff and colleagues that I can trust.

Occasionally, if the sky is falling, I do get calls while on vacation or I have to rearrange departure or arrival times because a client needs my assistance. It is part of the practice of law, but I try to minimize the disruption.

So, remember: Preparation + Trust = Afternoon at Bob’s Tiki Lounge and Hangout.

Obviously, my experience is different because my practice includes a number of other attorneys and support staff.  My plan would be very different if I were a solo.

What techniques do you use when you are trying to get away?