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You invested in your education to earn a J.D. You invested in your career when you decided to go solo. How about investing in some resurgence for your soul? All batteries need recharging � especially solos’ or small firm lawyers’. As a solo, commit yourself to taking a timely vacation. Have you noticed in the local bar journals how many 50- to 60-year-old lawyers permanently vacation, so to speak, after having heart attacks? Some solos struggle with finding time to take a break or go on vacation. If you wait until you find the time, you’ll never go. You have to make the time. Disciplined solo practitioners are in more control of their time. That discipline is a big help when it comes to making time for a vacation. In addition, time management not only facilitates efficiency, but also can protect solos from stress during nonvacation times � as in regular work weeks. Besides, the more time-efficient and organized you are, the better you will feel about leaving. If you aren’t organized, take a time management course, hire a consultant, or try a practice efficiency program from your local bar association. Other than failing to plan for time off, there’s one major barrier to taking a vacation: clients. To prevent problems with clients, communicate in advance of your leave and tell them of your vacation plans � that will keep them from thinking you’re just not returning their calls or are avoiding them. If you’ve established a good relationship with them, it won’t be difficult to sell them on the value of some leisure time for you and your family. Communicate to clients your commitment to and the benefits of taking a vacation. If they can’t understand, perhaps they’re not so indispensable. Planning for a vacation is just as necessary as planning for a case. First things first: When is the best time for a solo to take a vacation? Civil litigators file vacation letters with the courts; once filed, a vacation letter keeps your clients’ trials, depositions, hearings, etc., off the court docket while you’re away. Criminal court judges, defense lawyers, and prosecutors usually respect one another’s vacation schedules � provided they receive timely notice of them. Transactional lawyers have some demanding periods during which vacations will be out of the question, such as when it’s time to file annual reports or Securities and Exchange Commission Form 10-Ks for clients, or during the completion of an urgent contract. But a transactional lawyer’s busy times can often be predicted months ahead, paving the way for you to make the time to take a break. Family lawyers may have the biggest problem here, since crises seem to arise more often. Some lawyers and their staff take the same days or weeks off. Some solos prefer to leave a voice recording, letting callers know the days the office is closed and what to do if there’s a problem while the attorney is gone. That always seemed rather cold and impersonal to me, but it works for some. If your staff will work while you’re gone, an experienced secretary can be able to allay clients’ fears; your secretary should also know how to contact you if it’s necessary. Of course, clients can also leave voice-mails. Some solos have fellow solos cover for them, in case of emergencies while they’re gone. That’s an option, too. There’s no pressure about what type of vacation to take. Take the vacation you will most enjoy and, of course, can afford. Vacations come in all sizes and shapes. Do you prefer skiing madly down a slope every day rather than reading books on the beach? I’ve had each of these. Some solos prefer to take several three-day weekends; others prefer a week or two of vacation at a time. Experiment to see what works best for you and your practice. It’s important to take a vacation. As we draw our last breaths, if in fact our lives flash before our eyes, I doubt that we will sigh and say, “I wish I’d pulled more all-nighters.” Bon voyage. Robert G. Davis is a solo practitioner concentrating in criminal defense, personal injury, and family law. He is a member of the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and has served on numerous committees of the Dallas Bar Association, where he was editor of the DBA’s Headnotes and chairman of the Public Relations Committee in 1987. This article first appeared in Texas Lawyer, an American Lawyer Media newspaper published in Dallas.

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