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It’s summertime and the living is supposed to be easy — or at least easier. Now that summer is finally upon us like a steamy vat of chicken soup for our skin, most folks are gearing up for that much-needed time off — VACATION. Vacations once were considered luxury items; however, in today’s world — especially the fast-paced, high-pressure world of law firm life — vacations have become necessities. In fact, instead of the usual parade of law practice-related ideas that usually march through my mind in my pre-column writing brainstorms, I can’t seem to get vacation out of my mind. The shore. The mountains. Staying up late. Sleeping late. Naps. No ringing phones. No pantyhose. No meetings. No columns. Each time I start writing about something else, I return to thoughts of vacation. Although tempted to analyze the Supreme Court’s most recent opinions, I am reminded that even the justices are taking a respite. So, unable to stay focused on other topics, I offer a vacation guide for this column. However, since some look at this as an advice column, I must confess: I don’t do vacations right. Try as I might, I repeatedly have mangled the best-laid vacation plans. Sometimes it has not been my fault as clients, partners and even family members’ unexpected emergencies have prevented me from taking time to get away. Each year, I resolve to do better and there has been noted improvement. Not enough, though, to claim the expertise to write a column about how to successfully vacation. Rather, this month’s offering draws on my talent for spoiling trips — sometimes before they even start — and I offer you the top 10 ways to ruin your summer vacation. 10. Don’t let anyone know you are going on vacation. Don’t tell anyone in the office in advance of your vacation so some people are sure to come looking for you while you are away. Don’t prepare an exit memorandum, letting your colleagues know the status of your work; and, whatever you do, don’t let your clients know you are not going to be around. If you want to be sure to ruin a trip — and guarantee a horrible return to work — keep the communication lines closed. 9. Don’t plan any contingencies. Whatever you do, don’t have anyone check your mail/voicemail/e-mail while you are on vacation so that if a motion or court order or something else time-sensitive arrives, you can be sure it ferments, unread and not responded to, in your in-bin. Don’t have anyone ready in case of problems and don’t give your secretary or someone else at the office your contact information for a real emergency. 8. Don’t change your e-mail and voicemail. Rather than the extended-absence voicemail greeting or the “out of office assistant” for your e-mail box, let your mailboxes fill with messages from people waiting to hear back from you. You will be able to miss deadlines on assignments that you did not even know you received. 7. Do call in to the office constantly. For those compulsive counselors out there who cannot cut off communication (and I know there are plenty of you), keep your cell phone with you and turned on at all times. Call in constantly from the road and your vacation destination and keep checking voicemail. Maybe you can get caught up in a long-distance conference call or dictate responses to those motions or court orders over the telephone. 6. Also, don’t give up on the other technology while you are away. Whip out your BlackBerry at every corner. There is a reason why some of us call it the “crackberry.” Give in to the addiction and constantly check and send e-mail. You can never become too proficient at typing with your thumbs, so it will be good practice. If you don’t have a handheld device, stop in at every Internet caf� and spend hours at each. Better yet, lug that laptop along wherever you go. It’s great for the biceps! 5. You can take it with you. Pack right. Who needs a cooler filled with ice-cold Coronas or a beach tote with sunscreen or the latest Harry Potter or Tom Robbins books? Instead, take your briefcase and pack it full with that stack of old copies of The Legal Intelligencer, journals and advance sheets from your corner of your desk. Better yet, take along some actual work and don’t forget the legal pads, Post-it Notes, paperclips and highlighters. Having everything you need to work will help you keep your mind on the office even when you are not in the office. 4. Take a working vacation. That’s right — rather than getting away from hard work, use your entire vacation for that procrastinated project like painting the garage or cleaning out the attic. The more sweat and dirt involved, the better. Make sure that your physical exhaustion matches your mental fatigue so you’ll actually look forward to returning to work and sitting at your desk. 3. Preparation is the key. In order to properly prepare for some time away from the office, be sure to stay up for at least three nights in a row trying to get all of your work done and then save all of your housecleaning and packing until that last night before you leave. You will be tired and cranky during the travel phase, fall asleep by 9 p.m. on your first night away and need days to unwind. This simple preparation will make sure that by the time you do chill out, it is time to come home. You don’t want to fully relax. 2. Don’t make plans. Why do you need to check your calendar early and block out the time? After all, maybe some cases will settle, deals will close and at some point in the summer, you’ll find yourself with a spare week, a long weekend or maybe only a day trip. Lawyers are born to procrastinate and prioritize. Let the summer get started and don’t plan to get away. See what happens — maybe you will catch a break. If not, there is always the fall. 1. Better yet, don’t take a vacation at all. After all, you are indispensable to your firm, life is really not that short and you have the rest of yours to relax. Maybe this is the year you want to set a new record for having the most billable hours or most stomach acid at the firm. Or maybe you have just become accustomed to basking in the rays of fluorescent bulbs with the gentle breeze of office air conditioning tousling your hair. Don’t take these tips seriously, but rather let them remind you that life is indeed too short and that we all need to retreat and re-energize. If you don’t see my column next month, you’ll know what I am doing. And when you do get away, leave it all behind and enjoy your vacation.

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