Planning Time Away from Work?                               5 Tips for a Smoother Transition

By Jamy J. Sullivan, J.D., Robert Half Legal



I hate to say it, but I almost dread taking time off work. After being away from work an extended period of time, getting caught up with email, caseloads and deadlines when I return seems to cancel out the benefits of my rest and relaxation. Any tips for a smoother transition before and after vacation?


Many legal professionals often postpone or forego much-needed time away from work, primarily because the “right time” for a prolonged break can be surprisingly elusive. And when you finally do take time off, the return to work can be overwhelming. Fortunately, it is possible for legal professionals to take their vacations and enjoy them, too. The key lies in methodical, detailed planning before you leave. Here are five tips to help ease the transition: 

1. Review workload and arrange coverage. A week before vacation, meet with your manager to discuss active cases or client matters and prioritize actions items. Identify priority tasks to finish before you leave on break and others that can be deferred. Be certain that the team members who are covering for you are familiar with all case and client matters.

2. Tie up loose ends. You’ll want to complete necessary projects and tasks before logging off. It’s also important to allot time to meet with colleagues to discuss the handing-off of assignments that won’t be finished prior to your leave. During such briefings, you will want to share with them any relevant files and other important documents related to a case or project.

3. Establish communication guidelines. If a “working vacation” is planned, clarify with colleagues how frequently you will check voicemail and email messages and what the response time is likely to be. In the case of a complete holiday from the demands of the job, advise coworkers and the supervising attorney that you will not be accessible to answer questions or participate in conference calls.

4. Take care of practical details. Small but important tasks, such as an out-of-office voicemail or automated email response, tidying up your desk and organizing files, should be attended to the day before the vacation. You may also want to offer your manager suggestions for handling emergencies or unforeseen problems in your absence.

5. Take an ‘extra’ day when you return. Give yourself a 24-hour buffer period to access and respond to voicemail and e-mail messages. It’s also a good idea to check-in with coworkers for updates; by doing so, that disoriented feeling that often occurs on the first day back at work can be reduced.

With some preparation and planning, legal professionals can enjoy their time off more and, subsequently, return to work with a renewed sense of enthusiasm, purpose and commitment.


Jamy Sullivan is executive director of the legal practice at Robert Half, a premier provider of talent and consulting solutions for a wide range of initiatives in the legal field, including compliance, contract management, data privacy, litigation support and more. Visit