This article was reprinted with permission from the Indiana Paralegal Association, Inc. (indianaparalegals.org.)
By: Lottie Wathen
“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” ~ James Dent
Finally, after our long, cold winter, glorious Summer has arrived!! I know, I know, it does not officially arrive until the summer solstice occurs on June 21, 2014, but we are so close! In my opinion, June is one of the best months of the summer season. I would have to agree with Bern Williams who said, “If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance.” There is something so magical about the warm evenings, soft breezes and relatively low humidity that come in June. For some working parents, the children are still in school, but June also typically signals the start of summer vacations.
Some of us (your author included) have already enjoyed the bliss of vacation this year – and paid the price for it upon return – which brings us to the point of this homage to summer. I am confident that I am not alone in saying that I feel like I have to work twice as hard in the week(s) leading up to vacation to be able to leave the office for a week and twice as hard again in the week(s) following vacation to get caught up once I return.
I asked some trusted paralegal friends/coworkers for tips or tools for avoiding the stress that seems to come along with taking an extended period of time off work. Here are some of the responses:
Be organized. This tip was expressed by several of my sources (whose names may have been changed to protect the innocent – I’ve always wanted to say that) and it seems to be pretty simple logic when you consider that being organized is one of the things that paralegals should strive for on a regular basis. Typically, when a paralegal’s vacation is looming, often on the eve of departure, attorneys begin thinking of all of the projects they may need while you are gone – in addition to the work for which the deadline is in the here and now. There is nothing like work overload to turn a normally tidy, organized desk into a home for a file folder version of Jenga®. Staying organized will help keep you focused and on track for getting out of the office on time for vacation.
Start earlier. A friend of mine who is a probate paralegal in Scott County, Indiana says that she now likes to start getting ready for vacation earlier than she used to. Instead of waiting for the two (2) week warning (kind of like the 2 minute warning in football), she begins conditioning her attorneys a month ahead of time. She sends an email to them a month before her vacation to remind them that she will be out. She provides them with a list of deadlines, appointments or hearings that are already scheduled for the time that she will be out and asks them to let her know how she can help them prepare in advance. This email becomes a vacation task list from which she works to prepare items in advance.
Stay later. Carrie, a paralegal in a small general practice firm in Jennings County, Indiana tells me the secret is to stay later in the day in the weeks leading up to vacation. Rest assured, she does not work extremely late, but she finds that adding 30 minutes to an hour each day in the 2 to 3 weeks before vacation means she will be far less stressed the last week she is in the office before her extended leave. Obviously, not everyone has the option of staying late whenever they would like, but Carrie swears that a few hours a week over a longer period is much easier to handle than working furiously into the wee hours the day before vacation begins.
Ask for help. Just because you are drowning in work does not mean that everyone in your department/firm is. If you have someone to whom you can go for help – do it before the last day arrives. That person may be a legal assistant, copy clerk or another paralegal with some free time. Make sure that the projects you give to them can be completed in a relatively short period of time as the last thing you want is for someone else to be staying late working on one of your projects as you stroll out of the office at 5:00 p.m. wearing the “Heck, yeah – I’m on vacation grin.” It is also important to remember that if you ask someone to help you, make sure you plan to return the favor at some point in the future.
Give up your vacation. Just kidding.
With a little advance thinking and a plan of action to get things done ahead of time, you will be ready to go on vacation with a clear head and a desk that does not frighten your supervising attorneys. If, however, you find that you are still working late on that last day in the office before vacation, try not to complain. Eventually, you will be hitting the door for an extended absence which will hopefully make all of the suffering you have endured worth it.
“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.” ~Russel Baker
Wishing you an absolutely fantastic “summer” weekend, TPS readers! Make it a great one. Be sure to enjoy that “paralegal vacation,” even if it is only an imaginary concept which takes place only in your partially-sane mind, as you bask beneath the glow of those florescent light bulbs, sipping an iced tea, and pounding out perfect pleadings. (In my mind, I’m meeting you under the cabana right now.)
Don’t forget the sunscreen…