As a Solo Lawyer, It’s Critical to Plan Ahead for Sick Days

By Joleena Louis - June 3, 2015
As a Solo Lawyer, It’s Critical to Plan Ahead for Sick Days

In this week’s edition of Things I Wish I Knew, solo lawyer, Joleena Louis discusses how she handles taking sick days.

This past week I was sick. Really sick.

I had a terrible cold. Or maybe it was the flu?

I was mostly confined to my bed for days and being out of commission left me no chance to get into the office at all.

One of the greatest benefits of being a solo is making your own schedule. One unplanned day off may not be a big deal, but what if it’s longer?

Since my office is mostly paperless and all my files are on the cloud, I could still easily work from bed.

It is true that most meetings can be rescheduled. However, the real issue is when you have a court date.

In the case where an appearance is necessary, you really only have three options:

1.  Develop a roster of colleagues who can cover for you.

It’s good to know multiple attorneys who are willing cover a case at the last minute. The day you need help is the day that everyone is going to be busy already, so have as many options as possible.
Clients will freak out about a different attorney showing up so its important to let them know what’s going on and assure them that your colleague can handle the matter.

Solo Lawyer Sick Days

I’m a fan of solos using shared law office space (I mean, I write for this blog). A big reason is having number of attorneys who can help you with coverage when you are in a pinch. Even if you don’t know much about the attorneys in the space, you can always turn to the manager of the space to guide you to the right colleague.

2.  Know judges’ rules for adjournments.

It’s incredibly important to get in the habit of knowing each judge’s rules for adjournment in advance. Once a judge is assigned to a case, make it part of your intake materials or case data sheet to include with your file.

This way, when you wake up one morning with a stomach flu, you’re not scrambling to research the judge’s rules in between trips to the restroom.

In every case you have to notify your adversary and the court. Some judges I have appeared before require a conference call with your adversary, some require a fax stating the reasons and available dates for you and your adversary.

I even had one that insisted my client still appear to get the new date.

3.  Be prepared to suck-it-up and show for your appearance.

I was lucky that my court appearances were near the end of my sickness so I ended up sucking it up and going to court.

Solo Lawyer Sick Days

I didnt want to adjourn either case; we were close to settlements on both so I felt I needed to be there. I let everyone know I was fighting a cold and didn’t want to get anyone else sick so I was able to get in and out pretty quickly.

In the case that you have no choice but to show, there are a few things to consider:

  • Always have a well stocked arsenal of over the counter meds on hand.
  • Be mentally prepared in advance that, one day you will be sick and you just may have to tough it out. Knowing in advance that this may be your reality makes it slightly easier when it eventually happens.
  • Give yourself permission to go home and rest immediately after the appearance.

4.  Have a rainy-day fund set aside for missed time at work.

For most solos, if we’re not billing, we’re not earning. A week in bed with the flu can mean losing a quarter of revenue in any given month. Plus you’ll lose one-quarter of your marketing time as well, potentially having residual financial consequences in months to follow.

Solo Lawyer Sick Days

As you plan your financial budget each year, factor in some time off for illness, and have some funds set aside so you can float your expenses in any month where you have to take time off.

All of us will eventually get sick. The best we can do is have a backup plan in place.

How do you plan for sick time as a solo? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!

Planning ahead for illness is part of good organization.

Learn more from our eBook “Organize For Success.”

About Joleena Louis

Joleena Louis is a matrimonial and family law attorney at Joleena Louis Law, a firm she founded after leaving a boutique matrimonial firm in Brooklyn. Joleena is a client in Law Firm Suites’ Financial District location. Her weekly blog series Things I Wish I Knew... explores her thought process and experiences in her transition from small law firm employee to successful solo practice entrepreneur. Follow Joleena on Twitter.

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