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Friday Tech Tips

Lawyer Tech Tips: Ways to (Really) Get Away This Summer

By Joan Feldman and Joy White

Whether you travel near or far, physically or virtually, here are some tips from our tech experts on getting away from it all.

Summer’s here and the country’s reopening around us. A time like this will inspire many lawyers and staff members to take a family road trip, spend time off at a nearby beach town, or hop a plane to a farther-away dream spot. But after a year of blurred lines, working nonstop from home, do we remember HOW to get away from it all?

We asked a few practice management and technology friends to provide some favorite tips, apps or other sage advice to help you use technology to safely get the most from your summer vacation. You’ll enjoy these fun ideas from Tom Lambotte, Sharon Nelson and John Simek, Juda Strawczynski, Reid Trautz and Courtney Troutman. Bon voyage!

Reid Trautz: Plan Your Vacation Using Technology

Reid Trautz online business development

Health experts agree your body and mind need at least a week of vacation to clear out months of accumulated stress. Taking an occasional day off from the office for relaxation is fine, but taking at least a one-week vacation break is really a necessity.

Plan your time off from work to ensure that it is quality time. Not just the travel arrangements but what you’ll do during your vacation. Better planning leads to a more enjoyable vacation. You’ll know what to expect when you do some of the planning so there won’t be letdowns and misunderstandings along the way. Further, experts agree there is a relaxation benefit to planning a vacation.

Surf the web, enjoy the images of where you’ll go, become familiar with your journey and destinations. Daydream a bit and look forward to the fun.

Travel Planning Apps for Getting Away From It All

To help with your planning, download one or more helpful planning apps to become an informed traveler without fear of missing out. Consider highly rated mobile travel planning apps such as Wanderlog, Culture Trip and Guides by Lonely Planet, as well as Trip Scout. (If you do leave some of the planning to others, many of these apps allow for information sharing and collaboration within your travel group.)

Wherever you go and whatever you do on vacation, please be sure to leave time to do nothing but relax. Rushing to do everything on a vacation isn’t really a vacation, is it?

Reid Trautz (@RTrautz) is founding Director of the Practice & Professionalism Center at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where he provides practice advisory services to members. A past chair of ABA TECHSHOW, he is co-chair of the ABA Law Practice Division Futures Initiative and co-authors Future Proofing, a column about the future of law practice in the ABA’s Law Practice magazine.

Juda Strawczynski: Clear Out the Must-Dos, Then Set Boundaries

Juda Strawczynski online business development

Here are four tips to really unplug and take your vacation:

Plan ahead to unplug. Make sure you are able to get as much out of the “must-do” pile as possible before you go away. Get the items with looming deadlines done and out the door. This creates space to unplug. Use your calendaring and project management tools to help make it happen.

Set the expectation. Let your staff and clients know that you’re taking a real vacation, and what they should do in case of emergency.

Plug in to unplug. You may feel the need to keep your cellphone or computer with you on your vacation. Keep it physically away from you and closed. Plug in your portable device away from view so that you don’t return to email out of habit. While your devices recharge, you can too.

Limit screen time. If you have to check in while on vacation, set a time to do so and a strict time limit. Set these boundaries to allow yourself the break you both need and deserve.

Juda Strawczynski (@JStrawczynski) is Director of practicePRO, Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Co.’s innovative claims and risk management initiative. Prior to joining LAWPRO, he was a policy lawyer at the Law Society of Ontario and practiced litigation with a focus on professional liability, public law and civil disputes.

Courtney Troutman: Indulge Your Passion via Virtual Travel

courtney troutmanWhen I travel to another country, I like to line up lots of time with local guides. Although it is now possible to travel again to many EU counties, including my favorite, Italy, I’m reluctant to hop on a plane yet. But that doesn’t keep me from indulging in my travel passion, virtually! Here are some of my favorite virtual travel pastimes to enjoy now.

Dine With a Travel Guide

Rick Steves, travel guide author and host of popular shows on PBS, usually travels to Europe twice a year to research his books and record TV shows. Grounded with the rest of us, he began offering Monday Night Travel, an unusually intimate Zoom experience for a few thousand travel fans. In a nutshell, you join Rick at his kitchen table to eat, drink and listen to Rick chat. In between sips of wine (lots of wine) and nibbles of regional food, Rick comments on clips from his travel show. Yes, it feels a little like hanging out with your dad when he gets a bit tipsy and hauls out the slide carousel … if your dad happens to be a world-famous travel author.

Attendees are encouraged to watch with their own “local” cuisine and submit questions. Free pre-registration is required, but admittance is limited, so don’t show up late to dinner!

Dig With an Archaeologist

If wandering through ancient ruins with a real-life Indiana Jones appeals to you as much as it does to me, Ancient Rome Live should be your first stop. Dr. Darius Arya, an American archaeologist headquartered in Rome, hosts a wide variety of free-to-access live lectures, seminars and Q&A sessions. With numerous TV shows under his belt, including Ancient Impossible, Darius brings history to life in the places it happened. Watching him walk backward as he livestreams from a ruin is the next best thing to being there. View past seminars anytime or check out Darius Arya Digs on YouTube. If you ever wondered what Rome looks like without all the tourists, his 2020 Empty Rome video is a haunting must-see.

Cook With a Regional Chef and Lifestyle Guru

Elizabeth Minchilli, cookbook author and all-round enviable person, rules Instagram from Rome and Tuscany. Her Instagram @eminchilli is a feast for Italophiles. I may never sit under her bougainvillea-draped pergola in Tuscany, but she did teach me how to make espresso in a moka pot from her IGTV account. Maybe one day … until then, a virtual ciao!

Courtney Troutman(@SCBar_PMAP) is Director of the South Carolina Bar Practice Management Assistance Program, which she founded in 2002. A former practicing attorney, she is a frequent author on technology topics, including numerous articles for ABA publications. She is a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and a past recipient of the Fastcase 50 Award.

Sharon Nelson and John Simek: Use Those Cord-Cutting Tools for Getting Away From It All

Sharon Nelson getting away from it allJohn Simek getting away from it all

Technology itself gives you the tools to cut the cord from work and truly enjoy your vacation. How?

Your phone is your worst enemy because you can’t stop “checking in,” right? Put it on “Do Not Disturb” and let your cares fly away. Of course, to do that, you need to let any critical folks at work know that you intend to do it – and for the sake of those trying to reach you by email, make sure your “Away” message is on.

You also have the option to program DND exceptions to allow a specific caller:

Obviously, don’t look at the phone when “Do Not Disturb” is on. Those emails and notifications will show up if you do and your blood pressure will head north!

Put your phone in a hotel safe and go to the pool or dinner. You can’t check what you don’t have. No safe? Another way to enforce your relaxation is to give your phone to your spouse or other traveling companion with orders about when to return it. Don’t get mad when they obey your orders — play fair!

As for laptops, do what needs doing once or twice a day. Maybe before breakfast and dinner? And power them down in between. They sing silent siren songs to you if you can bring them to life in a flash.

Want some motivation? Brand this quote in your stubborn brain that insists on constant connectivity:

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”  — Anne Lamott, writer

Good advice but unplug for a few hours rather than a few minutes!

Sharon D. Nelson (@SharonNelsonEsq) and John W. Simek (@SenseiEnt) are President and Vice President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a digital forensics, legal technology and cybersecurity firm based in Fairfax, Va. They have written 16 books published by the ABA, including The Solo and Small Firm Legal Technology Guides and “Encryption Made Simple for Lawyers.” They are past-chairs of ABA TECHSHOW.

Tom Lambotte: Ready for Vacation? Make It Truly Free Time to Rejuvenate 

Tom Lambotte getting away from it all

I’m a legal tech guy who spent the past year keeping attorneys connected during trying pandemic conditions, so it wasn’t unexpected when Attorney at Work asked me for guidance on how remote-working lawyers can best get away from it all.

What might be unexpected is the advice that I have: Turn off your tech to get away from it all!

One of my mentors, Dan Sullivan, founder of the entrepreneurial coaching program Strategic Coach, teaches that free time only rejuvenates when it is truly time free from work: no email, no calls, no office-related thoughts — not even light business reading.

All of your time is split into three types of days:

  • Free Days that are entirely away and disconnected from the business are for rejuvenation.
  • Focus Days are centered on money-making activities.
  • Buffer Days are for preparation.

I followed this philosophy for many years. Like many, during the pandemic, edges had become blurred, so I reinvested in this on a recent weeklong getaway. (Our first trip in two years!) We rented a cabin in the beautiful Hocking Hills of Ohio outside Columbus.

To fight occupational urges, I started by deleting my email account from my phone and signed out of Slack — my biggest communication tools. Next, I told my team that if they really needed to reach me, they could do so by texting my wife. This retained an emergency lifeline and reinforced my seriousness, and allowed my more rational half to serve as gatekeeper.

Give Yourself Permission

It turned out to be a win all around. Not only did I find peace while away and return to the office refreshed and renewed, but my staff further strengthened their initiative and self-reliance — that will serve us year-round.

And if you’re wondering, no one texted my wife, everyone in the family had a blast, and the business did not burn down in my absence.

Remember: None of us is as indispensable at the office as we think. Give yourself permission to disconnect from work and be present in the moment. Don’t look for an app that will serve as a leash. Instead, simply turn off your device. Be an Attorney at Play.

Tom Lambotte is the founder and CEO of Security+, a turnkey security suite for solo and small firm lawyers, and CEO of GlobalMac IT, a nationwide managed service provider for small to medium-sized law firms. He is the author of the ABA book “Macs in Law.” A prolific writer, he also authored “Hassle Free Mac IT Support for Law Firms” and “Legal Boost: Big Profits Through an IT Transformation.” 

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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