Friday, July 10, 2009

Divorce lawyers need vacations too

Certified Family Law Specialist Donald F. Conviser, owner of Warner Center Law Offices in Woodland Hills, California [in the west San Fernando Valley], serving divorce and family law
clients in Los Angeles County and Ventura County, offering a free confidential consultation, writes this article from Dalat, Vietnam, while taking a well-deserved break from the office.

All work and no play makes Johnnie a dull boy. While I am serious about my work, which frequently is on my mind 24/7 during the work year, I am likewise serious about my play. The practice of divorce and family law isn't something that I can tune out to before or after work hours during the work year. If I get a brilliant idea about a case at night or on the weekend, will it still be at the forefront of my mind when I return to the office? Best not to take the risk - I have PCs at home, portable PCs, an iPhone, paper and pens, and wherever I am, I jot down the pearl of wisdom to ensure that it won't be lost. While it is not my normal practice to work on weekends or holidays, in cases where an alternative doesn't appear to exist, I have made the time to meet with clients to handle critical matters that could make a significant difference in their cases. If time during the business day is insufficient to complete a task, I stay to complete the task. My clients (and quite surprisingly to other attorneys, my wife) appreciate my dedication.

This article deals largely with how and why I take vacations, and what I do to enable me to take vacations without harming my clients and cases.


Before I take a vacation, I set certain forces in place to protect my clients and ensure that prospective clients get served.

In each of my pending cases, I prepare, serve and file a NOTICE OF UNAVAILABILITY, to ensure that my adversaries and the Courts have notice of my vacation.

I advise my clients and my adversaries of my vacation, including its duration.

I hire one or more back-up lawyers, to field calls, and in cases where I deem it to be critical, I associate another attorney in so that the court and adverse party will be required to give notices to both my associate counsel and me.

I plan discovery and depositions so that my vacation will not interfere with necessary discovery work.

I arrange continuances of hearings to enable me to have sufficient time to prepare for the hearings after I return from my vacation.

I leave a vacation voice mail on my after-hours and week-end telephone line, advising callers of my vacation, providing them access to my back-up lawyers, and asking that they send an e-mail to me and leave a message for me.

My receptionist connects incoming calls to my associate and/or back-up lawyers.

I periodically access and respond to my e-mail from my vacation destination(s).

I take a mini-notebook PC and a Magic Jack to enable me to make calls when necessary, and to enable me to hear and respond to voice mail messages left for me.


Those things enable me to handle my work responsibilities AND take vacations.


I find balance in my life with exercise, music (I play the Cello, the Theremin, and the Ukulele), vegetable and fruit gardening, gourmet cooking and eating, creative endeavors (including travel clothing design), and travel.

To me, travel isn't just seeing the sights. It is experiencing another slice of life in another slice of the globe. One of my travel sayings is: "When you find Paradise, use it up." I figure that my wife and I have gone to Puerto Vallarta over 80 times, and we have never used up Puerto Vallarta. If I am capable of "relaxation", the closest that I come to relaxation is in Puerto Vallarta or Dalat. This is our 5th trip to Vietnam, and our 2nd trip to Dalat, Vietnam - the honeymoon capital of Vietnam. While the rest of Vietnam is toasting in July, Dalat runs a cool 70 to 75 during the day, and a cool 65 to 70 at night. Datanla Falls, a few Km from town, has what I can best explain as a Bobsled Rollercoaster that runs down tubular steel rails to the falls, with only a handbrake for controls. There is a great gondola ride in the sky to a peaceful monestary, not far away. At Prenn Falls, there are go-carts... just for fun, not for riding fast or bumping. There is a great street marketplace that opens up at night outside CHO DALAT - the central market - and you can buy a golf jacket for $3. I'm not a golfer, but it is said that there are great golf courses in Dalat... there are three GOLF hotels there... GOLF 3 being the best.

I call my vacations: "Getting off the wheel." The wheel is exciting and challenging, during the work year, but getting off the wheel is rejuvenating.

This trip included a day in Hong Kong (I know how to do our style of Hong Kong in a day), in Bangkok (my wife loves to shop at a certain store in Bangkok), a few days in Luang Prabang Laos (pretty paradisical), 2 days in Vientiane (the starting point in our journey to Dalat - but a place that we won't return to), a week in Dalat (flying Vientiane-Pnom Penh-Saigon-Dalat), and will include a week in Nha Trang (hot, but superb food), a week in Hoi An (the place to get clothes tailor made - also hot but great food), and a few more days in Saigon (great shopping, and also great food). I do a lot of power-walking to walk off the great food.

I took 64G of SD Chips along on our trip, so much of my time is spent in shopping through my camera, taking what I call "Art-Shots" - of farming or gardening implements, structures, people, produce, eels, shadows, lines, etc., slowing down enough to be able to focus on life one screen at a time.

I took a few books and a Kindle, so if it is too hot outside, or if I just want to relax (or put myself to sleep), I can read.

I took two iPods on the trip - one 8G iPod to record the sounds of our trip on [and Dalat is the place to do that in], and the other 160G iPod full of over 16,000 songs, with a small but efficient speaker set as well as earbuds, in case I have to wait in line and find an alternative to impatience. I took a small Ukulele along, for the same purpose, or to just entertain.

I brought fabrics for my Hoi An tailors to use... fabrics that are not available in Vietnam, but I will have hats and vests made from the great Japanese Silks that are available in Hoi An.


I have already begun to experience the disconnect from getting off the wheel, and that is the relaxation that vacations allow me. I have spoken with my receptionist via my Magic Jack (I must call before 9:30 a.m. local time to reach my receptionist at my office before 5:30 p.m.). I have exchanged e-mails with my backup attorneys and my associate, and I arranged a deposition, hired my court reporter, and reserved my conference room while on this vacation.

But this is a vacation, time to play, so play I will, now. Off to CHO DALAT, to record the sounds of the town and look at life one frame at a time.