Management Assistance Program

Summertime Travel and Out of the Office Messages

By Jim Calloway

The heat of summer and sites of jammed airports are already upon us. As many lawyers prepare for a relaxing summer vacation or family gathering, one thought is in many of their heads – “How many times will I have my vacation interrupted by work?”

There are many techniques to limit vacation interruptions — from warning clients before your absence, so they will be prepared, and making sure they know who to contact for emergencies, to “working ahead” to avoid last minute issues.

But one, sometimes overlooked, technique to avoid vacation interruptions is to pay special attention to your Out-of-Office messages, both on your voicemail, and your e-mail. You cannot guarantee that everyone will listen to or read your Out-of-Office messages, but it’s still worth your effort.

So what goes into the perfect Out-of-Office?

For voice messages it needs to be your voice. You may be an important and busy lawyer, but a voice message with, for example, a generic voice saying, “Mr. Jones is out today” isn’t as instantly recognizable as your voice and, while it may be fine for a one day absence, it’s not best for a week-long vacation.

Best practices for your Out-of-Office, whether voice mail or email replies, should answer these important questions:

  • What date you plan to return to the office.
  • How quickly a reply may be expected. (those of us who routinely check email while away may reply more quickly)
  • Whom to contact in your absence if immediate help is needed.

It’s become a cliché to say that you’re out of the office with limited access to e-mail. But it is still important to note that, when it is the case. And when you really won’t be checking email, for whatever reason, it is very important to specify who they should contact in your absence.  I also believe that you should only list your returning date and not say I’ll be out of the office from July 7th to July 17th. Giving them only one date helps them recall it and if you’ve been gone for a week before they notice your absence, there is no advantage in letting them know how long you have been out.

Our OBA Communications department came up with some simple examples to use.

I am out of the office, but will be checking email periodically.


I am out of the office and will have limited or no access to email. I will return to the office at [insert applicable time] on [insert applicable date]. Email responses may be delayed. For immediate assistance, please contact: [insert name, phone number and email address of delegate.]

Originally posted in Oklahoma Bar Association’s Courts and More, July 5, 2023.