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Billable hours are the stuff legends are made of. I’ve read firm bios of lawyers who bill every second of every day of every year � they are truly the pros of our profession. I often shrug my shoulders at such astounding hours and comfort my ego by telling myself that “unlike those lawyers, I have a life.” And that’s mostly true. I do have a life outside of billable hours, which is really good and every lawyer should try having a life at least once before retirement. My life outside billable hours is called my family � i.e. my beautiful wife and five gorgeous children. It may come as no surprise to you that in the dilemma of “billing another hour or two at the office” or “trying to deal with five young children at home,” I often find those extra billable hours quite tempting. In order to ease my guilty conscience, I have employed a new technique I’d like to recommend to my fellow lawyers � billing the roadtrip. (It is not nearly as sinister as it sounds.) I realize most lawyers who are reading this don’t have five children and, thus, can still afford to fly everywhere instead of drive, but surely you will someday find yourself in the passenger seat of a car with screaming children behind you and a few hours to kill, so read on: 1. Finding the right case. You can’t bring just any case on the road with you in the car. You have to find the right case. I prefer the big case where someone is looking for a poor soul to review thousands of documents. If they are electronic, load them onto your laptop and you are off! You look like you are a pro biller and you’ve substantially reduced the amount of paper you have to haul on your vacation. 2. Wireless. Yes, I know you have a really cool laptop with a wireless connection, but don’t expect that wireless device to work while you are on the road like a handheld e-mail device may work (notice how hard I tried not to say the word “Blackberry”). So, say goodbye to your e-mail. Or bring a Blackberry with you. That’s what I call “killing two birds with two stones.” 3. Carsickness (trust me, it’s one word). If you are like me, you will need to bring a few extra Wal-Mart bags with you in case you get carsick. I do pretty well myself and usually end up using the bags for my kids instead. I won’t name names � I’m not that kind of father � but one of my sons can’t keep anything down and needs three or four Wal-Mart bags per trip … preferably the kind that don’t have small holes in the bottom of the bag. Not even Dramamine can help him. Just remember to keep a sharp eye on the timer so you don’t accidentally bill the client for such priceless family vacation experiences. The same applies to potty breaks, no matter how often they may come. 4. Keeping time. Speaking of keeping time, you need to come up with a way to bill effectively and honestly. I use the “chrono” button on my watch — it works a lot like a stopwatch. (I’m pretty sure the word “chrono” is Latin for stopwatch.) If you are in the billing zone and something happens � i.e., throw up, potty break, beautiful scenery, kids want munchies, spouse wants to have a conversation with you without you looking at that stupid computer screen all of the time, etc. � you’ll want a quick and effective way to turn off the billable timer. As soon as the distraction is dealt with (note: my spouse is not a distraction), you just push the button on your watch and re-enter the zone. 5. Ignoring the children. Before the days of super-duper movie screens in cars, I would tell my kids to enjoy the scenery. Now I tell them to put in another movie. Also, remember, treats keep them quiet, but may increase the danger of carsickness, thus creating another billing distraction. 6. Ignoring the spouse. Don’t try this one! 7. Foot space. You may find yourself a bit cramped and wanting to sprawl out with all of your stuff in the car. The children behind you may not appreciate all of the space you, your laptop, your blackberry and your files, are taking up. Make sure you arrive at the car before the children and spread your stuff out then. Your kids will know their boundaries from the start of the drive and respect you for them. (Or, they just may wonder how they ended up with such a strange parent.) 8. Spills and so forth. As with all roadtrips, there come a few spills that may or may not impact your work. I’ve discovered that I can still read a piece of paper that has rootbeer (one word or two? I should really know this one) dripping off of it or paper that is ripped from dozens of little feet stepping on it as they climb in and out of your “office.” The one asset you should protect with your life is the laptop � keep it on your lap (hence, the name “laptop”) or up on the dashboard whenever you are not working on it. You may discover that you are its worst enemy as you try to cram a burger into your mouth and bill while you are reading the screen. 9. Backseat driving. I’m a backseat driver. There, I admitted it. My wife should be very happy now. I backseat drive my spouse, even when we are pulling into the driveway. “Not too far to the left. Careful of the bike right there.” And so it goes. It may not surprise you that I can backseat drive when I’m billing and dealing with five children all at once. I’m not trying to brag, but I can have my laptop on my lap, my back turned to the road while I’m dealing with a child, and still see the road better than the average citizen. For some reason, my wife does not appreciate my extraordinary backseat driving skills and often threatens to make me drive. This of course, is the ultimate threat and keeps me quiet for at least a minute or two, followed by the soft beep of my chrono, and my re-entering the zone … Scott Brown is a senior associate at Lewis and Roca in Phoenix, a skillful multitasker and an admitted backseat driver. He can be reached at [email protected].

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