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Are your firm’s revenues falling below projections? Do you worry about your attorney profitability figures? Have you logged fewer billable hours than expected? If you are a lawyer who answered yes to any of these questions, don’t despair. There is a quick and effective remedy for all that fiscally ails you. Road trip! Lawyers love to travel. Not only does it get them away from The Firm for a few days, being on the road also provides lawyers with a tremendous financial boost. The completion of just two or three successful business trips a year can mean the difference between termination and survival at The Firm. Stuck in the office, lawyers are restricted by having to keep track of every minute they spend on each file and then bill clients accordingly. On the road, however, lawyer life is far different. The shackles of the time sheet and billable time increments are left behind and attorneys let loose with some real billing. When lawyers travel, the clock almost never stops running and virtually every waking moment is billable time. While billable hours are the primary perk associated with traveling, there are many other advantages lawyers enjoy when going out of town. The travel tips described below, if carefully followed, can assure the success of any lawyer’s business trip. � Airplane Seat Assignment. Real lawyers don’t fly coach. After all, legal counsel has to be comfortable while sipping champagne, watching the in-flight movie and catching up on some recreational reading — all at the usual hourly rate. You might also want to make use of the airphone to call old law school rivals and brag that you’re flying first class. En route, instead of preparing for your meeting, take the opportunity to drum up some new business by passing your business cards around the first class cabin. Special Travel Advisory: Be aware that your client may be on the same flight. If this is the case, it’s always a nice touch to order a drink and have the flight attendant deliver it to your client sitting in the coach section of the plane. � Hotel Accommodations. Attorneys should always remember an important rule of the road: Where you stand depends on where you sleep. In other words, lawyers judge each other primarily on their ability to run up expense accounts. Overnight accommodations are a major part of this equation. You should therefore book the Presidential Suite at the most expensive hotel in town and thus avoid being embarrassed by having to admit staying someplace the other lawyers have never heard of. � Hotel Mini Bar and Room Service. The utilization of hotel room service and the daily depleting of hotel room mini bars play an important role in the practice of law. A $32.00 cheeseburger from room service washed down with $18.00 one-oz. bottles of Scotch help ease the pain of being away from home. For dessert, enjoy some M&Ms from the mini bar (they always taste much better when your client is paying $6.00 a bag for them). � Entertainment. Broadway shows, helicopter tours of the city, box seats at the ball game and similar items can almost always be added to an expense account without the client squawking. Some clients, however, may object to expenses incurred for such items as private parties and in-room porno movies. The way to deal with these items is to lump them in with limousine service, haircuts, manicures and the private masseuse and label them as “miscellaneous expenses” on the client’s bill. � Phone Calls. Traveling can be lonely, and one needs to keep in touch with the folks back home. Being on the road is also an excellent time for trying to contact lost relatives from foreign lands. Adding a surcharge to each phone call before sending the bill to the client will also be a pleasant reminder of the way things are at home. � Gifts. After working hard and doing a great job, most clients won’t mind if you pick up a little something for yourself and your secretary. Matching robes from the hotel shop are one great gift idea. If you fear being questioned about this expense, also buy something for the client. Clients certainly cannot object to your buying them a gift — even if they are paying for it. Lawyers are reminded to show some restraint in charging clients for travel expenses. The “friends fly free” concept, for instance, is a special deal offered by some airlines. It is not meant to be used for purposes of bringing your own friends along on business trips and adding them to the client’s expense account. Billable time on the road must also be limited to the lawyer’s waking hours. Many have heard stories about lawyers billing for time they spend sleeping while out of town on business. Such stories, however, are only Firm fable and a gross exaggeration of how far lawyers will go. Well, maybe not a gross exaggeration — but attorneys usually do refrain from “sleep billing.” The exception to this rule occurs when, due to staying up late the night before running up the expense account, an attorney dozes off during the meeting he or she traveled out of town to attend. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected].

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