A Lawyer’s Guide to Low-Stress Business Trips
10 tips on enjoying business trips without leaving your practice in a lurch
As we gear up for Legal X, Filevine’s upcoming User Conference, our thoughts are buzzing with the excitement that travel and events always generate. Gatherings like Legal X can be key moments in the development of legal professionals. It’s where we can learn new tactics, find new friends and mentors, and hopefully enjoy seeing new things along the way (like beautiful Park City, Utah).
But any kind of business trip brings its own challenges to attorneys. How can extremely busy and dedicated people travel away from their clients for several days at a time? How can we be fully present in this new experience while the buzz of logistical decisions keeps swirling around the back of our minds? And how exactly do we get these luggage-wrinkles out of our shirts, to boot?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to cut the stress from your travel experiences and focus instead on having a productive, enjoyable business trip.
Here are our top 10 tips for low-stress business trips:
1. Stay Ahead of Deadlines
The best travel preparation happens long before take-off. Staying well ahead of deadlines not only gives you crucial leeway when you’re leaving the office — it improves the quality of your work in general.
Have a centralized scheduling system, so you don’t miss pending deadlines. Run frequent reports on upcoming deadlines. And make sure your goal is not to simply meet deadlines, but to actually stay ahead of them. As your practice becomes more efficient and better managed, you can increase the time padding between your day’s tasks and their final due date.
2. Centralize Travel Information
Keep your travel logistics in a centralized location that is shared with at least one helper. This can be in your practice management system or some other system that’s easy for you to access. If something goes awry with your plans, your helper can work with you to adapt. They can also know how to reach you in case of an emergency.
If you’re using Filevine, you can create a Taskflow Trigger to guide you through travel needs, from booking a hotel to getting TSA pre-check approval. A smart checklist can greatly reduce the likelihood of business trip blunders. You can also use this centralized system to track information like airline miles or points for hotel chains.
3. Streamline and Simplify
Seek out direct flights instead of dealing with the hassle of layovers. Book a hotel as close as possible to your destination location so you’re not worried about traffic and travel time. Get TSA pre-check approval to skip long lines at the airport.
Become a packing expert so you fit everything in a carry-on instead of risking a lost suitcase. Bring wrinkle-free, versatile, comfortable clothes.
If you have the means, don’t seek out luxury — invest in simplicity. You’ll be more alert, unencumbered, and better able to focus and enjoy your experience.
4. Put Your Practice on the Cloud
A cloud-based case management system allows you to practice law from anywhere, at any time. If you have a device that connects to the internet, you have your office with you, wherever you are.
With cloud-based case management, you can block out time in airports or hotels to finish necessary tasks. And you can deal with unexpected situations as they arise, with all the necessary information at your fingertips.
5. Auto-manage the Office
Use tools that allow the firm to manage itself while you’re gone. Things like task flow automation can keep your team on track. Run automatic reports and use Auto-hashtags to help other team members guide their work in your absence.
Set up systems to deal with client communication in your absence. In your automatic out-of-office email messages, let clients know how to reach another person in urgent situations. Before leaving, it helps to accustom clients to using other communication tools that can keep them in the loop in your absence. A client portal or Filevine’s Text-to-Case-File feature allows other team members to engage with clients and answer questions while you’re away.
6. Give Yourself Wiggle Room
It might seem more efficient to arrive right on time and depart immediately when an event ends. But travel gurus warn against this kind of thinking.
Give yourself plenty of time. If nothing goes wrong, you have extra time to do work or see the sites. And if you have a delayed flight or another unforeseen snag, you won’t miss out on the main events.
7. Re-establish a Work Routine
Efficiency often takes a nose-dive when we exit our normal routine. To work away from your office, you need to be thoughtful about scheduling, location, and tools to help you focus.
Don’t just assume you’ll snag time to finish that project. Schedule in your work hours. Set up your table or desk to resemble the way it is in your office.
In addition to packing the devices, you’ll need (along with their chargers!), pack aids like noise-canceling headphones. These will help you work in airports or convention centers with fewer distractions.
8. Document as You Go
Are you learning new things and meeting new people? Don’t rely on your memory. Track the experience in real time. Upload important contacts to your case management system, and assign yourself tasks to follow up with them.
Take photos of your receipts and text them into your case management system to speed up the process of reimbursement. Track your billable hours as you would in the office. Find a system that’s simple enough that you can stick with it even in the thick of an event.
9. Know Your Mood-boosters
Of course, there will be delayed flights, traffic, and moments when you forget which hotel room you’re in. In these situations, your attitude can make the difference between a travel catastrophe and an adventure. Make sure to include activities that will keep you feeling positive.
One sure-fire source of endorphins is exercise. This can be difficult during a business trip unless you plan for it. Schedule for a quick work-out in the hotel’s gym. Some local gyms or yoga studios will give you a free first session. Exercise not only helps you focus and stay productive but also helps you sleep more soundly, even in unfamiliar settings.
Exercise can serve the additional purpose of site-seeing. Go running in a local park or rent a bike and find a scenic trail to travel. Even just walking to your destination can put you in better spirits.
Food and drink can also serve as a mood-booster. Search out local fare and new experiences. And try to take an hour or two to feed a hobby or find an activity that brings you joy.
10. Follow Up
For any business trip, the follow-up is crucial. Don’t let valuable contacts forget about you. Don’t let your new insights slip away.
But likewise, follow up with an evaluation of your travel experience. Make sure you turn in receipts and claim miles and points. Note what worked well, and think through ways to improve the process for the next time you’re on the road. Institutionalize this knowledge in a shared space, whether it’s your case management system or a firm-wide wiki.
Because with all of our communication technologies, the value of the face-to-face connection isn’t going away. Travel will continue to play a part in the lives of legal professionals. And with a little foresight and a few tools, we can make the most of these experiences without disrupting our day-to-day work.