The saying “Getting there is half the fun” became obsolete with the advent of commercial airlines. – Henry J. Tillman
The Rural Lawyer is hitting the road this week. My thanks to the South Dakota Bar for their gracious invitation to speak at their Annual Meeting, I’ll be filling the dead space between the good speakers and the mid-afternoon break with my take on technology and marketing for the rural solo/small firm.
There is a lot to be said for travel – it’s broadening (though give the current state of the coach seats on commercial aircraft, I’d dispute that sentiment – though my hat’s off to the air crews; any one who can keep smiling after dealing with the hoi-polloi that generally occupies coach either is of a more pacific temperament than I or has access to some high quality mood stabilizers), it’s educational, it’s relaxing – but for the rural lawyer, travel is just part of the job.
While those charming wide open vistas of rural America are part of the attraction of small towns, they also mean that there is always going to be some distance between where you are and where you want to be – usually only a practice located in a county seat will find clients and courthouses in close proximity. So, the rural lawyer finds that reliable transportation and a good GPS are just as important as form books, laptops, and practice manuals.
There is one thing I have to say about moving a law office – don’t pack your checklist with all the rest of your papers. Took me 3 days to find it again and trying to tie up all the sundry loose ends from memory is a harrowing endeavor. You are constantly plagued with the nagging doubt that you’ve forgotten something. The only positive thing about this whole exercise (outside of the lower rent) was having scheduled some vacation time at the end of May (the great thing about being solo is that my boss is pretty easy-going when it comes to providing a little down time when needed).
For those not familiar with the idiosyncrasies of a rural solo practice, you have to realize that, unless you actually leave the vicinity of your practice (generally 500 miles is the minimum safe distance) vacation does not translate into time away from the office – rather, it translates into less time in the office (or dealing with client matters) and a more relaxed dress code. How much less time is highly variable and is highly dependent on the number of fires that crop up – rural clients understand that about the need to grab a little time away from the office from time to time (especially when the days are sunny, the fish are biting, or there’s hay to put up) and know that if you are on vacation, phone calls and e-mails may not always be returned the same day, but closings have to be done, bills have to be paid, invoices have to be sent, and court dates have to be made even if they do encroach on your time off. My latest vacation was about par for the course - 4 half days in the office and 2 half days working from home out of 10 working days away.
The upshot was that I had plenty of time to clear various assorted bits flotsam and jetsam out of the barn, garage, house, and my mind with time left over to put up first crop hay. Nothing like physical labor and the relative quiet of the rural country side to clear out the noise of the e-mail, cell phone, social media connected world. By the end, I was ready to head back to the practice ready to dive into this summer’s version of adventures in solo practice – that is until my 5:00 AM greeting by a highly affectionate and horrendously odoriferous dog snapped my synapses out of my vacation induced bonhomie. There is nothing quite like a freshly skunked dog to focus one’s attention – no slow immersion into the work-a-day world, this is the jump-in-the-deep-end-oh-man-that-water’s-cold introduction to reality. This morning’s activities became focused on the single task of reducing the pungent cloud currently enveloping the dog without transferring it to those of us who would shortly be interacting with other people. There is little that can actually remove skunk smell from dog hair (only time can do that), the best one can hope for is to get to it while it is still fresh and remove enough of it so that the dog’s mere presence no longer brings tears to one’s eyes. It’s a battle best fought with degreaser, baking soda, and elbow grease – the folk remedies of tomato juice and peppermint mouthwash simply leave the dog smelling like a bowl of Tabbouleh that’s gone off.
Balance 0, skunk 1