My first business trip as a young lawyer was exciting—I was thrilled to get out of the office and into the real world. While the senior lawyers in the office grumbled a bit about work travel, saying it sounded more fun than it really was, business travel has never lost its appeal for me. I like a change of scenery and whenever possible, I squeeze in some time to take a walk, see a tourist attraction, or try out a highly reviewed restaurant in whatever city or town I visit.
Work travel can be a bit nerve wracking for young lawyers, especially if you are traveling with a supervisor. Here are some business travel tips to help you think through how best to plan your trip:
Book your travel.
Obvious, but important! Figure out your travel plans. Are you expected to travel with your supervisor or can you book your own travel at a time convenient to you? As a junior associate in a New York law firm, the partners with whom I was traveling were frequent flyers who often met me at our target location after another trip elsewhere. I would find out when they wanted to meet and plan my own travel on my preferred airline and at the time that best worked for me. If you are traveling together, your supervisor’s admin may book their travel, so check in with them to get the senior lawyer’s schedule.
Check your policies. Can you fly business or coach? What are your organization’s policies for expense reimbursement? Are you expected to pay on your own or is there a company credit card? The big law firms where I worked used corporate travel agencies, but I opted to pay with my card to collect travel points. Work travel can add up quickly, so check your available credit before booking.
Will you need to arrange for car service or a meal while you travel? When traveling with a senior lawyer, they often expect the junior lawyer to handle those logistics, even if they don’t tell you that ahead of time. It’s always a good idea to have a couple of restaurant suggestions ready in case you finish work at a mealtime and need an option quickly.
Ship documents ahead of time.
If you will need documents at your destination, consider shipping them ahead of time. When I traveled for a deposition, for example, I often had at least a box or two full of documents. Carrying them on the plane with me just wasn’t practical, so I would ask my administrative assistant to ship them to the hotel or deposition location in advance. My admin would put a label on the box saying “Hold for” my name and call the hotel or office to confirm receipt.
Make life easier at your destination by including useful office supplies in the box, like a legal pad and highlighters, and always include a return shipping label so you don’t have to lug the box back with you or find a FedEx before you fly home—hotels will generally ship a box for you if you give it to them with a label.
I always tried to get my documents ready and shipped to arrive a day earlier than I needed them, so I could print a new set if they got lost in the mail.
On a related note, save copies of any key documents you’ll need at your destination to your desktop or a thumb drive in case the Wi-Fi at your location is spotty or, worst case scenario, your box of documents doesn’t arrive.
If you will be traveling frequently, buy duplicates of common toiletries so you can pack an airline-compliant toiletry bag and leave it in your suitcase. This way you don’t forget anything and packing becomes a breeze.
Avoid checking luggage, especially if traveling with a supervisor. In my experience, partners almost never check luggage and want to get off the plane and head directly to ground transportation.
I always liked to pack outfits I could dress down easily by swapping my blazer for a cardigan or my suit trousers for jeans. This way I could change into comfy clothes when the work day was done by packing just a couple extra items.
Know how to get through security quickly and efficiently, especially if you don’t fly frequently. Sign up for TSA precheck if you haven’t already; many firms pay for this.
Save to your phone or print hard copies of your itinerary, hotel information and address, and the location of any offices or other destinations scheduled for your trip.
Bring copies of your business cards.
Consider the logistics.
Check your firm and/or client policies to determine whether you can bill for travel time.
If you’re going straight to work from the plane, wear appropriate attire. If you’re traveling on the weekend or have time between getting to your destination and being on duty, it’s generally fine to dress casually but pick something you wouldn’t mind your boss seeing.
Plan ahead for working on the plane if needed. I usually like to use plane time to review hard copy files, like a deposition prep binder—my laptop inevitably gets banged around by the person in front of me reclining or adjusting their seat. Remember your confidentiality obligations; for example, encrypt any thumb drives you take with you and when traveling with a binder, remove the labels or turn them face down.
Like I said up top, even as a very junior lawyer, I always tried to fit in a little leisure time while traveling for work, even something as simple as taking a quick wander around the neighborhood near my hotel or stopping by a cute coffee shop in the morning rather than the hotel lobby Starbucks.
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