Tips From the Million-Mile Club
California Lawyer

Tips From the Million-Mile Club

April 2011

Lawyers are traveling about as much as they were before the economy crashed in 2008. However, the average number of miles they fly has gone up by nearly 10 percent since then: to 10,359 miles a year in 2010, according to The Lawyers' Travel Service. "We do expect this upward trend to continue for law firm travel in 2011," says Michael Steiner, executive vice president of the service. "Business activity is up, mergers and acquisitions are up, and that's causing a fair amount of legal activity, which means travel volume for law firms is going to continue to go up."

Of course, most lawyers won't travel as much as Ryan Bingham did in the 2009 hit movie Up in the Air. Bingham (played by George Clooney) is a corporate layoff specialist who's more comfortable in the air than on the ground, more grounded on the move than at rest, and his secret goal is to log 10 million frequent-flier miles. The movie glamorizes his constant travel (at the start, at least)--the way he's made a science of packing, checking in, and breezing through airport security, for instance, and how his collection of elite status cards seduces his love interest.

Even frequent fliers who've accumulated a fraction of Bingham's mileage can relate to these routines and rituals of air travel (well, maybe not the plastic-cards-as-aphrodisiac part), as they've learned to travel with ease and efficiency.

We talked with four California attorneys who travel--a lot--to learn what, besides their BlackBerrys, they never leave home without. Their packing-list essentials range from doctors' email addresses to portable steamers to cherished corporate giveaways.

Joan M. Haratani
Partner, Litigation Practice; Co-chair, Retail Practice Group, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, San Francisco

Million Miles
United Airlines

Haratani averages 2.5 trips per month across the country or internationally. This has boosted her into United Airlines' ultra-elite Global Services status, which, she quips, is like a 1K card "on steroids." The 1K card, as readers may know, goes to United customers who fly at least 100,000 miles a year. Global Services status is based not on miles but on revenue generated--and United doesn't reveal just what the threshold is for an invitation. (If you have to ask, you probably don't rate.) The perks also are hush-hush, although a spokesperson did reveal that the program includes priority upgrades and going to the front of security lines.

What can't Haratani, a "self-anointed road warrior," leave home without on her many trips for court dates, depositions, and meetings with clients and her firm's advisory board?

At the top of her list: "Comfortable clothing that looks nice and is appropriate for flying business or first class." Her favorite brands include Banana Republic ("I have a pink cashmere turtleneck that is fabulous for travel"), plus dressier clothes from The Gap, which tend to be wrinkle resistant.

Like many attorneys, Haratani refuses to check luggage, preferring instead to carry her small roller bag and a briefcase on the plane with her. And to ease the stress of packing, she always stows an extra BlackBerry charger in her suitcase along with a shower kit and all her makeup and toiletries, ready to go at a moment's notice. "This helps me avoid forgetting things when I'm tired and rushed," she says. "All the essentials are there."

Another important thing Haratani brings on the plane is work material. "I see plane time as uninterrupted time," she says. "I'm not dealing with phone calls and emails. I can just hunker down and get some of my tougher reading done. I can actually focus." To aid her concentration, she brings Sony noise-canceling headphones. "It helps me create my own little private capsule," she notes.

Her final travel tip: Bring a portable steamer. "I mostly travel with wrinkle-free clothing," she says. "But the steamer is perfect if I'm going to an evening event and need fancier clothing, like a cocktail or evening dress."

Mark Chandler
Senior Vice President, General Counsel, and Secretary, Cisco Systems, San Jose

Million Miles
United Airlines

The one thing Chandler doesn't like to leave home without is the ability to stay connected to the people he works with. Consequently, he flies Virgin and Delta whenever he can so he's able to use wireless devices in the air--even though he's also a member of United Airlines' Global Services.

Chandler travels about three times a month for customer meetings, and he says being able to fly, send email, and use WebEx (Cisco's online conferencing service) all at the same time has transformed his business travel. "I reach my destination and I've been working the whole trip," says Chandler. "I have a cleaned-out email in-box."

The veteran attorney brings an iPad on his flights ("it does about 80 percent of what I need," he says), plus a laptop computer for document-intensive work. He carries his work materials, including the iPad, in a backpack he got at a conference some years back. The backpack, he jokes, has the logo of a competitor on the back, so "if anyone overhears my conversations, they think it's about that company, not Cisco."

For luggage, he carries on board a duffel bag that he received from his 25-year college reunion. "I'm not a designer-suitcase kind of guy," he says. "I'm a fit-in-the-overhead-bin kind of guy."

Chandler always packs two universal chargers, since he's prone to leaving them in hotel rooms. The devices are "cheap and easy to find"--but tracking down a replacement is inconvenient.

Curtis M. Dombek
Partner, Government Contracts and Regulated Industries Practice Group, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, Los Angeles

Million Miles
American Airlines

Million Miles
among United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Asiana, and others

In the world of business travel, there are those who bring along as little as possible--and those who try to prepare for every contingency. Curtis Dombek, who has built up his miles mostly by flying to England, Kuwait, and Asia, falls in the latter category. In fact, his motto is, "What will I do if ... ?"

For example, when he travels to prep for depositions, Dombek's checklist includes all the paperwork related to client arrangements and the local court rules for his destination. "Don't assume the local rules in other countries match those here," he advises. "If you arrive in Switzerland, for instance, you'll learn that American lawyers can't take a deposition. You need a Swiss lawyer to do it. Lawyers trip up on those kinds of things."

This well-traveled lawyer recommends bringing language skills. "I think every lawyer working in a foreign country for a length of time should seriously consider learning the local language," says Dombek, who is fluent in German and can also speak passable Mandarin, Arabic, and French. "At least be able to use an electronic translator. These devices have revolutionized travel."

Dombek also has at hand information about where and how to extend his visa if need be, as well as the email address of his primary-care physician, "just in case you end up in India with a 104-degree temperature." (He's been there, done that.) And for trips to some developing countries, he advises bringing a disposable face mask to breathe through (such as those you can buy in drug stores). Without one, he says, "even if the germs don't get you, the particulate matter will."

Pamela J. Yates
Partner, Product Liability Litigation Group, Kaye Scholer, Los Angeles

MILLION MILES Delta Air lines
MILLION MILES American Air lines

Yates makes frequent trips to many U.S. cities-mainly New York, but also San Francisco and Little Rock --to meet with clients, take depositions, and appear in court. Her favorite suitcase--a gift from Delta--is a roll-on Hartman. She uses its special compartment, designed to carry a man's suit, to hold her files and laptop.

Yates always brings her compact Sony Vaio netbook on the plane, in case she doesn't get upgraded to business or first class. "I won't be able to open a laptop in coach if the person in front of me reclines," she explains. "A netbook is small enough to open no matter what the person in front of you does." For trips that require a long stay in one location--such as when she's in trial--she'll also bring her laptop.

One of Yates' most cherished travel items, however, is a Brookstone portable lighted mirror that she uses in her hotel room. "When I was younger I always wondered why some ladies used those light-up make-up mirrors," she says. "Now I know--it's because they can't see! You never know what the lighting's going to be like in a hotel."

Yates also brings along workout clothing ("I function much better if I work out," she says) and an umbrella that never leaves her briefcase. "I've finally learned that I need one in San Francisco and on the East Coast."

Susan E. Davis is a writer and editor in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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