Another episode of Mad Men, and another lesson for the lawyers in our midst. On his way to Acapulco for some much deserved R&R, our protagonist, Don Draper, stops off in Los Angeles for a 24-hour layover. When his colleague, Harry Crane, Head of Media, suggests that he spend some time at The Brown Derby with a client, Don immediately dismisses the idea, and Mr. Crane. This reminds me of so many conversations I have with the busy partners in my firm, outside my firm, and around the country. So many of you are “too busy” to market when out of town on business. Do any of these sound familiar??

  • You’re schedule is too packed to meet a client for a game, or dinner.
  • You’re rushing to get the “client” work done, finish that depo, close that deal, and are just too busy for business development.
  • You’re at the podium speaking at an industry conference, and your suitcase is in the corner, ready for you to grab so you can head off to the airport once the Q&A concludes.
  • You know you should go meet with a client while you’re in their town, but you hurry out of your last appointment hoping to catch an early flight to get home to your kids, to make that game, to enjoy dinner with your spouse or significant other.

The thing is, you know you should spend time enhancing your business relationships, but after spending a few days on the road, you’re tired and just ready to head on home. I get it. There’s a lot of idle chatter given to the idea of having a “work-life balance.” However, the conversation never takes into account an attorney’s minimum billable hours requirements, and the non-billable time it takes to land a new client, let alone write an article, prepare for a presentation, etc. I will argue here that there is no such thing as work-life balance and you need to get over it. Either your family/personal life will have to give, or work will. Period. You cannot give the attention to all things, at all times, that they deserve. You will have to make choices. Something, or someone, will have to give. As I said, I get it. I have two young children. A significant other. A household that needs to be run. I’m even the Girl Scout leader for a multi-level troop (Brownies and Juniors). When I’ve been traveling, there’s nothing better than catching an early flight and getting home before lights out. But that’s not always conducive to new business development and enhancing current relationships. Sometimes personal time needs to be sacrificed so that you can maintain, enhance and build those relationships that will make rain down the road. I get it. The pull of children, spouses, unkempt yards can be overwhelming … and, when looking at a full calendar that has met or exceeded your billable hours requirement, it’s easy to “give in” and head on home. Don’t you and your family deserve that time? Of course you do. However, marketing and business development are not about today … they are about the work to come. It’s about filling the pipeline so that when that trial settles, or the deal closes, your billable hours don’t tank. You have to resist the pull to get home early … at least some of the time. To minimize the impact of your business development on your personal (and highly important) time, here’s what I suggest: Once a quarter, extend a business trip by 24-hours. It’s easy to plan and negotiate this in advance with your spouse and kids to minimize the impact on them, and to maximize your efforts. Use this 24-hours to focus on your business development efforts. Take a client to a game on night one. Meet a potential new client for breakfast the next day. Take a referral source out to coffee. Meet with a former colleague, or perhaps a reporter, for lunch, and take another client out to an early dinner before heading to the airport to catch the LAST flight out of town. With proper planning, you might even be able to slip in a CLE program in a clients’ office (just repurpose one that you have already given at a recent conference). There. 24-hours. Maximized efforts. Maximized focus. Minimal disruption. In 24-hours your can make five or more important connections, enhancing relationships along the way. If you do this once a quarter, that’s 20 in-person connections.

Resist the urge to rush off to the airport

If you can’t do 24-hours, at least catch a later flight when traveling. After your presentation at the conference, stay through the cocktail reception to meet with attendees. After your depo concludes, pull out your “call” list and take someone to coffee. We all have time for a cup of coffee. We can rationalize to ourselves that relationships can be made through phone calls, e-mails, social media and social networking tools. True, connections are made this way; however, relationships are built with face-time. Schedule your in-person meetings, maximize the time out of town, and enjoy guilt-free time with your family and friends.