3 Ideas to Make the Most of Drive Time

As an attorney practicing in predominantly rural areas, I drive a lot. It is not uncommon to spend 6 hours behind the wheel on a day when I have court or in-person appointments in a secluded county. For someone who already feels like my schedule is packed, taking that much time to drive somewhere can be frustrating. Out of that sentiment, I have developed several ideas to make the most of those days.


Photo from Peter Black on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0.

Pre-Travel Checklist

Developing a list of what needs to be brought makes for less prep-time and less I-should-have-brought moments. Some examples are:

  • Appointment and Court Details - addresses, times, schedule, reminders.
  • Case Necessities - case file and documents, things to be filed, copies of evidence, notice of appearance, intake forms and retainers, anything that needs to be signed, notary seal.
  • Community Resources and Advertising - pamphlets, brochures, business cards.
  • Tech - laptop, connector cords if presenting, CHARGERS, back-up batteries, wifi availability locations.
  • Travel Necessities - map (do not count on cell phone coverage), vehicle requirements (oil, gas, coolant, tires), caffeine, pen, paper, extra tie.

Some of this might seem overly basic but if you are anything like me, being a lawyer involves dealing with a million little details all at once. Simplification is good.

At the very least, check the weather and drive time. Being late for a client or a busy judge is not going to earn you credibility. If the weather is a problem, call the clerk, he or she knows the local logistical issues and can help.

Behind the wheel

First and foremost, distracted driving is dangerous. Eyes on the road and off that freaking screen, please. Likewise, parking and speeding tickets can affect licensing with the Bar.

Second, audio can be a great way to make your time in the car useful. I love podcasts and think they are a reliable and free source to stay up to date on legal issues. There are also podcasts designed to help you become proficient in a new language, which is good for you in a lot of ways. A few podcasts that I find relevant are (not an endorsement of political views):

Third, when you are in the middle of nowhere, going through that opening statement out loud means that non-existent car next to you is not going to think you are insane (if a lawyer is talking in the woods, does she or he make a sound?). There are tons of hands-free voice memo apps on any smartphone platform that can help. Much like thinking in the shower, the open road can foster inspiration for mulled-over problems.

Fourth, as an intern in Yakima, WA, I had a busy managing attorney who assigned me to help with a 9 year class action lawsuit. The most useful time I had on that project was driving with her to do a radio interview several towns over. If you need to talk to someone, find a reason to drive with them somewhere, it helped me.

Finally, you can search local NPR stations HERE (you are welcome).

While you are there

Three hours can seem like a long way for a 20 minute hearing. Is there anything else in the area that would be useful to do? Having a list of community partners or local attorneys that might enjoy lunch can make that drive seem a little less futile, just remember to bill your time properly if you are doing non-case related work in the area. If you are visiting a small community, the legal community there will be even smaller. Getting to know 1 or 2 people can go a long way.

Similarly, if you are anything like me, sometimes the only reason I clean out the fast food cups from my cupholder is to replace them with a fresh one. Find a local place to eat! It makes a big difference.

That is about it. Stay safe. Stay alert. And make the most of it.