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Lawyers part of 'super-commuter' trend

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If you travel more than a few hours to get to work, you may be a “super-commuter.”

According to a report from the Rudin Center for Transportation and Policy Management at New York University Wagner School of Public Service, super-commuters have become more common in recent years. More people are traveling great distances by car, bus, rail and air either to work or for work. With advances in technology that allow people to work remotely or while they travel, super-commuting may be poised to change the concept of a typical work week.

Creative commuting
 

cox-dina-mug.jpg Cox

Dina Cox, a trial attorney for Lewis Wagner, travels extensively for work. She has clients in Arkansas, California, Ohio, and has commuted frequently to Michigan to meet with a client. What’s the key to managing so much travel?

“Be optimistic about it, and try to have fun,” she said. “A lot of people who travel for their jobs really hate it, but I’ve done some kind of crazy things to make it fun.”

When Cox was driving to Michigan for work several times a month, a longtime friend was struggling with a failing business. Cox encouraged her friend to obtain her chauffeur’s license, and soon, Cox had a driver – and a companion – for her more than 10-hour roundtrip. Cox billed the client for the driver’s time, but waived her own hourly fee during travel. So she was able to help a friend and create a situation in which she could work while on the road – the key to staying on top of a busy caseload.

Have iPad, will travel

On his way home from Chicago, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John D. Tinder uses his iPad to catch up on emails as his law clerk drives. He makes the roundtrip between Indianapolis and Chicago about 25 times per year, and he’s experimented with different modes of travel over time.


tinder-john.jpg Tinder

“I’ve tried the Megabus, I’ve tried flying – I haven’t taken the train. The train from Indianapolis to Chicago takes almost six hours, because it makes a lot of stops along the way,” he said.

He once was stuck standing on a bridge in Chicago on a blustery winter day, waiting on a bus for two hours. Tinder said he prefers to drive, so he’s not at the mercy of delays. He and his law clerk usually take turns at the wheel.

“It was something I hadn’t factored into the equation when I started the job,” he said of the roughly seven-hour roundtrip. “It either comes out of your work time, or it comes off your leisure time; and you’ve got to get the work done, so you can’t take the hours out of work. So I try to make the travel time as useful as possible.”

Jet-setting professors


commuter-castanias-15col.jpg Gregory Castanias catches up on tasks after arriving at Indianapolis International Airport. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Gregory Castanias is a busy intellectual property lawyer who heads the Federal Circuit practice at Washington, D.C.’s Jones Day. Every Thursday, he boards a plane for Indianapolis, and either rents a car or takes a shuttle to Bloomington, where he’s teaching a spring semester course on federal circuit advocacy at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. He makes the return trip the same day.

“A lot of people ask me, ‘How do you possibly do what you do?’ and I say I get more work done on Thursdays when I’m strapped to a seat on an airplane … I’m able to edit and review briefs, and the iPad is very handy,” Castanias said. “When I land … if I have calls that I need to return, I make those calls while I’m traveling to Bloomington.”

This is Castanias’ third semester teaching at the school. He’s had to miss two out of 13 classes this semester, but nonetheless was able to teach remotely, via Skype, using his iPad.

John Steele also commuted to teach at IU Maurer – from Palo Alto, Calif. He said that being technologically savvy is a must for long-distance commuters.


steele-john-mug.jpg Steele

“I think you have to stay up on the modern means of connectivity, you have to have patience for the down times in the airports, in the hotels, on the planes, and I think you have to have a theory of how to be productive on a plane, otherwise, the time sink is massive,” he said.

When teaching at IU Maurer, Steele would wake up at 4 a.m. Pacific time on a Sunday to begin his cross-country trek. He’d fly back to California after class on Wednesday, around 2 p.m.

“It was a lot of time, but it’s interesting, because as a solo practitioner, I don’t have to sit in a law office surrounded by a law library anymore,” he said. Most of what he does is provide advice remotely.

“My clients didn’t care – I could be in Timbuktu for all they care, as long as we could get on the phone as needed and talk through an issue,” Steele said.

Tips for travelers

Cox, who is a vegetarian, said she’s always on the lookout for good vegetarian or ethnic fare when she travels. And when she’s traveling to nearby states, she tries to find pet-friendly accommodations, so she can take along her German shepherd.

“If time permits, the other way to enjoy traveling is books on tape. If I have a driver I’m working, but if I have to drive, I listen to a book,” Cox said.

Tinder maintains a residence in Chicago, which means he has to spend less time figuring out what to pack when he travels.

“Basically, I kind of duplicated my Indianapolis life in Chicago, in a sense that I keep clothing up there, there’s a dry cleaners nearby – I try to minimize what I take back and forth, because the less I take back and forth, the less time it takes to think about what I need to take.”

As busy as Castanias is, he and his wife think their daughters – ages 2 and 5 – should learn early that life shouldn’t be consumed by work. When Castanias had a partners meeting in Orlando, the whole family came along and took a trip to Disney World. And the couple hires a babysitter for Friday nights so they can enjoy dinner and a movie.

Castanias also said that teaching at IU Maurer helps demonstrate for his daughters the importance of service. At the end of each semester, rather than submit his travel expenses for reimbursement, he provides a total for the school’s records, but writes off the cost as a donation.

“I sometimes get asked why do you do this in Indiana when your office is across from George Washington (University) Law School?” he said. “And the answer is I’m an alumnus of the law school, and I can’t imagine devoting this opportunity to anyone else but my alma mater.”•

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  • Super Commuter cities
    The longest commute times in the US: http://www.towncharts.com/Top-500-Cities-in-the-US-for-Average-Commute-Time.html
  • Another Commuter
    Not just law professors and judges have long commutes to work. There are a number of practicing attorneys as well. I live and work in Florida for a Denver, CO, law firm. For the last four years, I have telecommuted every day, but at least once a month I commute to Denver or another western city for hearings, meetings, etc. Your article is correct that modern technology makes this manner of practicing law possible.

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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