Ideas from the Front
These Lawyers and Their Employees Enjoy the Trip to the Courthouse
Posted Nov 10, 2004 5:37 AM CST
By Joan E. Lisante
Your law office is anything but static. It can fly or drive you where you need to be. Even if your workplace doesn’t move, you can benefit from the latest in transportation technology. That’s the lesson learned by creative lawyers who use vehicles that harness speed, convenience and comfort--all vital during long, stressful trials.
In Cincinnati, lawyers at the law firm Frost Brown Todd make sure their workers travel in style. These attorneys simply hand a motion or brief to a messenger, who hops on a Segway “human transporter” and rolls courtward. The battery-powered, two-wheeled scooter travels between six and 13 miles per hour and can be used on a sidewalk or even in a court corridor.
“We’re always looking for ways to use technology to better serve our clients, so when we found out that a partner in our Louisville [Ky.] office had a brother-in-law working for Segway, we decided to try it,” says firm member Beth Schneider Naylor. Segway trained some of the firm’s messengers to use the device.
Even though the courthouse is only a half-mile from Frost Brown’s offices, driving the distance in a car through heavy traffic is unappealing. Sometimes messengers travel farther, since the firm does business in northern Kentucky. Naylor sees the scooters as a win-win situation for both clients and couriers. “We were trying to think of something for our messenger staff that would make their job a little easier,” she says. “By operating our business efficiently, we better serve our clients as well.”
Deep in the Heart of an RV
Mark Lanier’s conversion to alternate transportation (and lodging) grew out of a two-week trial in tiny Snyder, Texas. The Houston-based lawyer recalls that the lone hotel “seemed built in the ’60s, with no hot water, no dial-out phone service, smoke-filled rooms and no soundproofing. We arrived the Friday before a Monday trial. By Saturday morning I was on the road to Lubbock, which happens to be 465 miles from Houston, to buy an RV.”
The “trialmobile” is a 38-foot Fleetwood Excursion with slide-out office that seats eight, a bedroom, satellite TV and Internet service, washer/dryer, full kitchen and bathroom. “We’ve used the trialmobile in smaller Texas towns like Angleton, Wharton and Texarkana, as well as Illinois and Arkansas,” Lanier says. “We’ve used it in product liability, asbestos, antitrust and personal injury cases, among others.
“The main reason we bought the RV is convenience and sanity during a time when all mental and physical resources need to focus on trial. Without it, a small town could be exceedingly tough for working. With it, it becomes an adventure.”
Lawyers at the average large law firm would be thrilled to have any private plane--never mind two first-class jets. For Florida-based trial dynamo Willie Gary, it’s all in a day’s work. Gary cruises about the country in a Gulfstream II that’s been dubbed “Wings of Justice,” as well as a custom-designed, 32-passenger Boeing 737 known as “Wings of Justice II,” both of which function as flying offices.
His firm first became airborne with the purchase of a Hawker in 1994. “As our caseload increased, I saw a need to easily be able to get from one city to the next to meet with clients,” says Gary. “Having access to your own airplane always saves time and money, because time is money,” he says.
“I think if your caseload is bi-coastal or you work on cases in multiple geographical areas,” Gary says, “having your own plane is an excellent option.”
Whether it’s a Winnebago, a Segway or a Gulfstream jet, creative lawyers are conquering tedious commutes and fourth-class hotels. Life is better both for them and their clients. All it takes is a little (or a lot of) capital and some thinking outside the Beemer.