I’m Traveling with a Partner


I’m traveling on a cross-country flight with my supervising partner tomorrow, and we’re sitting next to each other on the plane. I already tried to change the seat, but the flight’s booked. I have a few work things I could do on the plane, but they can also wait until later. Truth is, I was totally stoked to watch about ten episodes of The Office.  But I can’t with a partner next to me, watching my every move.  Do I have to do some stupid, unnecessary work just to keep up appearances (for which I won’t even get extra billables, since we’re already billing for the flight…) or is it OK if I just watch some DVDs, read a magazine, or God forbid, go to sleep?

I feel your pain.  No easy answer here.  For what it’s worth, here’s what I’d do: After the obligatory early-flight exchange of platitudes, I’d do a little work.  Like thirty minutes’ worth, then hit the magazines.  I wouldn’t recommend watching DVDs on your laptop, though—don’t really know why, I just wouldn’t.  I could see Partner Dude getting annoyed by this—for no legitimate reason, of course, but I could still imagine him being annoyed that you’re actually having fun.  Laughing and joy are not typically part of the legal experience.  Especially the legal-airplane experience.  Sad, but true.  For some idiotic reason, business travel is extremely serious to most partners.  So instead of watching The Office, read a few magazines.  But don’t smile.  Or giggle.  I’d also stay away from the US Weekly, Star Magazine stuff too.  Too easy for Partner Dude to make negative assumptions.  Go with Time, Fortune, if you’re feeling daring, Vanity Fair.  If you want to impress, bust out the New Yorker.

Have a great trip!

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Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

7 Comments

  1. Scared Law Student

    August 12, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Would the Economist be too much in this situation?

  2. Anonymous

    August 12, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Forget magazines, I’d read a book, like a classic (e.g., East of Eden), or some interesting, non-fiction work like Into Thin Air, but not some pseudo-pop-psych like Blink.  Reading a long-length book shows more of a commitment than a easily discarded magazine.  The partner probably read the book too, so he/she will be impressed.

  3. Bill

    August 12, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    I think the Economist is perfect.  However, I think that there is a missed opportunity here.  Bring work for other clients.  Start doing the work, then after about half an hour ask the partner how appropriate it is to double bill for your time, ie, bill client A for the plane flight, bill client B for the work you do during the flight.  At least then, when you pick up the Economist, you will do so having already established yourself as a rapacious, greedy rule-tester.  And good luck trying to enjoy your trip.

  4. Billing Machine

    August 12, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Bill’s a genius.  That’s the exact right play.  Unless, of course, the partner is unusually ethical and doesn’t believe in double-billing.  Long shot, I know.

  5. Junior Associate

    August 15, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    If you’re asking this sort of a question, chances are you are more concerned about keeping up appearances than the actual work you do.  I don’t blame you…we are all like that in law land.  But if you, or anyone else, is living their lives questioning how to behave when on a plane sitting next to a Partner, I think the real answer is to get out of law, and find a job or career where you worry about the substance of what you do, rather than the way that you do it.

  6. YrNextBestAsst

    August 26, 2008 at 9:43 am

    Food for thought: “Patterning your life around other’s opinions is nothing more than slavery.” – Lawana Blackwell
    But of course, do as you wish

  7. Anonymous

    September 8, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    Don’t eat Mexican food the night before the flight, or the partner will remember you for being a farter.

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