Business trips combine the best elements of vacation with the best elements of working. Wait, maybe they actually combine the worst of each of those things.
In any case, when you're away from your law office on business, here are some ways you can make your life easier, save some money, and operate your practice on the road:
1. Join Every Frequency Program.
Airlines, hotels, credit cards -- they all offer frequency programs that reward you for mileage or spending. Airline tickets and hotel accommodations cost a lot of money, but that means they also reap the most rewards. Even if you have a corporate card, you should be able to join the card's rewards program, meaning you get cash back, points, or whatever it is they offer (though you may not want to "abuse" the program).
Similarly, it's free to join practically every airline's frequent flyer program, meaning you earn miles for every mile you travel. Even if you don't have enough miles to get a free airline ticket, you can still turn in your miles to get free stuff. It's how I get magazine subscriptions every year.
2. Designate an Attorney to Fill In While You're Out.
Emergencies happen, and like lighting a cigarette at a bus stop, they seem to happen whenever you're on the road. The best solution to an emergency is to designate another attorney as your point-person while you're gone. If you need to appear tomorrow, or if the client needs someone to explain that nasty filing with big red capital letters all over it, having a go-to attorney already established (with the client's permission, or notice, depending on your state) means last-minute notifications aren't going to leave you up all night worrying.
3. Work Offline.
To the extent allowed by your office and your state rules, put documents you're working on into a secure cloud storage system. That way, you can work when you're on a business trip and if your laptop gets stolen by nefarious types, your hard work isn't lost forever. If you're a solo or small practice, why aren't you doing this already? Even if you work for a large firm, all those servers and VPNs mean you have to be connected to the network or else you'll screw something up -- you know, locked files, conflicted copies. Cloud storage is way easier.
4. Stay Connected for Cheap.
To everyone who acquired a cell phone after 2005, here's a fun historical fact: Cell phone companies used to charge extra if you were "roaming" on a competitor's network. Thankfully, that's all gone now, but you can still drive your costs down even more by using services like Google Voice or Skype to make phone calls from your computer. Need to conference call? There's FaceTime or Google Hangouts, which do a bang-up job, especially considering they're free services.
5. Ditch the Wallet Brick.
If you work for a law firm -- or even if you don't -- you'll incur costs that you expense to the company or to the client. Hopefully your idea of keeping track of expenses isn't crumpling up receipts and then shoving them into your wallet, which by now looks like George Costanza's and qualifies as a deadly weapon. Here in the 21st century, there's an app for that. There are a litany of applications available for every smartphone that allow you to take a picture of a reciept and turn it into a PDF. The fancy-schmancier ones will even use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to convert the photo to editable text. Take a picture of your receipt and save the hard copy somewhere else.
Editor's Note, August 25, 2015: This post was first published in August 2014. It has since been updated.