April 09, 2006
Travel Schedules of Law Professors
When I was in private practice, I rarely traveled for business. In my eight years as a lawyer, I can recall 5 trips to Dallas (all for the same client), a client trip to San Diego and a few presentations out of the Bay Area (three trips come to mind). I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but mostly the business trips stand out because of their exceptional nature.
Life is much different as a law professor. I travel constantly. I don’t think I fully appreciated how much travel the job would involve. As a law professor, travel takes me to new audiences; it also allows me to build and reinforce social relationships. So right now I travel a lot—-more than I expected, more than I would like, and way more than my wife and kids would like. In the 18 month period from January 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006, my business travels have taken/will take me to the following destinations:
Chapel Hill, NC
Chicago (6 times)
Lansing, MI (2 times)
Minneapolis (2 times)
New Haven, CT
New York (2 times)
Palo Alto (3 times)
San Francisco (2 times)
Santa Clara (3 times)
Washington DC (3 times)
My tally: 13 states and 13 different law schools in 18 months. More significantly, this amounts to 34 different business trips in 18 months, or almost two trips a month.
I’ve realized that this level of travel is not sustainable. I lose a lot of productive time on the road, but more importantly, each trip requires me to leave my wife to single-handedly take care of our two young kids, and that’s just not fair to her or them.
As a result, I’ve been looking for ways to cut back on travel. One cut was easy. For the past 4 years, I’ve been actively involved in the American Bar Association. I’ve enjoyed the experience, but the price of admission has been high—-right now, based on my various obligations, I am committed to 6 trips a year for the ABA. By dropping out of the ABA, I can save those 6 trips a year.
I will also probably say no more based on cost-benefit analysis. From Milwaukee, the travel time to participate in East Coast events is comparatively low—-most East Coast and Midwest destinations are a two-hour flight away, and in many cases I can get nonstop flights from Milwaukee. For example, in February I flew nonstop to Washington DC as a day trip. However, starting next academic year, when I’m based in California, trips to the East Coast will require almost 2 full travel days. Thus, going forward, the trip’s benefit will have to outweigh this significant transaction cost. This surely means that I’ll take a pass on trips I would have taken without hesitation from Milwaukee.
(Fortunately, with my new administrative duties, I can bring people to Santa Clara, so I will have a mechanism to continue my social relationships without my having to travel at all.)
I’m sure some of you are thinking that I must have racked up some major frequent flyer miles with all of these trips. Unfortunately, I’ve scattered my miles. I tend to pick flights based on price and schedule first and airline brand second. The result is that I have one free ticket on just about every airline, but most of those are effectively unusable given the stringent redemption requirements imposed by airlines. Despite my low brand loyalty, I did take enough trips on United Airlines last year to make premier status. With my resolve to cut my travel, we’ll see if I can earn the status again this year.