The Value of a Working Vacation

Exactly a year ago, my wife Nancy and I were doing much as we are this year, taking a mid-winter working vacation. But, nothing stays the same, and I have learned much in just one year. We are not world travelers, but once a year we try to get away by ourselves. During the last several years, we have had lovely stays at The Inn On Palmetto Sound on the Outer Banks, Savannah Ga. where son Chris and daughter in law Sarah were married, Charleston S.C. where John and Bonnie were married, St. Simons Island and Jekyl Islands, Ga. and Amelia Island, Fla. Gone are the days of pairing the trips with the Gator Bowl.

Last year we justified the trip by committing to work at least six hours a day. Last year Nancy was my editor. This year she gets to catch up on her reading. I will write a few more articles, spend at least a day updating and improving my best Pathagoras (document assembly) forms, and do my best to learn Findlaw’s new blogging platform and to copy my best blog articles into

I wrote two blog articles in Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer in Feb. 2012, “What Can a lawyer Learn on the Road?”,; and “Burt’s Criticism of Religion and Religiosity”, .

I didn’t begin writing my blog seriously until 2010, when I had 65 posts. In 2011, I posted 46. In 2012, I posted 21 in “Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer”, but also converted the blog into a Kindle Book, and began “WV Lawyer Tips and Techniques”, which now has 24 articles. That’s nearly 300 pages of things I have learned and am learning about the practice of law and life.

I began this trip at the WV Association for Justice Annual Mid Winter Conference and Seminar. Charleston Lawyer Bobby Warner had an excellent presentation or improving office efficiency and productivity, and a fellow named Mike Hemlepp of P3Solutions of Charlotte N.C. presented on a topic “Lessons from Waffle House: Improving Customer Relations Without Losing Your Law License.

Here are some ideas that I hope my staff will consider. We try to do these things already, but it is nice to be reminded:

1. Clients must be treated with respect. And the client must receive a quality product, timely completed, with creativity and passion.

2. It is important for my receptionist and paralegal to know the clients by name, to speak that name “Mr. Jones” or “Ms. Smith.”

3. We must not keep them waiting unduly. Anyone who has been to a doctor more than a few times knows that feeling of being kept in a crowded room where the assumption is the doctor is doing you are favor to see you.

4. I try to show respect by making sure the client knows the process, by urging them to become educated in “the rules of the game.”

5. I have the clients come to all hearings and status conferences, so they become acclimated, and so I can update them and be updated by them.

6. The client with the small matter, or who is paying the smallest fee, must feel we appreciate his/her business. No one knows whether that person will be the one whose family member or friend is in the horrendous collision that will lead to a “seven figure” personal injury settlement or verdict. Jesus was oh so right to point out that when we treat a beggar or homeless person with compassion we are doing good by him.

7. Bobby has a unique talent in drawing in new clients and business. Most lawyers cannot fully emulate what he does. His marketing strategies are not mine. Practicing here in Buckhannon, I probably could still utilize my advertising budget by having the best visibility in the Buckhannon, Weston, Elkins, Philippi, and Clarksburg telephone directories. Instead, I am still betting the Internet will be king.

8. I began a commitment years ago to the Internet and was disappointed in the slowness of North Central West Virginians to search the web for their lawyers.

9. Things are beginning to change. I get a kick of a new client who has read some of my stuff in the Internet and found it worthy or helpful. I have not given up The Yellow Pages, and I have not put great $’s into in Internet, but I pour lots of my time and thought into it. My article “How I Got My Score Over 50 On” addresses a number of the thing I have done to improve my visibility on the Internet, but key to it is provide valuable information and insights. Give it away because I enjoy sharing, but also because I am confident a person who has been well treated and helped will show gratitude in some way.

This year we are more adept at using our on the road technology. Siri guided us to the last room at the Hampton Inn Express on the Savannah River. She found nearly every restaurant we visited. And our Garmin was very reliable except for not knowing the Starbucks was INSIDE the nearby Krogers! The next 5 years will have the following changes:

a. Sirius/XM radio will give way to podcasts and material on the WEB. We spent a few hours listening to TED lectures until the battery in my rechargeable speaker gave out. I see there is a simple outlet for “auxiliary” so next time I will just plug my iPhone or iPad into my radio;

b. CD’s and DVD’s will give way to streaming video and audio;

c. Nexflix likewise will abandon the model of ordering CD’s and provide its content via the Internet.

d. Everyone will live and die by their ratings, just as restaurants and hotels are doing now. This is ominous for family law lawyers who make enemies just by being hired. We can be criticized by our client of course, but also by our adversaries. The key will be staying steady, honest, productive, and ethical. Our detractors will be there. They just need to be substantially outnumbered by our “fans”.

e. A viable “self driving” car will become rather clear on the horizon. Just as with HD t.v., camcorders, and computers, at first they will be too expensive for “the little guy”.

f. People will become consumed by their devices. The clamor will get louder decrying “texting while driving”, smart phones in public, and the dumbing down of our culture, but NOTHING will even slow the instant communication. The smart ones will use this connectivity and instant access to make their way in the world. Our capabilities will multiply, but so will our vulnerabilities. It will be an “interesting time.”

g. One of the TED speakers said, “Stay healthy for 20 years, and you can hang on for another 200-300 years.” That may well be true for today’s 20 year olds. If I am well at 80+, then 100 + should sure be a possibility.

h. NPR has something called with lots of quality material available for download. I have signed up for my free account.

i. Spotify provides virtually any musical contect for $5/month.

j. The Teaching Company and Other sources will provide streaming college courses. We finished the 48 session “The History of Ancient Egypt” by professor Bob Briar on this trip. It was, by far, the most interesting college course I ever heard.

k. Facetime, Skype, GoToMyPC, PCGoToMeeting, and, of course, YouTube and Wikipedia will continue to improve, connnect, and magnify our potential.

l. If you are spending one minute complaining about these changes instead of adapting to them, you are falling behind.

I hope you have some time to get away,
recharge your batteries,
and be with a person, or persons, you love.
It is a special pleasure.

This post was written by Burton Hunter


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