Denver Bar Association
October 2013
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Life on the Road: There’s No Place Like Home.

by Doug McQuiston

 

F


or 30 years, I was a practicing Colorado attorney, handling civil litigation on the defense side. My only professional travel was case-related and infrequent, usually overnight trips out of town for depositions, or road trips over to the Western Slope for hearings or trials.

My, how things have changed. Three years ago, I took on a "legal executive" role with my employer. With the reduced caseload came a whole lot of travel all through the Western U.S., helping to manage litigation practices in five states (plus Colorado). It has been quite a ride—literally.

Take now, for instance. I am writing this on my iPad in my seat on the 6:15 Amtrak "Cascades" train, northbound from Portland, OR (one of my offices), bound for Seattle, WA, where another of my offices is located. The ride takes just under four hours. Sitting on the train, in a nice, wide business class seat, (complete with free wi-fi), gives me a chance to log on, stretch out, and get some work done.

For the first time in my life, I am a road warrior.

The trips are usually three or four days long. Nice places, too—like Scottsdale, Arizona, Salt Lake City, Utah, and (where I happen to be this week) Portland, and Seattle, with the occasional stop somewhere in California in one of our other offices. I now find myself out of town a few days a week, maybe two or three weeks a month. I have "status" with an airline for the first time in my life. So, what’s it like?

Given the places I go for work, there’s no reason to complain. Sure, I miss being home with my wife (though she has grown accustomed to my travel schedule), and my dog misses me. This also isn’t a job I would have been able to do when I had kids at home. I would have missed too many baseball and softball games and tennis matches. But to my surprise, I have found I actually like the travel at this point in life.

Once you get dialed in a bit, the airport waits aren’t that bad, and the travel hassles are manageable. Like George Clooney’s character in "Up in the Air," I wear loafers to speed my way through the TSA lines, buy suits based on how well they will travel, and schedule flights to avoid tourists. I stay at the same hotels in each of my cities, so they’ve almost become homes away from home. This week, as I rolled into the Paramount Hotel in Seattle (one of my haunts), the desk clerk even remembered me! I didn’t know whether to be flattered or a bit worried. Some of my favorite restaurants now are in Portland or Seattle.

Samuel Johnson once said, "All travel has its advantages. If the passenger visits better countries, he may learn to improve his own. And if fortune carries him to worse, he may learn to enjoy it." I have certainly found that to be true, even when it comes to stateside travel. There is nothing quite like the sun reflecting off the Wasatch Range in Salt Lake during a cold winter sunset, or the massive, snow-capped face of Mt. Hood looming off our left wing on the final approach to Portland.

But then, beautiful as these other places are, I always feel that same sense of wonder and privilege as the plane banks over the Rockies and heads toward DIA. My love for Colorado has gotten stronger with every trip.

Even more than getting to know the towns I travel to, it has been a privilege to get to know and work with great lawyers in these other states. It’s also fascinating to get to see how courts work in them. There are wide jurisdictional differences between how things are done in Colorado, as opposed to my other states.

Those of you whose practices have branched out regionally or nationally will understand what I am about to say more than those whose practices are strictly Colorado-based:

There’s no place like home.

I didn't know how good we have it in Colorado, on so many levels, until I saw how civil justice worked in other states. My travels have taught me that our court system in Colorado is far more technologically advanced, well-run, customer service oriented, and responsive to the needs of its citizens than just about any other system I now experience. Our colleagues in the bar, whether on the bench, on our side, or the other side, are for the most part fairer, more collegial, and more oriented toward fair play and a just result, than most I see in my travels out West. We fight hard for our clients, but most of us also remember our obligation to be professionals, not combatants.

Sure, there are exceptions. We have our issues here in Colorado, of course. I am also sure that lawyers in my other states might take issue with my perception. But lighting out for these other states these last three years has really opened my eyes, even more fully, to what a privilege it is to practice law in Colorado.

But still, from time to time I wonder whether I would be able to go back to being a "local lawyer." I’m sure I’d adjust back, just as I have to all the travel. But sometimes, when I’ve been home for a couple of weeks straight, going to hearings and depositions like the old days, I start to feel a little tug. Travel has infected me. I am afraid the condition may be chronic.

So, if you’ll forgive me, I have to go pack. It's Burbank, California next week—then on to places yet unscheduled. If you see me at the airport, wave. D

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
—Jack Kerouac

Doug McQuiston

Doug McQuiston has been a lawyer in Colorado for more than 30 years. He is a member, contributing writer, and past chair of The Docket Committee.


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