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How to make the donuts and the billable hours

Fred the BakerFrom the 1980s to the late 1990s, before “America ran on Dunkin’,” Dunkin’ Donuts’ marketing campaign featured Michael Vale as a “Fred the Baker,” working all hours of the day and night and using the catchphrase “It’s time to make the donuts.”

Lately, I have felt as if I am living the attorney version of Michael Vale — waking up early, pulling late nights and spending portions of my weekend at the office  in preparation for an upcoming arbitration, followed by a trial and then another trial. Between the long work hours, finding time to spend with my family (the start of school is always a shock to any family’s routine and schedule) and other professional and personal commitments, time becomes a scarce commodity.

As we all know, the life (and workload) of an attorney, especially a litigator, ebbs and flows. One day, you can be knee-deep in depositions, drafting motions and trial preparation while the next day you’re looking for things to do (in the event of a settlement or immediately after the jury returns the verdict). But attorneys in the midst of an onslaught of work should not forget about the next case or the next client.

Completely abandoning your marketing efforts may seem like the logical choice when you are busy with actual, billable work, but it is not. Spending a little time each week marketing, even when you are busy (like when you are drafting your blog minutes before midnight on the day it is due to “beat your deadline”), will help to ensure that work will continue after the completion of your big trial or hearing. Something as simple as sending out a couple of emails to contacts, with plans to schedule a meeting after your trial (even if it is a few weeks or a month away), will keep you on one’s radar.

Just remember to follow up when the time is right. Even drafting a blog post or newsletter article can give you a break from your actual legal work. Maybe something that you researched for the upcoming case can be easily turned into a newsletter that would be helpful to an existing or potential client.

As for me, now that I beat my midnight deadline (I’m actually 7 minutes late), I need to get to bed because, before you know it, it will be time to make the donuts again.