“Always plan your day around lunch.” – Judge Smith
Coffee at Cafe Mantic
One of the great blessings in my nine years of practice has been the willingness of experienced lawyers to share their insights. The practice of law is literally that. It’s a practice. Practice is best with coaches. I’m writing this to share Judge Smith’s advice about lunch.
Why am I writing a post about lunch? Because, when Judge Smith told me to plan my day around lunch – I initially thought he was kidding. I’ve come to learn that he wasn’t. I met Judge Smith at lunch with my bosses.
Lunch is a special time for me. Often, I eat lunch at my desk while working. But at least once a week – I try and get out. Being a father of two young children – I do everything I can to be home for dinner with my family. My days of Young Lawyer networking Happy Hours are long gone. The only professional commitments that I make in the evening is to Inn of Court which meets once a month. I otherwise avoid evening commitments if at all possible because reading “Goodnight Moon” to my son and daughter means everything to me.
Lunch is my opportunity and I try to seize it.
In September, I had a meeting in New Haven. A place I only venture to a handful of times each year. My meeting got out at 11. I texted my brother who works in New Haven and asked if he wanted to grab lunch. He said “sure”. On a perfect September day, we walked to a Mexican restaurant and had lunch. It was a time to connect and reconnect.
There have been lunches with classmates, friends, and colleagues. The life of a practicing lawyer is often a moving target. Hearings run long. Closings get rescheduled. Cases settle. A lawyer’s calendar is always in a state of flux. Clients always take priority. Sometimes the first thing I do when I get in after checking my schedule is ask myself “what am I going to do for lunch?” Time permitting I’ll email or text a colleague and schedule a lunch meeting. We catch up, we discuss cases, and we discuss practice. I can’t tell you how many of these conversations that I’ve cherished over the years.
This summer after wrapping up closing arguments in hotly contested trial in New London – I grabbed lunch with co-counsel and opposing counsel at a deli near the court. The pulled pork was outstanding. The company was better. Being able to sit down with adversaries after a hotly contested trial where both sides were vigorously represented was refreshing. We talked little about the trial. We mostly talked about our kids and summer. It was great.
If I have a meeting in the northern part of the state, I try to time it in order to have lunch with parents.
At home my meals can feel rushed. My son is 16 months and my daughter is 4. My son needs his food cut. My daughter wants something. It is often loud. My son gets tired early in the evening. DInner feels like the thing we do before bathing, changing, reading and putting our kids to bed before we start getting ready for the next day.
Why am I mentioning dinner in a column about lunch? Because when possible I try to steal a quick date with my wife. Grabbing a 45 minute lunch feels like spending hours together. We’re not cutting food or answering questions about giants. We’re able to talk…..in peace. It feels vacation.
Oh and Chilis. My daughter loves Chilis. My office is a short walk from Chilis. On school vacations she often comes into the office with me. We go to lunch at Chilis. I love this time with her. Someday she’ll have lunch plans with colleagues, friends, and maybe her husband. But for now, going to Chilis with her Dad is awesome. Never miss a chance to do awesome.
Lunches with clients are critical. Getting to know a client and build a relationship over a meal can yield countless dividends.
This summer I went to Cafe Mantic with my wife for our anniversary. I read about it in the New York Times and decided to make the trip on the way home from Watch Hill. I’m glad we did because it was outstanding.
Yesterday, I had a mediation in Willimantic with Judge RIley from 9 to 1. A few weeks ago, I received a call from Manchester Probate court looking to schedule a hearing. I looked at my schedule and asked that the hearing be scheduled for 3. I did this because sometimes a mediation, particularly if it is productive can run long. But I also hoped that a 3 o’clock hearing would give me time to enjoy lunch at Cafe Mantic.
My mediation ended at 1:00. The case resolved. My client was very pleased with the result. I headed down to Cafe Mantic. Opened my laptop – caught up on the emails and messages that I couldn’t get to during the mediation. Prepared for my 3 o’clock hearing. And I quietly celebrated the successful mediation with a salad and some of the best coffee that I’ve ever had. Connecticut is full of great places to have lunch.
Judge Smith was right about lunch.