DOWNTIME

Bum Phillips, the former coach of the former Houston Oilers, when asked how he liked retirement said, "It's good. I don't do nothing and I don't start til noon." Well, apart from college students home on vacation, that lifestyle can drive you batty.

There are times in a lawyer's practice when business is slow, when the customary frenetic pace disappears, when new clients are scarce and when the coffers are less than overflowing. These are the times you feel like the legendary private eye, Sam Spade, sitting back, feet up on the desk, reading the paper and waiting for the phone to ring. [There was a knock on the door and in she walked, 5' 4", blonde hair, blue eyes and more curves than the Red Sox pitching staff. "I have a problem", she said, "and only you can help. . . ."]

Sure, you can always find stuff to do, all right, but it's housekeeping work. You know, going through old files and tying up the loose ends. Maybe actually preparing now for the trial that will come up right after Labor Day. Reviewing insurance policies. Just doing busy work masking as productive use of downtime.

Yea, that's it, now that I've got a breather I can get around to reading that article on other crimes evidence, the revisions to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and that pile of Law Journals on the corner of the desk that have been there since last summer.

Well I guess you could do that. And, of course, you should do that. And you will do that. Of course you will. You'll do it just as soon as you finish going through that e-mail collection of off-color jokes and Bush-Cheney satires. First, though, you have to read Norm Pattis' column in the Law Tribune, the Times Sports Page and that issue of the CBA's Connecticut Lawyer with that fascinating article on prejudgment remedies. But wait, maybe after you do all that you should take a break and grab a cup of coffee. No, not from the pot near the copy machine. You should treat yourself. Take a walk to Willoughby's. It will clear your mind and the walk will do you good.

In the meantime of course, you can put off returning that phone call to a difficult client which always starts out on the precipice of dissatisfaction, rapidly descends the familiar slippery slope to frustration and inevitably plunges into the unwelcome depths of anger. Well, maybe that one can wait a little longer.

It's these times when you begin to wonder whether you'll ever get another new client. And it always happens that while you're wallowing in this valley of inactivity, you make your worst mistakes. The phone rings. It's not the blonde that lights up Sam Spade's day that only you can help. No, not quite. It's the new client with a problem in Rockville or Danielson or Putnam that you know you shouldn't take. But it's new. It's interesting. And besides, who knows, it may turn in to something profitable.

Don't bet on it, Bunkie. On the fifth long trip to Rockville, injected into a day months down the road when you've got three other courts to get to and you've just been cited by a State Cop for a cell phone violation you can reflect back to that lull in your schedule when you should have known better.

Paula Poundstone used to say that she was sure she would write The Great American Novel if only she could first organize her spice rack and clean the kitchen floor. Procrastination is a malady from which no one is immune.

Oh, sorry. Gotta go. Some guy just called in with an interesting speeding infraction returnable to the Norwalk GA.