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Commentary: Cheap entertainment for the cost conscious

Lawyers are working harder these days. In 1965, associates typically billed 1,400 to 1,600 hours annually, while partners billed 1,200 to 1,400. Forty years later, associates’ hours were up to 2,000 annually, according to an ABA Law Practice Management Section magazine article from 2006.

But everyone knows the old adage about all work and no play. So here are some low-cost entertainment options for the busy, cost-conscious lawyer.

Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.

Amazon.com now offers free music downloads. Once you’re on the site, go to “MP3 downloads,” then “special deals.” On the right-hand side of the screen, you’ll see free songs and free albums. There are 120 albums, some of which are single tracks, while others are multi-artist samplers.

Now, you won’t find freebies from Lady Gaga, Beyonce or Taylor Swift. But if you live in the Milwaukee area and enjoy Radio Milwaukee, or in Madison and enjoy Triple M or WORT, you will probably find something to your liking. Most of the freebies are in the category of “alternative rock,” but there’s a wide variety of genres. I found tracks on samplers from Neko Case, the Swell Season and Joe Henry, and single cuts from Erin McCarley, Ani Di Franco (I’d already paid good money for that one, darn it!), and Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Perhaps my favorite find was “I Love the 80s, Vol. 1 (1880s),” featuring the music of Brahms, Mahler, Tchaikovsky and other classical composers from the era. Now that might be a soothing choice for your office’s waiting area, or relaxing background music when you need to do your billing (for all those excessive hours you‘ve worked lately).

You can also try Internet streaming music. Two of the better-known options are Pandora.com and Slacker.com. At both sites, you can type in an artist you enjoy and you’ll hear music from him or her, along with similar artists — a great way to discover new performers. If you create a profile, the site will remember the artists you’ve indicated you like or don’t like. Even better, if you’re on the road, you can listen to Pandora and Slacker on most mobile phones.

Get your “Perry Mason” fix.

You can find free, on demand, streaming TV programs and movies at Hulu.com and Sling.com. At Hulu, in the movies category, I found “Dead Man Walking,” and under TV, both “The Practice” and “The Riches” are among the programs under the “crime and courtroom” category. At Sling.com, I found “Inherit the Wind” under movies, and “Perry Mason” under TV.

Don’t forget YouTube.

If you travel often, you’ve probably already noticed that it’s relatively easy to connect your laptop to the hotel’s TV. You won’t be forced to watch Hulu or Sling on your small laptop screen — go to YouTube.com and search “how to connect your laptop to your TV,” and you’ll see a number of how-to videos.

Speaking of YouTube, it’s pretty easy for me to spend a few minutes, or hours, surfing the many free videos it offers — yet another great free entertainment option.

Online gaming.

I had to get some advice in this area; I’m a Mommy and by definition that means I don’t have time to game. But I did receive some recommendations from (male) family members who do: http://games.yahoo.com/, where you can play “Letter of the Law” and well over 100 other games; and http://www.kongregate.com/, where there appears to be nothing law-related but there are entire categories of games devoted to “shooter” and “zombie.”

Sounds like a nice diversion … for somebody other than me.

Now go enjoy some free, stress-free relaxation!

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