As I go around meeting with people I am becoming aware of how ingrained my habit of keeping track of time has become. I don't think I realized how pervasive the habit of tracking ones minutes had become, and how it affected my social interactions. When you're a lawyer, time is money, right? And so every coffee or lunch break you take to catch up with a friend is time you're not billing. If you're a lawyer and the person you're meeting isn't, you still notice this. You're giving up precious time to meet with them. Maybe they don't quite appreciate it but if the lunch lingers on a little too long, well, geez, you've really got to get going. Don't they understand that this time has a price? Maybe it's free for them, but it's not for you. Conversely, if you're having lunch with another lawyer, someone more senior than you, whose time is worth lots more (or at least, whose billable rate makes their time more expensive), you feel a sort of strange gratitude. You expect them to get through the lunch and then briskly bring things to a close and get back to the office. If they linger or suggest coffee, well, wow, that's so generous, what a good guy this is.
I have a huge awareness and guilt about being even a few minutes late to meet another lawyer. I don't like being late to meet anyone, (although I am, alas, more than I wish), but when I was billing time I noticed a slight resentment when I had to wait around for someone. Interestingly, I think I resented it more when a non-lawyer was late to meet me (they just don't understand what it means to bill by the hour!) than when a lawyer was late (oh, the pressures of being a lawyer, something must have come up). When I was late to meet another biller I felt like my inconsiderateness was easily translatable into economic harm, and would wonder as I apologized whether they'd passed the time calculating how many dollars my delay had cost their firm.
Non-lawyers don't seem to do this. Sometimes people are rushed and sometimes they aren't, but whether or not somebody's rushed doesn't have anything to do with their status or what their time is "worth". Nobody's particularly keeping track. Isn't that interesting?