Last week I wrote an article based on the furore caused by an email from a partner at a large London firm who suggested that lawyers should be available to contact by email even when they are away on holiday. In the article I lamented the fact that Blackberries now make it possible for us to access and respond to our email from anywhere, which means that many lawyers are finding themselves effectively on call at times which were usually relatively restful – the commute, their lunch hour, dinner with friends and, yes, whilst backpacking in Nepal.
I don’t own a Blackberry – funds don’t permit – but I have recently changed my opinion of them. They can be very useful from the point of view of the person receiving an email message sent from “my wireless Blackberry mobile”, in that they are quite fiddly and difficult to use, so messages tend to be very short and to the point.
I recently responded to a lengthy email from the director of one of the treatment centres on LawCare’s database who wanted to have an advertisement for their unit in LawCare News, and to have their services promoted by LawCare in other ways. This was not something it was appropriate for us to do, but knowing that he would not be happy at the decision, I wrote an equally lengthy and detailed email in response, explaining exactly why we could not oblige. I fully expected a long-winded response which would be at best pleading, at worst belligerent and demanding, and go into considerable argument explaining exactly why every single alcoholic calling the LawCare helpline should be given details of one particular treatment centre. But I had the good fortune that he responded using his Blackberry, and wrote simply “OK”.
Looking back through my email I realise that there are several where the responses have been short and to the point - “Yes”, “No”, “Thanks” and “August” - and they were all sent using a Blackberry or similar device. I rather like such decisive brevity, and I can’t help but think how much easier it must have been for the lawyers in question just to dash off a quick reply from the back of a taxi than to spend valuable office time composing a long email which would, ultimately, say the same thing.
Perhaps I need to add a codicil to my article decrying the use of Blackberries when on holiday. I recognise that they can save time and streamline the working day, and anything which helps lawyers work more efficiently and free up time is valuable. But for goodness’ sake, remember that it has an “off” switch.
LawCare’s free and confidential helpline is available 9-7.30 Monday-Friday, 10-4 weekends, on:
0800 279 6888 (Solicitors, Law Students and Legal Executives in England and Wales)
0800 279 6869 (Solicitors, Advocates and Law Students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man)
0800 018 4299 (Barristers, Clerks and Judges in England and Wales)
1800 991801 (Solicitors in the Republic of Ireland)