Sunday, August 22, 2004

An e-mail from a reader:

"What exactly are these 'must-haves' [Blackberries] used for? I can understand an important client wanting instant access to their attorney, but how big a role do these play in your daily life? At what level are they really necessary? First year? Partner?"

I don't think it's an understatement to say that Blackberries have revolutionized the way we work. From my perspective, they've completely changed my expectations for associates. It used to be that I would understand if I didn't get a quick reply back from an e-mail sent over the weekend or late at night. Now, there's no excuse. Blackberries have made us better service providers because we can work from anywhere, at any time. It's not just clients who want answers. If I happen to be thinking about a case late at night, and need a quick answer -- is there case law on this, have we thought about this, etc -- I can get an answer right away, or at least know that someone will be working on it. It's very nice. On the flipside, they've also added freedom, because if you're checking your Blackberry, I don't care where you are. You can go to lunch. You can go to the bathroom. You can run home to your son's birthday party. As long as you're checking the Blackberry, you're free to leave the office. Associates enjoy that freedom, I think, and have the Blackberry to thank. They've very quickly become indispensable.

Blackberries have also made it impossible to have a civilized meal with colleagues anymore.
These things are nothing but status symbols. Its a replacement for the cell phone. It use to be only doctors had beepers, then lawyers, then everyone. Next it was cell phones, first doctors, then lawyers, then everybody. Here at the Hamburger palace we all have cell phones but nobody has a blackberry. We watch the herd come in with their brats and their thumbs never leave the wheel. The buzz sounds nice, I'd use it in my underwear. Anyway, its a good way to tell the lawyers from the flippers.
It's also one of the developments that contributes to a decline in the atomosphere of being a lawyer (and probably a lot of other jobs).

It is impossible to get away from the job, and its a job you need to get away from. The intrusion of work into all the hours of they day makes an unpleasant job all that much more unpleasant, but there's nothing that can now be done about it.
I agree with AL's take on the Blackberry - I am an attorney and I used to spend an inordinate amount of time letting everyone know when I would be out of the office, or in late, or on travel. Since it seems like *everything* is handled over email now, I can keep everything on a low simmer when I am away from my desk. Clients get called back quickly and urgent matters can be forwarded to someone who is in the office, if necessary.

I am much more comfortable taking time away from the office now and spend much less time "checking in" than I used to. I could see how some people who are used to "leaving work at work" would see a Blackberry as a tremendous intrusion, but that's seldom, if ever, the case for BIGLAW attorneys. I don't spring into action every time I get an email over the weekend or at night, but it's good to know people can reach me if they need to. Blackberries are much less intrusive than cell phones -- once I got a Blackberry, I quit giving my cell phone number out to clients.
I get twenty pieces of crap for every useful e-mail. Filers shut out what I want, and still let in crap. How long does it take to delete junk each day?
I'm writing this after calming down from nearly splitting my sides laughing, which I strongly suspect was AL's motivation in writing his post. Though I'm sure his post is at least partly based in reality, I am one biglaw associate who refuses to cross the Blackberry line, and so far I'm getting away with it. A partner I work closely with has a Blackberry and it's great for him, because when I think of a strategic idea over the weekend or at 11 pm some night at home, I just log on to the network through my desktop and email him, and I have a response by Monday morning or whenever I log in again. He chooses to do that and that's cool. But I refuse to take that same step myself, which could build the expectation that I too would respond to emails the same way he does.

There's a big difference between how he uses his Blackberry and how I would use mine if I had one. The only questions he gets from me are "big picture" questions. "There might be a conflict issue here; should we move to strike counsel?" "Should we name Corporation X as a non-party at fault? The deadline's in 4 days." Stuff that requires some knowledge of the case but not much more. Questions he asks me require more follow up work before I can answer. "Does the statute say anything about insureds who fail to file an XYZ?" "Is Michigan law more or less favorable than Florida law on bad faith claims against insurers?" That sort of thing.
A question for the lawyers - I worked in a large corporation until recently and the legal department kept pushing for us to minimize our use of email. They told us to never put anything of substance in an email, to only use them to set up meetings or for quick communications that didn't really much business related content. It surprises me that you guys say so much is done by email in your jobs. Is it that you don't have the same concerns for covering up what's really going on and not leaving any traces?
We firm lawyers don't worry about it b/c we're usu. not the ones being sued.
It is called privilage.
That is interesting, I thought it was called privilege.
Lawyers record everything. It is the first thing they teach you when you start work at a firm - "Cover your ass".

The majority of the work we do is by email, and was noted above - why should we care: it is privileged. You would only need to worry if you were giving illegal or unethical advice (which obviously should never be given in the first place, regardless of the form - and is a good way of being disbarred or going to jail), or negligent advice. In the second situation, a good clear record is likely to be of more use to you (as defendant) than the plaintiff/former client.
Blackberries seem to be, at least for the moment, confined largely to American legal practice.

As a corporate/M&A lawyer in another common law jurisdiction, I have never seen a blackberry used Although, I wouldn't be surprised if there was an attempt to follow the US trend, I don't know how it would be received. Personally, if I was given a BB and was informed that I would be expected carry and check it when I wasn't at work I would tell "them" (the firm, partners etc) to fvck off. Well, probably not, but I would resist with all my might.

I am a corporate lawyer, I am not a surgeon, lives do not depend on my constant presence, 24 hours and day, 7 days a week. Every so often I would like to tell clients, that NO I will not be staying late to finish that contract - you know, the contract that the client had on their desk for two weeks and then sent to you at 6.30pm, the day before execution for a major re-write.
I prefer raspberries.
to the poster above talking about securities filings. it would be helpful if you knew what you are talking about before you talk about it. otherwise, you tend to look not only pompous, but also dumb. hope this helps.
to the poster above talking about securities filings. it would be helpful if you knew what you are talking about before you talk about it. otherwise, you tend to look not only pompous, but also dumb. hope this helps.
CIS you dumbass. In the context of a biglaw blog, I was clearly referring to the legal world. It is fvcking obvious that technology used in other industries. My point was geographic/jurisdictional (ie where lawyers use blackberries)
To the poster at 9:56 PM, why don't you read rim's 40f report and see where they make their money?

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