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Disconnect: A Matter of Professionalism and Respect

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Modern communication technology enables lawyers to accomplish things in a much more timely, efficient and effective manner in many instances.  Utilized properly, digital communications also can assist a lawyer or law firm in reducing overhead and providing representation to clients more economically.  E-mails and other electronic medium allow lawyers and law firms to operate in ways that would not have been imaginable less than a decade ago.

However, use of these relatively new communication mediums can become as addictive as some substances and their overuse can cause a myriad professional and personal problems and issues.  As lawyers, we all have times where it seems that there is no possible way we can accomplish everything in the limited time given.  It is during those times that we run the greatest risk of overusing or misusing electronic communications.

I am constantly reminded of the importance of disconnecting from them on occasion for both personal and professional reasons.  One recent experience reinforced the importance of disconnecting.  The Wake County Bar Association had the privilege of having one of the Fourth Circuit judges from North Carolina speak at a recent monthly luncheon.  During a fascinating speech from one of the most interesting and accomplished persons in the State, I looked around the room and repeatedly saw fellow attorneys using their phones to read and respond to e-mails and texts, and browse, among other things.  I was hoping that our speaker was looking from a different perspective and did not observe what I saw.

I completely understand the temptation during a busy time to catch up on a few e-mails or deal with some other pressing matters.  I’m confident that I have been guilty of doing so in the past.  However, as a past president of the organization, I was dismayed that our esteemed speaker might be observing the same thing I was and believing that our local Bar members were not interested in her very insightful remarks.

We all have been involved in situations where we are talking or meeting with somebody in person and they interrupt the personal conversation to take a phone call or respond to an e-mail or text.    When you are on the receiving end of this behavior, it unmistakably projects the impression that your discussions, and by extension you, are not important. Although that probably was not the intent, it leaves a very bad impression.

They are many important reasons, in my opinion, that all of us should disconnect at times.  When attending a speech or in meeting with a client, witness or other person, in my opinion, it’s simply a matter of professionalism and good form to turn off your own phone and focus on the matter at hand.  If you are truly that busy, you should probably not attend or reschedule.  In these types of situations, disconnect; it’s a matter of professionalism and respect.