The Stresses & Challenges of Being a Lawyer: When Technology Doesn’t Help
In addition to all the pressures lawyers face described in the article The Day to Day Stresses & Challenges of Being a Lawyer, technology has increased the pace of practice. While increasing efficiency, the constant flow of new products and applications can create just as much anxiety. The key is to use technology – don’t let it use you.
Here are a few examples of how technology has complicated legal practice, and what you can do to cope:
- Unlimited accessibility: limit email and cell phone use. Thanks to emails and cell phones you are now more accessible than ever. During working hours, productivity may suffer because emails constantly interrupt workflow. Clients expect you to stop everything and reply or call back on-demand. Take control of how and when you check your email and cell phone. Turn off automatic notification when emails come in. Turn off the phone or put it on silent during working hours. Clearly state in your cell phone mailbox that you only respond immediately to urgent matters. When you go on vacation, put your phone away and don’t access the internet. If you must, limit your access to once a day.
- Information overload: organize and execute. Every lawyer is familiar with the barrage of emails that come in through the day. Only some are urgent tasks. Use this tip from Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Break up your task list into four kinds of tasks: (1) urgent and important, (2) urgent and not important, (3) not urgent and important, and (4) not urgent and not important. Use practice management software to keep track of the daily task list, or keep a running list on a notepad. Organize your tasks into manageable chunks and execute the ones with highest urgency and importance first.
- Adapting to new technology: train up. Like any tool, technology is only useful when you learn how to use it effectively. Whether you are installing a new application, going paperless, or using a new telephone system, learning new technology is stressful. Mastering technology takes time and energy. Train up by taking (often free) online tutorials, attending bar association tech shows, and tuning into appmakers’ blogs. Ensure your staff are trained properly, too.
- Communication isolation: step out of the office. You can find yourself isolated if you spend more and more time communicating with others through digital media. Emotions are rarely communicated well by email and telephone. Skype does not replace the human need for face to face contact. Schedule lunches and coffees with colleagues, clients, and mentors. Place yourself into situations that force you to engage with people face to face.
- Keeping up with the Joneses: stay focused on yourself. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social networking sites have made it easier than ever to see what your friends and peers are up to. People tend to present themselves in the best possible light. It is tempting to want to keep up with the Joneses even if this causes you stress and embarrassment. The face presented in social media does not necessarily reflect reality. Stay focused on what you need to do. The rest will take care of itself.