Whatever happened to talking to each other. As lawyers, we spend our lives defending free speech, but we rarely indulge in it any more. We sit in offices with common walls and doors ten feet apart, and we would rather e-mail the lawyer next door than have a real FTF (as in “face to face”) conversation with him or her. It is crazy, as pointed out in a recent post on Above the Law.
I have been railing against this for years because I also am an English teacher and a Legal Writing instructor by background, and I fear that we soon will not remember how to talk to each other at all. It has already started. Young people are comfortable interacting with machines but not with people. Imagine the consequences on their social and interpersonal skills if this continues on to the next generation. It will be compounded to the extent that all forms of personal communication will be endangered.
But, it is not just the young people. The middle aged and older lawyers are falling into the same trap. They e-mail their comments about things that could easily be communicated by telephone, they distinguish things in e-mails that then spawn myriad other e-mails when either a FTF discussion or a telephone call would have short-circuited the unnecessary multiple messages and possibly have allowed for some subtleties and discretion. There is no substitute for seeing the look on someone’s face or hearing a hesitation in the voice on the other end of the phone to allow for a change in course before war is declared.
And then there is the “reply to all” problem. OMG! Have you ever done that unintentionally and spent the following two weeks trying to get back in the good graces of the unintended recipient of your not so discrete remarks? It you have not, count yourself very lucky.
We need to rediscover the fine art of personal communication. We need to rediscover the telephone. We need to stop the endless flow of e-mails and text messages that are acting like albatross around our necks.
There are some good suggestions in the Above the Law post, and they are worth considering. For you and for me. This morning, I sent out 28 e-mails between the hours of 10:30 and noon. That is one e-mail every three minutes! It is infectious, and I am guilty as charged! I need to get a handle on this!