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BlackBerry blues

BlackBerry blues

In a bid to be like the cool kids in a technology competitive world, Michael Bradley loses touch with sitting and doing nothing in the park, and other simple pleasures.

In a bid to be like the cool kids in a technology competitive world, Michael Bradley loses touch with sitting and doing nothing in the park, and other simple pleasures. 

I just got my iPhone 4 and I’m in love all over again. Not that there was anything wrong with my iPhone 3GS, but I was starting to feel inadequate and I could tell the junior lawyers were looking down on me. Of course, as any serious lawyer will tell you, the BlackBerrry is a vastly superior business tool, but it’s not exactly what the cool kids are carrying.

But we’re here to talk about technology and the law, not equipment envy. Here’s the question: has the advent of mobile interconnectedness enhanced ourworking lives? Short answer: nuh. Long answer: nuh, but it’s not technology’s fault, we’re just stupid.

I recall 1989, and not just because of the Fine Young Cannibals. It was my first year of work, and I didn’t have a mobile phone, but only because they hadn’t been invented. I wasted a lot of time that year standing on the wrong street corner having arranged to meet a friend for lunch/drinks, neither of us having a means of making contact once we’d left the landlines behind. That was the way it was, kids, imagine the frustration.

So mobiles were pretty exciting when they arrived, and email more so, and then they put the two together and now I never waste any time waiting for anyone ever. So that’s good.

On the other hand, I remember a little while back I was in another city and had finished one meeting and had half an hour to kill before the next one. I spent it on my BlackBerry (had one of those before I was cool) rather than sitting in a park doing nothing. That’s not so good.

Worse – that same trip I was at a conference listening to the managing partner of a big firm joyously announcing that they’d just decided to give BlackBerries to all their lawyers, with timesheets enabled, so that they could have the flexibility to work anywhere and even record time on the bus (he literally said that).

Finally, about six years ago I got off a long flight, turned on myBlackBerry (still my uncool days) immediately, waited for the satisfying beeps that said I was still loved, and in the taxi from the airport returned a call from a journalist who wanted to talk about how technology was enhancing lawyers’ lives. Which I said it was, without any irony at all.

Clearly I’m as stupid as the next lawyer. Technology has not enhanced my life all that much, really. It turned me into a 24 hour-contactable tech-junkie who couldn’t walk past his device without “just checking" his emails. It enabled me to not tell clients when I was going on leave and to become ubiquitous, as if those were good things.

I guess this is still reading like it’s all about me, but I’m pretty sure you’re seeing yourself too. How dumb are we? We get given these amazing tools that will facilitate massive flexibility and we turn them into another barrier to happiness. Like the lawyer I recently interviewed said, when you find yourself on your day off at your kid’s playgroup dealing with a “crisis” atwork on the BlackBerry instead of watching your kid play, something’s totally screwed.

I’ve made some personal progress. I went back to reading a book on the bus, and none of the iPhone apps I’ve downloaded have any business use whatever. But, generally, we’re going to continue to drift down this road for awhile yet before we start to work out how the cool tools can make our lives better – not more efficient, better. We’ll get there.

Michael Bradley is the managing partner of Marque Lawyers.

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