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The Age Beyond the 9 to 5

With how quickly technology turned tiny and hand-held, many people became trapped by their cellphones and blackberries; devices that were accomplishing what they were intended - too well. The problem that many professionals were, and still are, running into was determining how "connected" they should be.

The internet, cellphones, blackberries and laptops have revolutionized not only how we do work, but also how - and how often - we contact other people. This revolution has given rise to a great question regarding how often and when we should make ourselves available for communication to those we work with, and has seen proponents arise on both sides. The ensuing debate has become one most pressing to those of us working in the service market as we struggle to find a balance most amicable to our personal and professional lives.

The answer to this debate is simple, not easy, but simple. Ours is a service industry, and as connectedness becomes more and more the norm, those who we serve are going to demand the same from us. If you want your firm to succeed in the 21st century - the age of unparalleled communication - you need to make yourself available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For if you don't you will be left in the dust of the 9 to 5, watching as other attorney's offer full-time availability to their clients and reap the benefits.

For further thoughts regarding this subject, please check out this post titled: "Ball and Chain? Key to Freedom?" by Patrick J. Lamb. Patrick hits the issue right on the head: "Those who put clients in second place are going to find out that they don't have to worry about that problem any more."

Comments

Michael A.

I am in my second year of law school now, but worked in marketing for several years previously. During that time, I learned that everyone is a client of someone else. I follow the golden rule. As a client, I would not call anyone at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night because that portion of someone's time is properly reserved for their families and friends. When I become an attorney, I will not be available for my clients at 10 p.m. on Sunday night (with some exceptions for dire, dire emergencies) because that time is reserved for my family. That's not bad service to my client, that's just living according to my priorities.

I am sure that attitude would not fly with some clients (and some bosses), and as the writer says, they won't be my problem anymore. I'll gladly sacrifice some of those "benefits" and be happy with my perhaps smaller pool of less unreasonably demanding clients who understand that there are other aspirations in life besides work. After all, what good are benefits if you don't have the time to spend them?

Cybersquatting Lawyers

Amen brother. You have to make sure the positives include a flexible, yet accessible, work style. I think the main point is that it is coming one way or another. 24 x 7 everything is becoming the norm. That norm will be expected. And many lawyers will see 24-7 as an opportunity.

mythago

Using Mr. Lamb's logic, attorneys who put their clients first--and therefore, their family second--may find out that the unreasonable demands of family are something they aren't going to have to worry about anymore.

Nick Glauch

In defense of Mr. Lamb's family, technological advances have given us the ability to handle unprecedented workloads. The attorney who utilizes technology effectively will be able to work with his clients without having problems with his family with the aid of new project management tools.

But an adjustment does need to made in order to keep up with our service compatriots who are leaving their doors open way farther than 5 and setting a precedent clients are going to come to expect.

GAL

Like all else, there is good and bad in everything. There are many days where technology allows me FLEXIBILITY to spend more time with my family, vacation and friends. And then there are days when technology keeps me tied down to my office or my clients. The reality is that every lawyer will have to find a balance for themselves. But there will be lawyers who use technology to ALWAYS be available. Those lawyers will find leverage in the market.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Technology allows the service provider to utilize his/her day as he sees fit WHILE being able to service his clients during reasonable work hours...those normal hours being defined up front in the client/attorney relationship. As a client, the use of technology allows them to convey their message to the attorney when it is convenient for them. For instance, a client wants to send an e-mail to their attorney on Saturday afternoon while they think of it rather than waiting until monday morning to make that phone call. It all turns on how the relationship is structured. Technology provides more options for both attorney and client. Providing legal services is not signing up for indentured service. And just because some lawyers are more opportunistic because their priorities might be different than ours, I don't believe the majority of clients will expect routine phone calls/e-mails returned on a Saturday night unless, as the service provider, you find it is the most convenient for you.

GAL

Susan. You make a great point. Technology opens the lines of communication and information flow. This allows both attorneys and clients to make informed and intellegent decisions. Let's not make speed more importnat than quality. Technology may make the possibility of response times quicker. But fast is not always better. Clients should understand that the quaility of representation is more important than the speed of representation.

Patrick Lamb

It is probably easy to confuse the notion of putting client service first with being a workaholic. I'm not talking about working at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night just for the heck of it. But my clients all know that if they are experiencing an emergency, I welcome the call at whatever time. It happens very, very rarely. At the same, my clients know that I may well skip out in the afternoon to watch a soccer game or lead a Cub Scout outing. (I find time to be the Cubmaster for my boys' Pack). You create whatever balance you want. My point is that on rare occasions where work demands it, the balance has to tip in favor of client service and technology makes it much easier to do so. So, to repeat a point GAL made above, technology allows me to be available 24/7. That certainly doesn't mean working 24/7, not by a long shot.

Patrick Lamb

It is probably easy to confuse the notion of putting client service first with being a workaholic. I'm not talking about working at 10 o'clock on a Sunday night just for the heck of it. But my clients all know that if they are experiencing an emergency, I welcome the call at whatever time. It happens very, very rarely. At the same, my clients know that I may well skip out in the afternoon to watch a soccer game or lead a Cub Scout outing. (I find time to be the Cubmaster for my boys' Pack). You create whatever balance you want. My point is that on rare occasions where work demands it, the balance has to tip in favor of client service and technology makes it much easier to do so. So, to repeat a point GAL made above, technology allows me to be available 24/7. That certainly doesn't mean working 24/7, not by a long shot.

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