Confession time: I’m an email addict. Seriously. I have five email addresses that I constantly check most days (it tends to die down a little between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning). I think I probably spend most of my “working time” composing and answering emails, particularly since I have gone far enough into my law school career to be somewhat indifferent to reading for class. By the end of the week, I’m so sick of emailing that I have even been able to overcome my long-standing, deeply-rooted aversion to the phone, and starting ringing people up.
Most of what is in my inbox relates to the activities I’m involved with, since I’m a capital-A Activities person: journal, our women’s association, student-faculty committees, and others. 2Ls in my school traditionally run student groups, so it’s a year full of programming. Hence the emails. I’m not writing to complain about this—if all that I had going on were my classes, I’d be miserable—but I worry about the constant communication this has entailed.
I write this because as I contemplate my future working life, and the premonition that the higher salaries associates in major cities are commanding (discussed here in "BigLaw Swag and Sway" and on the WSJ’s Law Blog in 2007: More Hours, More Revenue, Lots More Associates), I have this sickening thought: what will happen to me when they give me the ability to email twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, no laptop required?
I think I would combust if I had a Blackberry and was able (expected? especially given the higher salary?) to respond around the clock. At least with laptops you can walk away and let people know you were somewhere (gasp!) without your laptop. Or so I’m told.
But Blackberries are different (they don't have the nickname "Crackberry" for nothing). They are meant to fill those gaps when you’re away from your desk. Perhaps this is the same as a sugar addict complaining about being locked away in candy store, but I have to confess that I worry about my ability to draw lines, given my escalating email addiction in law school.
Many panels I’ve attended with working women professions have gotten questions along these lines, and most of the women have responded that they love having the Blackberry because it allows them to go home earlier but not disappear. My favorite was a panelist (an associate at a Big Law firm) who said she thinks that many people would be surprised if they knew how many emails she sent while wearing pajamas in front of the television.
I can see the merits, and applaud the change, in de-emphasizing “face time” at the office. In that respect, Blackberries do allow lawyers who need to step out—for a doctor’s appointment, teacher’s conference, or whatever—to do so less dramatically. I’m a big proponent of workplaces that are more flexible, and I wholeheartedly applaud the ability to be flexible that our new, improved, wired world allows.
But I’m still worried. I know that the answer is probably something succinct, like: just draw a line and stick to it, for your own good. And once I start working, I intend to do just that. Yet I am concerned that I am already too addicted for my resolution to ever work out. Perhaps this is a product of growing up in a world that has almost always had an online dimension (I was just bragging last week that I was old enough to still possess an AOL screen name that was only five letters…and no numbers). For those of us in this generation – who can no longer take notes by hand, text our friends more often than we call them, and conduct much of our lives with the help of various URLs – are we disciplined enough to pull the plug?
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