12 Steps Toward Fulfillment in the Practice of Law (Step 6)

Step 6 – Don’t Let Technology Control Your Life   

This week, we review Judge Carl Horn’s Step 6, Don’t Let Technology Control Your Life.  This follows the 12 steps that Judge Horn has set forth to help individual lawyers achieve balance and professional fulfillment.  Step 6 reminds us of the additional pressure caused by technology. Judge Horn encourages us to refuse to let technology invade and control every inch of our lives.

Our growing dependence on technology has led to lawyers feeling compelled to stay up on technology but yet they do not know where to turn.  Lawyers find it increasingly difficult to mentally disengage or escape from work when at home or on vacation.   The less personalized communication both diminishes lawyers’ ability to develop relationships with clients and can lead to miscommunication. Work itself has become more rushed and less considered. Our instantaneous access to information pushes performance standards higher. Our clients expect faster turnaround on research and documents. The courts and our clients expect legal work to reflect the most up to date decisions posted on the Internet.

Judge Horn also notes the negative impact technology-related pressures have had on professional satisfaction. For example, practicing law is often less personal and more mechanized. Younger lawyers often spend the bulk of their time in front of a computer screen, which is less stimulating and intrinsically satisfying. Finally, lawyers find it increasingly difficult to put their stamp of professionalism on their work.

So what do we do about it? Judge Horn suggests that we start with drawing a line. We must each decide how much of us is “for sale.” Once we have the courage to draw the line, two basic things can happen. Those who have been applying this kind of pervasive pressure might realize we can perform adequately without being at their “beck and call” 100 percent of the time. The other thing that can happen is that we might lose clients or even lose our jobs. However, Judge Horn is not advocating being lazy or shirking our duty. He is talking about working long and hard, but at some point realizing that we share every human being’s need for private space.

The boundaries are something each individual must work out. Perhaps you block off times during the day in which you need to focus on a particular task, and make sure the phone or email does not interrupt. Some of you may limit your email access when you are away from the office. Whatever your strategy, Judge Horn reminds us that the core objective is the same: To establish boundaries that prevent technology from controlling our lives.

Let us know how you have established boundaries in this area.

Next week, we will review Step 7 – Care about Character and Conduct Yourself Accordingly.

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