Posts Tagged ‘cell phones’

Cell phone civility

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

A post on ABAJournal.comtoday reports on some very pominent people who have stopped using cell phone, “giving them more power over their time and eliminating distractions that interrupt their work and their relationships.” I like this idea as a matter of time management and have written on the need to institution phone rules, cell or land-line, for both time and client management purposes. Of course, completely doing away with the boss’s ability to contact you as a paralegal is not a good attorney managment technique. The key is to manage the phone (and email) rather than let it manage you.

This post is really about another aspect of the ABAJournal.com report though:

A Los Angeles-area college dean, Jonathan Reed of the University of La Verne, said ditching his cell phone helps him pay attention in meetings and frees him up to talk to strangers. “A cell phone signals that my whole world is me and it excludes everyone else,” he told Bloomberg. He recalls a recent trip where he saw two men in a restaurant sitting with beautiful women, and both were on their cell phones.

“Do they have someone better on the other line?” he wondered.

I have noticed a growing tendency on the part of legal professionals, including attorneys, to leave their cell phones on while meeting with clients.  Aside from being just plain rude and unprofessional, this is disasterous for client management. When the cell phone is left on and caller ID is being checked, the implication is that there is someone out there who is more important to the legal professional than the client who is right in front of them. Clients note the distraction and wonder if they are being billed for the time taken to check the caller ID. In general, they feel disrespected – and rightfully so. It also prevents the legal professional from being able to sell the idea that when they are with another client, they focus only on that client and, therefore, cannot take their call. The client knows this isn’t true, because the legal professional is willing to take other calls while with them. What this tells the client again  is that they are simply not important enough to garner the professional’s attention while the professional is with them or to be a distraction to the professional when the professional is with another client.

Civility does seem to be on the wan. The courts have started to take action against the lack of civility given by one attorney to another in the courtroom and the litigation process in general. Legal teams who want to keep their clients ought to start by being civil to those clients.

Why We Teach Professionalism

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

For many in the paralegal profession professionalism just seems to come naturally. Often that is the result, however, of years of experience because professionalism, like most other aspects of paralegal work, often requires education, training, and experience. Still, I sometimes get emails (especially from students) who ask why I feel I need to teach professionalism. These writers believe that anyone who graduates from college ought to have caught on by themselves. Clearly, though, this is not the case, because a posting at ABAJournal.com indicates that even some law students looking for positions as summer associates at large law firms have not caught on.

In that post, the hiring partner at a  major law firm notes conduct such as chewing gum, checking cell phone for text messages during client meetings, closing eyes during depositions and meetings, and showing up late. These are all negative traits when it comes to professionalism for any legal professional. The hiring partner also noted poor behaviour as early as the interview process itself, including getting the name of the law firm wrong, knowing nothing about the firm, and exhibiting a “sense of entitlement” or displaying arrogance.  

Looking on the positive side, professionals show drive, have a commitment to law, know a lot about the law firm (i.e., are prepared), and realizes this is a service business.

So, it appears that even some seemingly high-level law students need some guidance on professionalism. Perhaps, their law schools could require them to read The Empowered Paralegal: Effective, Efficient, and Professional. Or maybe, the could spend a little time observing some of the thousands of professional paralegals practicing at those firms. The summer associates would see those professionals – perhaps attending depositions with them – but,of course, in order to learn from the paralegals they would have to stop checking their cell phones for messages, keep their eyes open, and get over that arrogant attitude.