Ah. Email. The greatest invention for lawyers. Ping
, and you can exchange positions statements at 2am. Ping
, and you can get that 150-page expert's report on your phone to read while you're on the train eating the breakfast you didn't have time for at home. Multi-tasking; using your time effectively. It's what a busy practice is all about. Ping
, and you can look an irate judge in the eye and smugly say, 'Your honour/My lord, the skeleton argument was sent. I emailed it myself at four o'clock this morning. I have a "sent" record here. So, there!'Ping
The speed, the ability to be accessible 24/7 that email allows. It's fabulous ... Except it isn't.
If you're exchanging documents in the early hours of the morning, you're not using your time effectively. Night time is sleep time. It's when you're supposed to rest and recuperate from the day that has passed and rejuvenate for the one ahead. Sleep is essential for maintaining normal levels of cognitive skills such as speech, memory, innovative and flexible thinking: all vital assets for a lawyer. Sustained sleep deprivation also has a significant impact on emotional and physical health. To be an effective lawyer neither of these should be compromised because, if they are, this will invariably jeopardise the quality of your work.
In short, the wonderful invention that is email can be misused in our family practices. It allows each of us - counsel, solicitors, experts, social workers, guardians - to leave what needs to be done early until the last minute. Not because we are lazy or incompetent, but because we are all under tremendous pressure
, snowed under with cases requiring our urgent attention, and there aren't enough hours in the day to deal with it all.
So, we rely on the quick ping
. Just click on that magical word 'send' any time of the day or night, and our part of the job is done. The trouble is, for every 'send' there is a 'receive'. Someone has to receive that eleventh hour email and work on it.
I have yet to meet an advocate who likes the nightmare of drafting an order via the round robin email (usually an order already 'agreed' at court). It takes on average a week to get every comma correct to everyone's satisfaction.
How good for your eyes can reading a late 80-page report on your iPhone be? Show me a counsel who likes the 'email brief' and I will show you a masochist. Not 'brief' as in the short instructions, but the 1,500-page bundle sent via email.