Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Drew's Alligator


Isn't this a cool photo? My nephew snapped it while on vacation in the Carribean last month. I wanted to use the photo but didn't really have a reason, so I did what I usually do when trying to write posts to this blog: free association. Hmm, alligator—litigator—nothing there but alliteration. American alligators live in swamps, they float with just eyes and nose above water until striking some hapless prey that comes for a drink…nope, still nothing. Alligators have the most powerful bite, and grab their unsuspecting prey then thrash in a death spiral until the poor victim drowns… I give up. No material relating to alligators seems useful when writing about leaders and lawyers and their relationships with each other.

On a completely unrelated topic, let's talk about email. Email is a wonderful tool, but I am continually astonished at how poorly it is used in client and lawyer relationships. Here are some observations about inappropriate uses of email for communicating with lawyers:

Email as Badminton Birdie: Lawyer receives email, responds with a query or tidbit of information rather than looking up the information or completing the analysis, and lobs it back over the net. The birdie floats in the air for some time, until someone else asks a question or adds a tiny bit of information, then lobs it back. The ubiquitous blackberry is making this game ever more attractive, because it is nearly impossible to actually provide substantive legal advice from a blackberry screen, but it is really easy to just lob the task back, down, or up. And if by chance the birdie has been lobbed into a gutter and no one has bounced it back, it can sit there for months before someone realizes that things aren't progressing. Just stop it. Do the work rather than playing a game, and follow up every important email with a phone call. Seems obvious, but apparently it's not.

Emotional Email: This has been discussed many times in the popular press, but it bears repeating. Never ever send an email when in any emotional state other than professional detachment. Sarcasm is absolutely off limits, even with "friends." Ditto anger, frustration and annoyance.

Email Jokes: Humor, too, should (almost) never be transmitted using a professional email account. I once relayed what I thought was a very funny Google joke (their April Fool's posting last year) and intended to make fun of myself, but it was received quite differently. Who new. Oh well, lesson learned. Best to reserve funny things for your friends outside of work.

Which brings us to Emoticons. I hate the things. But email doesn't convey a proper feminine vocal manner, one that speaks sweetly and deferentially and makes the point in a demure but accurate way. As one prone to sending brief email transmissions, I really wish there were some way to add to the text of every short, assertive message, the following disclaimer, in pink, right below the reminder to be green:

"This message is not intended to annoy anyone, it is merely a brief message of instruction or information. It should not be relied upon for assessing the personality characteristics or professional suitability of the sender. It is just information you asked for or that you need to know."

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