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For example, you can no longer simply call your lawyer to set up a one-minute meeting. It now requires an exchange of emails

Allan-BonnerIn the olden days, lawyers had a schedule of service charges, as garages do. A will was so many dollars and so was a muffler. Simple. Then the accountants got a hold of law firms and pointed out the error of their ways. There were more billings to be had.

Failed phone calls were six minutes. Fair enough. You stop work, look up the number, dial seven digits, and there’s no answer. Then you go back to work. You probably chewed up six minutes.

Then we got technology for the better. Voice mail and email meant there were no failed phone calls. The client could react to a message when convenient – saving time and money. The six-minute exchange added value.

Then came technology for the worse. As with modern teenagers, lawyers appeared to fear the phone call, requiring an exchange of emails instead. Those email exchanges often include an assistant (sic), so I (client) must send or receive at least four emails to schedule a one-minute clarifying phone call with the lawyer. The lawyer can bill me, but I have no one to bill my clerical help.

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Constant interruption leading to lower IQs

One lawyer exchanged emails with me indicating a time had to be set to “manage my day.” Yet the lawyer didn’t want to know the subject matter or an estimate of how long the phone call would take (one minute). This lack of information is a detriment to managing one’s day, not a benefit. Scheduling a meeting with no predicted end time means one cannot manage the timing of the next meeting or the beginning of reading into another file after the call. It’s just a vacuous middle management phrase.

Redundancy and tautology are forms of vacuity. Needless repetition (un-needless?) adds no value. It’s just annoying. The email to set up a phone call is bad enough. Then there’s the exchange of emails to set up an in-person meeting – done deal. Yet the done deal is followed up with an email indicating an “invite” (sic) was or would be sent. It was, yet cannot be responded to on my phone but can be on my notebook or desktop.

But I don’t have the software to put it on my calendar. So, to codify the meeting time, I must send and receive at least six emails with the lawyer, often one or two with the assistant, and then manually (with help from my keyboard) enter the meeting in my calendar. I can bill no one for this clerical work.

Speaking of vacuity, management guru Henry Mintzberg noted that planning isn’t actually doing anything; it’s just planning to do something. Management guru #2, Peter Drucker, noted that so much of management makes it difficult for people to work. He also said that middle managers in the modern corporation serve no other than as “relays … human boosters for the faint, unfocused signals that pass for communication ….”

Lawyers have demoted themselves to middle managers. Shame.

Allan Bonner was the first North American to be awarded an MSc in Risk, Crisis, and Disaster Management. He trained in England and has worked in the field on five continents for 35 years. His latest book is Emergency! – a monograph with 13 other authors on the many crises that occurred during the pandemic.

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