New LawyerVolume 5, Number 2
September 2007
Table of Contents
Past Issues

Be Wary, But Buy a BlackBerry

I must admit, I am a self-proclaimed BlackBerry addict. I affectionately call my precious little device my “CrackBerry.” It is never far away from my wingspan, lest I be sent into a crazed panic.

I sleep with my CrackBerry by my bedside. Its shrieking alarm jerks me out of my slumber every morning, as I have become immune to the drone of my regular clock radio. As soon as my contact lenses cease to stick to the back of my eyelids, I turn off the piercing CrackBerry alarm. Back in my clock radio days, at this point I would stagger to the kitchen for my coffee fix. Now, I have a new fix—instead of coffee, I immediately check to see if I received any email while I was asleep, and answer as many as I possibly can before my feet even hit the floor from the bed.

If I am in a rush in the morning, sometimes I answer the bulk of the email while en route to work as I sit at various red lights. I often find myself praying for some of these red lights so that I can have just a little more time to finish replying to the email on my CrackBerry. However, this behavior is not exclusive to the morning ride to work—I find myself hoping for red lights pretty much any time I am in the car so that I can reply to email. Dangerous, I know.

Immediately upon entering my office, I turn on my computer and plug in my darling CrackBerry so that my PC and my CrackBerry are “synchronized” (meaning, each “backs up” the information in the other). By doing so, all of my contact information, my calendar, my tasks, etc., are all up-to-date and organized. During this time, I also bill for the time that I spent earlier that morning responding to email. This is not necessarily BlackBerry abuse; however, it becomes abuse when I find myself sending email while I am walking down the street to the court house, when I am on my way to lunch (or worse, at lunch), and when I am waiting for the copy machine to finish copying. I am also guilty of sending email as I wait in line at a Clerk of Court’s office to file pleadings, or when I wait for my turn for just about anything during the course of the day that requires me to be away from my desk.

Of course, my drive home is more or less a repeat of what my morning drive to work was like—sending email while stopped at various red lights. After I get home, the CrackBerry joins me on my walk with my two dogs (a miniature dachshund named Bourbon, and a black Lab named Gumbo). The sight is something to be seen—the big dog and the little dog pulling me to walk faster on the neutral ground of Napoleon Avenue as I furiously struggle to use my thumbs to send an email or a text message via my CrackBerry. After I make it back to my front door with the CrackBerry and the dogs, the CrackBerry remains by my side at all times as I wait for the little sound it makes telling me that I have an email or a text message, to which I usually immediately reply. It is like this all evening until my precious CrackBerry is placed on my night stand while I sleep.

I can spot fellow BlackBerry addicts. I can easily spot them at meetings and CLEs—they start doing the “BlackBerry Prayer,” where they glace downward, and then bow their head over their BlackBerry to check for and answer email at various points during the meeting. Fellow BlackBerry addicts also can be identified by their “ringxiety.” Most BlackBerry users use the same ring tone, so when a BlackBerry rings, all the BlackBerry owners, especially the addicts, begin to frantically check their pockets and bags for the singing BlackBerry—this is “ringxiety.” There are also the BlackBerry addicts who have the “CrackBerry Face,” where they have held the CrackBerry to their face so hard and for so long that the side of their face is sweaty and has little imprints on their cheek from the buttons on the BlackBerry. The most hard-core BlackBerry addicts, however, are those who sport “CrackBerry Thumbs”—you see them wiggling their thumbs, and pulling and massaging on them, because their thumbs are in severe pain due to the excessive typing of text messages and email. I personally have exhibited each of these behaviors, and I am sure I have exhibited other BlackBerry addict behaviors that have yet to be identified or named. I am telling you, I am seriously attached to my CrackBerry.

BlackBerry addicts gravitate toward other BlackBerry addicts. Recently, while at the Jefferson Bar Association’s Day at the Races at the Fairgrounds, I met a fellow BlackBerry addict. We probably spent more time discussing our CrackBerries than we did betting on the horses. He knew more about my precious BlackBerry than I did—he even introduced me to the BrickBreaker game, at which I have become quite proficient. In fact, I think it was fate that I met him, for he helped me through “The Dark Period” involving my cherished CrackBerry. One day, my BlackBerry refused to receive email, and I could not figure out why. I immediately called my fellow BlackBerry addict, and he offered several solutions in an attempt to fix it, none of which worked. Then, in an extraordinary extension of fellow BlackBerry addict compassion, he offered to take my CrackBerry to be examined by a man in his office who was a real, live BlackBerry technician.

It was bad enough that my BlackBerry was not receiving email all morning (although it did receive text messages), but it was even worse to be separated from it all afternoon. I was seriously going through withdrawal, and I nearly choked when I heard from my fellow BlackBerry addict that the man in his office could not fix my CrackBerry. I took drastic measures—I called the technical support number that was listed in the brochure that accompanied my BlackBerry, and the techie was very patient as he tried to help me fix my BlackBerry. Unfortunately, this techie could not fix my BlackBerry either; apparently, my BlackBerry was so sick that he had to get his supervisor to help me. I began to panic when the supervisor told me that she could not help me either, that she would have to submit an engineering request, and that it might take two days to resolve the problem. I was devastated. What was I going to do without my CrackBerry for two days?

Those two days without my BlackBerry were actually very eye-opening for me. Those two days allowed me to see the depth of depravity that I had reached regarding my BlackBerry addiction. It allowed me to see how blurred the line had become between my professional life and my personal life, and how I was the one who was responsible for blurring that line. I realized that I had turned myself into a BlackBerry addict.

Let’s face it—the BlackBerry is an amazing tool for a lawyer. It permits you to stay in constant contact with your clients, and for you to respond more quickly to clients. It allows you to work away from your desk, thereby increasing your billable hours and reducing your daily to-do list. Moreover, attorneys no longer have to carry a laptop with them to be able to check their email, and can check their email in places where there is no Internet connection for a laptop. The BlackBerry also keeps the lawyer current regarding his or her calendar and contact information, and to receive up-to-date information via email. Moreover, it is very useful in assisting a lawyer in being productive while she is away from the office, whether it be in court, while waiting to catch a flight in an airport, or while waiting for a meeting to start.

Rather than freeing me from the workplace, however, my BlackBerry inadvertently extends my workday—the multitasking that the device allows has definitely enabled my Type-A personality to totally sink into BlackBerry addiction. I knew that I had to seek some sort of help for my addiction while my BlackBerry was still on hiatus, so I looked to my friends and colleagues that were clearly not BlackBerry addicts. A common thread among them was this: it is okay for them to be away from the BlackBerry. My non-BlackBerry addict friends generally do not bring the BlackBerry into their homes after work, and do not use it over the weekends or while on vacation. In fact, a few of my colleagues actually rid themselves of their BlackBerries altogether, and replaced them with regular cell phones. I still have not wrapped my brain around this concept of one choosing to give up their BlackBerry for a regular cell phone. However, I did absorb the advice that I leave my BlackBerry alone after work, on weekends, and on vacation.

Then my BlackBerry was fixed. Now I had to reconcile my newly felt feelings of BlackBerry liberation with the aching wants and desires of a BlackBerry addict. Suffice to say, it has been nearly two weeks (as of the time I write this article) since my BlackBerry was restored, and I have reverted to my old BlackBerry addict ways. My CrackBerry is again permanently grafted to the palm of my hand, and all of my old CrackBerry habits have slowly returned. I do not envision myself as being “cured” anytime soon, especially now that my CrackBerry is getting old (it is now one year old), and there are new BlackBerries on the market that have better features—megapixel digital camera, media player, expandable memory slot . . . Oh, how I covet the new BlackBerries.

Should you get a BlackBerry? My answer is a reserved “yes.” It truly is an excellent tool—it can be customized to fit your particular practice’s needs, and it can increase your productivity; you just need to remember to set parameters immediately for when you use it, so you do not end up a crazed BlackBerry addict like me.

Kelley W. Strain is an associate attorney at Gieger, Laborde & Laperouse, L.L.C. in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her areas of practice include oil and gas litigation and insurance coverage and litigation.

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