September 01, 2012

The Delivery-Room BlackBerry: A Labor of Love

Kathleen Balthrop Havener

Dear Mary Ann:

I am so happy to hear about the birth of your new baby boy on Monday. I hope Mom and Dad and his two big sisters are enjoying the new addition. You’ve gone from two to three now, so you and John will have to switch from a man-to-man to a zone defense. I couldn’t be happier for you.

I did want to mention something that troubled me a little. I got your e-mails sent from your BlackBerry (and a couple sent by John from his iPhone) about the Smith matter and where things stood with your efforts on our motion for summary judgment. Perhaps I should simply say “thank you so much” for keeping me up to date. As the trial team leader, of course you know how important it is that we all stay in touch about what the others are doing.

That said, however, dear Mary Ann, we do try to make a habit of staying in touch and we do work pretty much hand-in-glove. Our offices are next door to each other. We spoke before you left for your doctor’s appointment on Monday and you had left a memo in my in-box the previous Friday (as you do every Friday) updating me on all your projects. I felt very good about where we stood with everything at the office when I heard you had gone into labor.

I must say that I care at least as much about your potential “burn-out” and your well-being as I do about the work we do together. Sending messages on last-minute details about the case from the labor and delivery suite was truly beyond the call of duty (and not necessarily in a good way). When you are working at the law, it needs your full attention, as much as that’s humanly possible. When you are working at birthing a child (or hiking the Appalachian Trail or snorkeling off Anguilla or barbecuing with your family on the Fourth of July), that needs your full effort and devotion as well.

In future, when your mind should be elsewhere than your career or our cases, please leave the BlackBerry at home or at least turned off in your bag. And be sure you don’t deliver any messages through John, as that might breach privilege. (It didn’t, as it happens, but it could.) If you can try to leave the part of your mind that is fully committed to your career at home as well, that would be even better. I’d like to work with you for a long time. If you can’t take a breath without thinking of work, I won’t be able to.

Again, all my best wishes. I’ve enclosed two toy cell phones for the girls and a teether that looks remarkably like a ring full of thumb drives for the baby.



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