Blackberries Be Gone!

Slate's blog on legal issues.
April 11 2008 9:43 AM

Blackberries Be Gone!

Via the ABA Journal and Newsday , I learned today about a New York City-area law firm that has banned BlackBerry usage (and presumably that of other similar devices) by its attorneys and staff at major meetings.  Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone LLP made the move because it found people just weren't focusing on the subject at hand—they were too busy reading e-mail and thumbing out messages. Partner Ira Halperin told Newsday that "[w]e like everyone to be connected to clients and to be very responsive to their needs" but not at the expense of being BlackBerry-toting zombies who were unable to focus on anything other than their e-mail.

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In my practice, and my work in/around government, I've seen this problem too. Big time. I'm certainly guilty of excessive BlackBerry usage. I even have colleagues (including some at Slate ) who read their BlackBerries and thumb out messages while driving—a massive risk for them and for their companies, which may be held liable for anything that happens while they're reading/sending work e-mail. 

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I'm curious what my Convictions colleagues think of this phenomenon. I think we've gone too far—and that the quality of our counsel actually suffers because we are moving too fast and responding too quickly. We need to slow down. But what do you think? Have BlackBerry devices really become Crack Berry devices—such that we're so addicted to e-mail that we can't do anything else? Should law firms take a Draconian approach like Meltzer, Lippe? Or should they try a softer touch?