Communicating with clients, scheduling depositions, and meeting deadlines have always been sources of stress in the law office. Ironically, rapid development in the very technology that was designed to make legal work easier has led to law practice technostress. The Oxford Dictionary defines technostress as “stress or psychosomatic illness caused by working with computer technology on a daily basis,” and neither lawyer nor paralegal is immune.
First, the increasing number of devices on which business may be conducted means that a lawyer is always at work, regardless of the day or the hour. Anxiety may be high during preparation for medical malpractice litigation or construction litigation, and between the desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone, lawyers may be faced with client communication 24 hours a day. In his LinkedIn blog entitled “5 Ways Smartphones Are Transforming The Way Lawyers Work,” Richard Hugo-Hamman of LEAP Legal Software writes, “The reality is that your clients have smartphones, and that sets the pace at which they work. Lawyers that choose not to match the pace at which their clients work will be replaced by the lawyers who do.” And that connectivity is not without merit. “From a client service perspective, the simple fact that you have all your clients’ information, including all documents and correspondence with you at all times, will inevitably result in you providing clients with better service,” Hugo-Hamman says.
Unfortunately, law practice technostress is the price attorneys pay for such connectivity. Dr. Christine Grant of Coventry University’s Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour, and Achievement, told the BBC, “The negative impacts of this ‘always on’ culture are that your mind is never resting, you’re not giving your body time to recover, so you’re always stressed. And the more tired and stressed we get, the more mistakes we make. Physical and mental health can suffer.”
Second, choosing the software that best fits a lawyer’s practice needs and has the easiest learning curve is difficult, again because of the increasing number of choices. The South Carolina Bar website highlights software in the categories of accounting, practice management, document assembly, document management, security, billing, and word processing, with multiples choices in each category. How does one choose between BigTime or Bill4Time? Rocket Matter or Smokeball? And once the decision is made, there is the stress that comes with lost productivity during training and fear of being replaced by the new technology. In “The Atlantic,” Professor Christopher Bader of Chapman University stated, “People tend to express the highest level of fear for things they’re dependent on but that they don’t have any control over, and that’s almost a perfect definition of technology.”
Finally, lawyers and paralegals must deal with the “techno-uncertainty” related to the short lifecycle of both devices and software. Updates and upgrades occur so frequently that users never reach a level of comfort with a particular system. Knowledge quickly becomes obsolete, and relearning is required often, resulting in both slower workflow and a greater number of mistakes.
In an excellent blog entitled “10 Cures for Technostress,” Jackie Ashton offers suggestions that might help attorneys and paralegals who are experiencing law practice technostress. Among them are taking inventory of how much time is being spent using technology, making time for brainstorming and reflection, lowering the volume and screen brightness of devices, and pausing before responding to stimuli. The best suggestion? Finding — and using — the cell phone ‘off’ button. “This is one of the best life changes I’ve made,” Ashton says, “one that has greatly reduced stress and unnecessary interruptions.”
CompuScripts Court Reporters is dedicated to easing law practice technostress. In addition to our easy, online scheduling, we are happy to schedule through an old-school telephone call to 803.988.0086 or 888.988.0086. Our videoconference center eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming travel to depositions. And while we offer paperless transcripts using a variety of file extensions and formats, we’re also happy to provide you with a hardcopy of your deposition transcript.