Be careful what you wish for

Lisa Henderson-Newlin, The Levison Group

I enjoy traveling. Maybe it’s because I live in the Midwest, and looking at corn fields and hay bales is enough to make anyone head to the beach. Perhaps it’s because I love an excuse to get a Cinnabon at the airport. (Don’t judge until you’ve had one. They are amazing.)

Whatever the reason, I like to get away from the office and see the sites of this great country, even if the sites are simply a hotel with an indoor swimming pool. One of the best and worst parts of traveling as a lawyer is the iPhone. It’s great for getting constant emails and updates on my cases (No, I won’t increase my settlement offer and yes, I’m a completely heartless defense attorney). It’s nice to know what’s going on back at the office while I’m away, but as much as I appreciate the iPhone when I’m out of the office, I despise it as well.

There are definite downsides to being connected to the office and the frequent emails have a way of constantly pointing those out. Discovering there is cake in the conference room is never as exciting when you’re 300 miles away at a deposition. Receiving notification the office is closing early due to a gas leak isn’t a time for cheers when you’re arguing a motion to dismiss in circuit court.

I curse constantly being connected to the office, mostly because fellow spa-goers don’t appreciate the “Facts of Life” theme song that blares with each incoming call on my phone. However, I recently discovered the only thing worse than a constant connection to work is a complete loss of connection to it.

Last week I went to L.A. with my husband to visit some family. I also wanted to see if E! was interested in filming a reality show about a brilliant lawyer in the Midwest who writes a hilarious newspaper column about practicing law. (They said they will get back to me.) While I was away, I had constant access to my emails, voicemails, and most importantly, my secretary. However, about three days into our trip, our firm’s email server had some issues and I was unable to send emails. It was torture.

At first I thought it would be a nice break to get some time away from responding to questions. I figured the best way to let everyone know I couldn’t send emails was
to...well...send an email. Wait. I couldn’t do that. How else was I supposed to communicate with opposing counsel if I couldn’t utilize electronic mail? Surely I wasn’t expected to pick up the phone and make a call.

I felt paralyzed and helpless. I was in a strange land away from the office and found myself without the technology I frequently cursed. I wanted to get the word out to my clients and other attorneys that I wouldn’t be able to respond promptly to emails, but didn’t know how to do it. Perhaps I was going to have to start utilizing the U.S. Post Office for the next few days to deliver messages, although that might be a good thing. After all, I was supporting government jobs by utilizing the postal service. You’re welcome, America.
But then I got to thinking about how long it would take for the post office to deliver my messages, and I got concerned about timeliness. I couldn’t remember how long it took for a standard letter to get from one place to the other. The only letters I used to send were to Santa at the North Pole. I never knew how long it took for them to arrive because the jolly old guy never had the decency to respond to my inquiries for a Lite Brite. Maybe the postal service wasn’t a good option after all.

Would a carrier pigeon be faster to get my messages out? Did it have to be a pigeon? I would think an eagle could fly faster and further, and I had some serious concerns the pigeon would ingest my letter before ever making it to the destination. I’ve seen pigeons on the streets and they will eat just about anything. From discarded peanut shells to the ice cream right off my cone (as I’m eating it), those pigeons are a ruthless bunch when it comes to food. If they will eat week-old cigarette butts, they certainly wouldn’t have a problem munching on a Notice of Deposition. Maybe pigeons were out, along with all other avian creatures.

Maybe a message in a bottle was the way to go to let people know I didn’t have email access. However, that seemed a bit illogical because not all people I deal with live near bodies of water. Were my land-locked clients and friends just supposed to quietly deal with their lack of access to me during this technology drought? That didn’t seem fair, so I abandoned that idea.

Just as I was getting ready to pick up the phone to call my secretary for the number of the local town crier, I received an email saying our server was back up. Email was available once again and I couldn’t be happier. All of a sudden, the thought of responding to inquiries from my phone didn’t seem nearly as bad as hunting down a pigeon to deliver my messages. Maybe constant access to work wasn’t so bad after all. At least I didn’t have to deal with cooing pigeons and used soda bottles to get my message through.


Lisa Henderson-Newlin is a member of the law firm McAnany Van Cleave and Phillips. Contact Under Analysis by email at
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