Reflections on Technology Changes

I was thinking about my iPhone recently in the context of how that small, but complex, device has made changes to my daily routine, to my work pattern. It did not happen over night, nor with the iPhone alone. I have had a car phone since the early 1980s. My first was a radio-phone which was car mounted, had a big antenna, and involved hailing a mobile operator to place the call on an open frequency using a receiver/microphone with a push button like a walkie talkie. Later, I had a car mounted phone and much later, a hand held phone, then flip phone, leading to the next generation of devices – a Palm Pilot – which allowed me to get email on my phone. Then came the iPhone and later its cousin, the iPad. There are other brands, but the point is these devices came along and gave us new tools with which to work. But, what I was thinking about recently is not that we have these new tools, but that they have changed how I work. I’m sure the same is true in some ways, good and bad, for most of us. The good is that I/we have constant accessibility. We can read emails, send/receive messages, and use the device as a phone sometimes, any time of day or night. The bad news is that I/we have constant accessibility. So, one way our phones have changed how we work is the need for us to learn to manage the devices, rather than letting them manage us. Turn off the ringer, put the phone away, that kind of thing. The big change for me, though, is a sort of freedom of choice of where and when to work. Despite having the control and freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur, I have often felt frustrated when I was not available when a client called. I can’t be available all the time – most importantly, when working for other clients, but what I realize is that, even without sitting at my desk, my availability is greater than ever. I can see, and respond to, emails easily. I can, and have, forwarded my desk phone to my cell phone so that if I’m not at my desk, the caller will never know; the call follows me. This greatly reduces the game of phone tag, and aleviates my “guilt” if I get to the office late, leave early, or stop somewhere when returning from a meeting. It used to be that we required everyone to check in with the receptionist multiple times a day when working outside the office. Now we not only don’t have that requirement, we no longer have a receptionist. We are all accessible and we can utilize asynchronous communications to get messages instead of relying on paper message slips. This has been and evolution and perhaps this is something one might not stop and think about. But, I did because I was reflecting on how differently I function today than prior to having the current devices I utilize. What more will the future hold?

I am constantly amazed at the numerous ways technology has changed our ability to perform work on behalf of Magnus’ clients. David and I have been in the trial consulting business for a long, long time. I used to marvel at the efficiency of sending a fax to a client instead of mailing them a letter and hoping it would reach them. I used to search for pay telephones in courthouses so that I could check in with the office twice a day, using extreme caution by discussing clients’ cases by their case number when talking in a public place. I used to make presentations to clients using 35 mm slides and a slide projector, waiting for the “ca-chunk” sound of the slides advancing in the carousel. Those days seem long ago, but relatively speaking, they were not. In many ways, I am “old school.” For example, I prefer writing, long hand and in cursive, everything the prospective jurors say during voir dire. Those silly and cutesy little jury selection programs are too slow for my quick thinking mind! But, instead of using a legal pad and a pen, I write my notes about the prospective jurors on my super cool iPad, using an Apple pencil, and voilà, they are immediately saved in the cloud, ready to be formatted and sent to our client. How cool is that? Instead of using a tired and clunky laptop when making a presentation (the generation of technology that followed the slide projector), I make my presentations using my iPad. No wires, no papers, no fuss. All it takes is setting up an Apple TV connection and some assistance by someone who knows way more about technology than I know. I am one of those people who hardly ever uses her iPhone to talk to someone. Instead, like most people I know, I use it to check emails, text people, and look up song lyrics far more than I use for talking. And, because I am rarely in my office, often someplace I cannot disclose due to client confidentiality reasons, I can live my life on the road just as easily as I can complete my work while sitting at my desk, all the while, with no one having any idea where I am. As with many things in life, technology can be good or bad, but whatever is your opinion, it is here to stay.

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