America is quickly becoming what I call a Cellular Culture.
Many people no longer own computers or printers. Scanners? Ha! No.
Instead, the Cellular Culture uses their cell phones for almost everything. That’s particularly the case with the sub-30 year old segment of our population. Some don’t even use email.
Their major means of communication is through . . . wait for it . . . social media.
If a Cellular Culture person wants to complain about a customer service issue, she uses Facebook, Twitter, and even Yelp. I’ve seen people pick up their phones in a restaurant to write a scathing review online rather then speak with a manager.
Less chance of getting spit in their food, maybe?
Ringing doorbells is apparently now considered intrusive to some people. I have a neighbor whose friends don’t get out of their cars to announce their arrivals. They used to blow their horns, but now, I see them sitting quietly in their cars until someone comes outside,
Even texting is considered old school by some younger people.
The Cellular Culture is different than any we’ve seen before, and it’s evolving far more rapidly than we know.
I practice personal injury law across Florida, and that means I represent clients from from the Keys to the Panhandle. I do not meet in person with all my clients. There’s little need for it today because I use a Cloud-based software platform that allows my clients to see every document I send or receive in their cases, and my clients can use FaceTime or Skype if they really want to see my smiling face.
Plus, I communicate with my clients every week or so via phone calls, texts, and email. I want to know what’s going on with them. I want them to know they can reach out to me through a variety of ways whenever they want. I respond whenever I can.
So far, so good, right?
The proverbial fly in the ointment, though, arises when my clients must send me legal documents. The Cellular Culture tends to send pictures of documents. Those pictures are often illegible and incomplete. I’ve received pictures of a contract’s signature block before.
That obviously won’t do.
Discovery in a lawsuit can be a nightmare. Think of someone sending you a picture of each Interrogatory answer. If you’re lucky enough to get PDFs, well, you’ll potentially receive a separate PDF for each page—that literally can mean dozens of PDF pages that could and should be sent as a single document.
I’ve spent many hours creating a single document from a jumbled mess of discordant PDFs. Such messes sometimes arrive a few hours before the discovery deadline.
Yet I don’t blame my clients. It’s an educational process for them. I now discuss their legal needs—not mine, theirs—in the beginning stages of my representation of them.
No pictures. Opposing counsel and the E-Filing Portal won’t accept them.
If I send them a document to complete, then I need them to return a whole document. Not the signature page and certainly not just a picture of the client’s signature.
Don’t send legal materials and confidential through Facebook.
Don’t text discovery materials to me.
I also send SASEs to my clients now because I had one client who was unfamiliar with how to buy stamps. Some people do not use a service if it’s not online. Some seemingly have never mailed anything.
So how else do I handle this new communication challenge?
I now recommend my Cellular Culture clients download free PDF apps like Adobe Fill & Sign. I ask them to try a few until they find one they like. PDF technology has become increasingly more intuitive over the last few years.
I actually get the Cellular Culture despite some of the challenges it represents. I hate paper. I rarely print anything. Why should I? We lawyers rarely file page motions anymore unless a judge requires it.
I use my iPad for referring to motions and pleadings when I’m in state court. My trial exhibits, unless I’m entering them into evidence, are encompassed in PowerPoint presentations.
I literally do not keep paper files or CD-ROMs files. I turn everything into a digital file and use a multiplicity of Cloud and backup hard drives in order to ensure nothing gets lost. I even have a personal Cloud-server called Lima as well as an encrypted hard drive with all my client’s files on it that I carry with me on vacation.
It’s a rare occasion when I can’t tell a client exactly what’s going on with her case. I e done it from the Bahamas. Yes, I answer emails, texts, and phone calls while on vacation. I doubt you’re surprised. If you are, well, you’re probably new here.
Yet I wonder what the future holds for communication.
One day, and it’s coming very soon, we may be dealing with embedded communication technology that doesn’t require external devices. Indeed, that’s the premise of the Synchronicity. Google the term. You’ll probably be fascinated by the concept.
We will all be the Borg. Resistance is futile.
Until the Synchronicity arrives, though, we have the new Apple Watch. It no longer requires a cellular phone to be present to use it, and I suspect some of the Cellular Culture will no longer use their cell phones very often.
Eventually, we may have a strictly Watch Culture. I’ve no idea how I’m going to handle that technological evolution.
I’m sure there’s going to be an app for that.