I like to think that I’m a pretty good multitasker. While typing this post on my laptop, for instance, I’m also checking my emails on my iPhone, and sometimes surfing the Internet on my iPad. All at the same time. Pretty good huh? Oops, I just sent an unfinished message that won’t go over well.

Most people are capable of multitasking (except one guy I knew in the Navy who couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but that’s another story).  One of the more troublesome aspects of multitasking in today’s digital world is the potential for adverse impacts it can have on relationships with clients, referral sources and prospects.  A post last week by the old curmudgeon, Otto Sorts, over on Attorney at Work brings into focus for me a couple of concerns relating to the multitasking as it relates to lawyers.

The first one I gleaned by inference from the curmudgeon’s post involves the ethical issue of billing clients while distracted.  Some may thing a quick peek at your email upon hearing the “ding” of an incoming is no big deal.  Yeah, and 3 to 5 minutes later you return to the client task, and you have spent less than  .1 of an hour distracted.  No sweat.  If it happens several times a day..… then you’ve got a more serious ethical issue IMHO, unless you subtract these “distractions” from the client’s timesheet.

The second issue deals more with marketing.  Otto Sorts points out that clients come to lawyers that focus on them and their matter.  To do so, he adds:

  • Make sure you are always making eye contact with the client during meetings and concentrating on the conversation whether in person or by phone, rather than on other electronic distractions around you;
  • listen intently more than 80% (okay at least 50%) of the time to your client, or whomever you are talking with, so that you fully understand what the issues are and that you are hearing what is important to them; and
  • keep your focus on guiding them through the legal system/issues in order to meet their personal or business needs.

These items require a lack of distraction caused by multitasking.  If a client does not feel that you are so focused, it can definitely hurt you from a marketing standpoint.  Why?  Because they will likely use someone else for their next legal matter, and certainly won’t refer others to you for their legal work.