Mind over Matters

by Dean R P Edwards

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In the otherwise forgettable Wachowskis film Jupiter Ascending, one of the characters quipped in a perceptive moment, “Time is the single most precious commodity in the Universe”.

It was a fleeting moment of philosophical insight that the film failed to draw out, but I’d like to consider the
proposition in respect of the legal profession.

Time never seems to be in adequate supply for lawyers. We are constantly pressing up against deadlines and staying ahead of the increscent avalanche of emails and telephone calls.

Yet there is a qualitative difference between time being a rare commodity and its being a precious commodity.

In the age of instantaneous electronic communication, it’s fashionable to be “tech savvy”, checking emails as they arrive, pouncing on a new task or client’s question as soon as the phone rings or beeps or, according to modern tastes, barks like a rabid dog.

Instead of complaining that we haven’t enough time to attend to a task or perform it well, we should ask whether we have made the right priorities.

The Internet is replete with advice as to the downsides of multitasking and the one-stop shop that is the smartphone. The Age addressed the latter – replacing our smartphones with “dumb” phones – over the weekend.

Lawyers should take heed: stress is not just the consequence of a highly intellectual job. It results as much from making time scarce by biting off more than one can chew.

Our priority then ought to be quality. Quality takes time. We wouldn’t expect judges to provide poorly reasoned decisions churned out hastily. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect any less from ourselves and our colleagues in attending to tasks with a focus as to quality, not quantity.

If that’s not enough to cause the modern lawyer concern, don’t forget that your digital multi-tasking can literally overload your brain.

Some simple advice: put down the phone, pick up a pen and paper, and spend some time reasoning rather than reacting. If we grant that time is the most precious commodity in the Universe, then surely reason is stiff competition for the top billing.