After “attending” both LegalTech New York 2010 and Virtual LegalTech 2010, I couldn’t help but wonder about the importance of face time in an industry that has so little…face time. In the legal technology industry, training sessions are completed through Web demos. Meetings are conducted through conference calls. Files are exchanged virtually through electronic pathways to computers where processing and uploading seem to happen autonomously. The common forum for communication is email and phone “conversations” often consist of phone tag between parties over voicemail messages. Even contracts are often signed and digitally faxed between parties. Surely, this would have our hand-shaking forefathers shuddering in their graves.
Although face time is important in building trust at the beginning of a business relationship, perhaps as the legal industry and business trend towards digital communication, we need to rethink our definition of relationships. After countless emails, personalities begin to emerge from the faceless, typed-written words and a connection forms between the reader and writer. Each person has his/her own style of writing—some short and sweet, some funny. Emotions can be read—from frantic (near production time) to elated (when tracking numbers are exchanged). The receiver eventually knows what to expect from the sender when an email arrives. After personalities emerge through the digital barrier, handshaking and eye contact seem of little importance. Perhaps we can form virtual relationships that are comprised of something more than gigabytes. Perhaps these relationships are of a different kind. Like cloud computing, we are able to form cloud relationships in our minds, via digital communication.
Though, dictophiles needn’t worry. Even as technology progresses and relationships change, we will never be completely independent of face-to-face contact. After all, at the end of the day, when the phone goes straight to voicemail and your inbox is empty, all you can do is power down the computer and have a little face time (That is, if the “end of the day” ever arrives…).