In a prior article, I discussed the problem of partners sending nonurgent emails to attorneys and staff over weekends and holidays and how this should be avoided whenever possible. People deserve to have a personal life, and most emails can wait until the business week since they do not require an immediate response. Out of professional courtesy, lawyers should also try to refrain from sending noncritical emails over the weekend so that attorneys do not have interruptions in their personal time. However, for whatever reason, lawyers frequently send routine and noncritical emails over the weekend, and more people should respect business hours unless there is an emergent situation.
Earlier this year, on a Saturday night, I was in the suburbs enjoying a night out with friends. Of course, I check my email regularly since my clients often have emergent matters that need immediate attention. At about 6 p.m., I got an email from an adversary asking that I confirm receipt of attached PDFs. I immediately stopped what I was doing and scrolled through the email and attachments since I was sure that my adversary would only bother me on the weekend for an emergent matter. Perhaps the adversary had obtained some kind of ex parte relief or obtained an order to show cause that required immediate attention.
However, my adversary just sent me run-of-the-mill discovery demands. The deadlines to respond to the demands would be weeks in the future. I had absolutely no idea why the adversary had chosen to email me the documents on a Saturday night rather than merely waiting to send the documents on Monday.
There are a variety of reasons why adversaries send noncritical emails over the weekend, and none of them are good. For one, lawyers might want to broadcast that they are working at all hours in order to convey their dedication to a matter. Indeed, when I was a “baby lawyer” earlier in my career, I routinely sent emails at all times of the day and over the weekend to show my bosses and adversaries that I was dedicated to my job and was hardworking. However, sending noncritical emails over the weekend can also broadcast that you are a jerk who does not respect people’s personal time, and this can have an adverse impact on how people perceive you.
Another reason why people send noncritical emails over the weekend is that individuals may think they will forget about a task if they wait until working hours in order to send an email. Of course, all of us have probably forgotten to do something that we didn’t do immediately at one point or another since it is easier to take care of something in the moment than to remember to do it in the future. If lawyers have time to do work over the weekend, they might believe that they will forget to send an email or perform another task if they wait to finish a project until working hours, and this might motivate them to email other attorneys outside of business hours.
However, there are a million ways to remind yourself to do something on Monday. Write a note, tell Alexa to make a reminder, or type a reminder in your phone to send an email or complete another task on Monday. In addition, pretty much every email system allows users to delay when emails will be sent with little effort and more people should employ this method. If you send emails over the weekend thinking you will forget to do it during business hours, this just shows you cannot employ technology or other best practices to remember to complete tasks.
I may be paranoid, but I feel like some attorneys send nonurgent emails over the weekend and other inappropriate times to annoy their adversaries. Litigation is often a very adversarial process, and it is easy for counterparts to create bad blood between themselves. It is pretty amazing how courtesies can disappear during a representation because the connection between counsel has become frayed due to the adversarial nature of the legal profession. However, just because lawyers might not have good relationships with their adversaries does not mean they should become jerks. In addition, bothering an adversary over the weekend with a nonurgent email can further fray connections between counsel, which can have an adverse impact on an attorney’s ability to achieve a positive result for a client.
Of course, some emails are so urgent that lawyers need to communicate with other lawyers during nights, weekend, and holidays, and this is completely OK. However, lawyers should avoid sending nonurgent emails to other attorneys after business hours because there are few good reasons to do so, and such a practice can adversely impact a representation.
Jordan Rothman is a partner of The Rothman Law Firm, a full-service New York and New Jersey law firm. He is also the founder of Student Debt Diaries, a website discussing how he paid off his student loans. You can reach Jordan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.