The prevalence of smartphones is changing social interactions faster than I can write about them. One major problem is that many individuals have forgotten that smartphones make phone calls—there are times when a phone call is more efficient than sending an e-mail.
Another major problem is that everyone, including lawyers, excessively use their smartphones in public.
Smartphones are not for networking
Whether you are at a happy hour, having coffee, or a networking lunch, avoid using your phone. Obviously, this is 100% dependent on the situation, the need, and who you are with. For example, if you are having lunch with someone for the first time, pulling out your smartphone to check your e-mail after ten minutes is fairly ridiculous and rude. If you absolutely cannot help yourself, offer some meaningful explanation (it still looks bad though).
If you are expecting some critical phone call or e-mail, consider rescheduling lunch. One, you will likely be fixated on the pending call or e-mail and not engaged in a meaningful conversation. Networking means a lot more than just showing up and nodding. Two, if you are constantly staring at your phone, or have to leave to make a call, that can send the wrong message. Unless you know the other person will not take offense, assume they will.
Lawyers are busy and cases are unpredictable, but basic etiquette does not fly out the window.
People notice and most people do not like it
I’m a young attorney and very tech friendly, but I get just annoyed as anyone else when the person I’m socializing with is more interested in sending tweets than actively engaging in conversation. A recent study found that 92% of people were irritated by public cell phone usage and 75% felt mobile manners are worse than they were a year ago.
You may not have the gumption to ask someone to put away their phone, but you can avoid using yours, and hopefully mobile manners will start to improve.