DTCI: Throw your cell phone into the spaghetti bowl

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dtci-strenksi-jamesAbout five years ago, my father-in-law (who my children affectionately call “Poppy”) got so fed up with his cell phone that he threw it into a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs that was sitting on the kitchen table. My children, who were young and impressionable at the time, thought this was one of the funniest things that they had ever seen. There are times when we all feel like throwing our cell phone into the spaghetti bowl – technology can be extremely frustrating. However, my observation is that people, and especially attorneys, steadfastly refuse to throw their cell phone into the spaghetti bowl, even when they should.

Cell phones, tablet devices, laptop computers and other forms of mobile technology are great things. They increase our productivity. They allow professionals, including attorneys, to multitask. They give us the freedom to work away from our offices. Gone are the days when attorneys had to be at their offices during regular business hours; we can now attend our children’s ball games while taking short conference calls or responding to email correspondence. In a family such as mine, where both my wife and I have full-time jobs, cell phones allow us to juggle our home and work responsibilities more effectively.

However, my observation has also been that the electronic devices we possess are “mixed use” devices. In addition to housing our work email, work calendar and work-related apps, these devices also have a number of “play” apps, including but not limited to video games, Internet capability and YouTube. Accordingly, the ability to access both work and play 24/7 is only a click away. It is unfortunate, but I often see attorneys, friends and strangers using their cell phones or other smart devices at times when it is absolutely inappropriate to do so.

I attended a seminar this past spring. It was a great event; the speakers were excellent, and the seminar was well attended by attorneys from all segments of our profession. I arrived at the seminar a little bit late and ended up sitting in the back of the auditorium, so I had a fairly good view of the attendees in the room as well as the speakers. The number of attendees who had either a cell phone or a tablet device was striking. What was also striking was the number of attorneys who were using their cell phones or tablets during the seminar presentation. It was also clear from what I could see on the screens that the use of these devices was not work related. I found it a little shocking and rather depressing that many of the attendees were using their smart devices at a time they should have been listening to the presentation. Moreover, I suspect that none of these attorneys discounted their ethics credit for the time spent using their cell phones or tablet devices during the seminar.

Another example of smart phone misuse or abuse can be vacation. Like many attorneys, I take my cell phone and tablet with me on vacation, mainly to clear emails while away. If I didn’t bring my smart devices, I would most likely spend my first day back at work going over hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of emails that had come in while I was away, most of which are inconsequential, insignificant or just plain spam. However, more often than not, I find myself handling some small aspect of some matter on vacation just because I saw it come in on my email. Before long, I find myself billing an hour or two each day of vacation on matters that – while not insignificant – could have certainly waited until I returned to the office. At some point, attorneys, myself included, have to ask themselves, “What’s the point of vacation if you’re just going to work during it anyway?”

Cell phones, tablet devices, laptop computers and related devices are great; they put work and indeed the world at our fingertips 24/7/365. However, there are times when we really shouldn’t be checking our email or playing solitaire. As members of a great profession, we need to recognize that there are times when we really do need to be like Poppy and throw our cell phone in the spaghetti bowl – if only for a while.•


Mr. Strenski is a partner in the Indianapolis firm of Cantrell Strenski & Mehringer and is a member of the DTCI board of directors. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.


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  1. I commend Joe for standing up to this tyrant attorney! You ask why? Well I’m one of David Steele victims. I was in desperate need of legal help to protect my child, David saw an opportunity, and he demanded I pay him $3000. Cash. As I received motions and orders from court he did nothing! After weeks of emails asking him to address the legal issues, he responded by saying he was “on vacation “and I should be so lucky to have “my attorney” reply. Finally after lie on top of lie I asked for a full refund, which he refused. He then sent me “bills” for things he never did, such as, his appearance in the case and later claimed he withdrew. He never filed one document / motion for my case! When I finally demanded he refund my money he then turn to threats which scared my family for our lives. It seem unreal we couldn’t believe this guy. I am now over $100,000 in debt digging out of the legal mess he caused my family. Later I was finally able to hire another law office. I met Joe and we worked diligently on my case. I soon learn Joe had a passion for helping people. As anyone who has been through a legal battle it is exhausting. Joe was always more than happy to help or address an issue. Joe was knowledgeable about all my concerns at the same time he was able to reduce the stress and anxieties of my case. He would stay late and come in early, he always went the extra mile to help in any way he could. I can only imagine what Joe and his family has been through, my prayers go out to him and all the victims.

  2. Steele did more than what is listed too. He purposely sought out to ruin me, calling potential employers and then lied about me alleging all kinds of things including kidnapping. None of his allegations were true. If you are in need of an ethical and very knowledgeable family law paralegal, perhaps someone could post their contact information. Ethics cannot be purchased, either your paralegal has them or they do not.

  3. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  4. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  5. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise