President's Column

President’s Column

End of an Era; Put That Phone Down!

J. William Manuel

Article by J. William Manuel 2018 - 2019 CABA President


You can hear the celebration on Fox News! It is the end of the infamous Manuel Administration of CABA. Like Nuke LaLoosh of Bull Durham fame, I want to be sure to cover all my clichés: “This year flew by;” “We built some fantastic memories”; “Sometimes it rains”; and “Pay no attention to the Man Behind the Curtain.” In all seriousness, I want to pay major thanks to my Board, Executive Director, Committee Chairs and Committee members. This year went smoothly mainly due to their hard work and dedication of the organization. We had an incredibly successful Diversity Summit. We threw a wonderful Golf and Croquet Tournament. We sponsored an inspiring essay contest. We helped people in need of pro bono representation. We hosted an elegant Evening Honoring the Judiciary. We had interesting lunch meetings. Finally, I want to thank you guys, the members, who put up with my goofy demeanor, rambling columns and forgetfulness of names. It is the collegiality of our membership that makes this a special bar association. I tip my hat to Judge Tiffany Grove and the new Board who will lead this group to new heights while I join the rest of the past leaders at the CABA Presidential Retirement Home.

I have to say a brief word about the passing of one of our members, Scotty Welch, who left us too soon. Scotty was usually a fixture at the front of our membership meetings and wasn’t shy about voicing his opinions. He was a great lawyer and a wonderful friend. He will be missed.

My final Presidential Indulgence will be a brief rant about the epidemic of smart phone viewing I’ve noticed in the last few years. Younger lawyers in my firm are amazed when I tell them that I used to practice without a cell phone and constant access to email and social media (their brains would explode if I told them I didn’t even have a computer when I started as an associate). We all can admit that having a hand-held computer has made our legal lives easier in many ways. You can get an emergency email while out of the office. You can forward drafts of documents while sitting at a soccer game. We are no longer tethered to a desktop computer – which can be good.

The problem I see, however, is that many people have become more focused on their digital life than the real world around them. I can’t count how many times I’ve either been with someone at lunch or in a meeting at the office when I am talking directly with someone and they look down at their phone and start typing or swiping away. Intended or not, that implies that what I’m saying isn’t as interesting as what is going on in Instagram or a text chain. Is it that hard to wait until the end of a conversation or until you are in the hallway to get the digital fix? In addition, I think we have built up an expectation of instantaneous response to all communication, which is unsustainable. So, as my last gasps as President elapse, I ask all of you to consider leaving your phone in your purse or pocket when engaging with other live human beings. Sometimes, actual conversation can be just as interesting as a post on social media.

Thank you for letting me serve as your President. I enjoyed it.