Couple Friday afternoon summer getaway days with a long weekend like the Fourth of July and what do you get? Maybe not as much as you think.

A recent article in The New York Times pictured a family of four seated on their living room couch. Each has a laptop or mobile electronic device. They all looked at the camera for the shot, but the accompanying story demonstrates that they — and many other Americans — are kidding themselves: physical proximity isn’t the same as spending time together.

Lawyers aren’t alone in pondering what quality time with others really means, but they confront special challenges in trying to find it. Once upon a time, work remained largely in the office; secretaries tracked down partners only for real emergencies; home was a refuge. Vacations meant that the entire family went someplace where everyone reconnected — and I don’t mean with WiFi.

Those good old days weren’t idyllic, but the lines separating work from everything else were clearer. The erosion began with voicemail. The ability to leave a message made it easier to do so while creating subtle pressure for recipients to check in periodically, even during vacations. Email made things worse. To the sender, it’s less intrusive than a phone call and, therefore, isn’t considered an interruption. BlackBerrys, text messaging, and smartphones sped connection times and completed the melding of personal and professional existences.

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