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Surfing the Filtered Web

January 18, 2008
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I’m not sure how those young lawyers in the olden days of 1980s and early 1990s survive.  How did they make it through without the access to the Internet?  No ESPN sports news updates, no fantasy sports transactions at a click of the button on Yahoo!, no shopping on Amazon, no Youtube videos.  We truly take for granted the luxuries we now have in today’s world.

Of course, in many cases, these luxuries are taken away from us (at least for a certain period of time).  Many law firms have instituted Internet regulation policies, which affect lawyers and support staff alike.  Some firms limit access for those aforementioned websites to either before or after work or during the lunch hour.  Other firms allow some flexibility and provide you with “quota time,” which can be used for certain sites throughout the day, no matter what time.  Many firms, of course, still prevent access to pornography, gambling and social networking sites (such as MySpace) entirely. 

Among the stated benefits of the policies are to limit distractions and increase productivity.  Truth be told, you do tend to work better and more efficiently when you’re not as tempted to access the latest Hollywood news or find constant updates on your favorite football team.  Sometimes, though, even legitimate work (such as researching information on public companies that happen to be classified as “shopping” sites) is affected by the policy, and you often need to obtain special permission from your technical support department to get to where you need to go.

Fear not, as all is not lost, and you can still survive in these “totalitarian” conditions:

* For certain sports/entertainment news, check out the local newspaper’s website (such as Philly.com).  Oftentimes, these websites do not fall within the rubric of “sports” or “society/entertainment” and allow unfettered access.

* Maximize your allowable access time as much as possible.  Quickly scan through the headlines and select only the major stories to read.  Don’t waste your time on news and information that you can glean from regular sources.  Read a particularly long story or website last, as once a page is open, you can tend to keep it open (so long as you do not reload it) and read it even past your allowable time.

* Make friends with the “higher ups” – meaning, the technical support people who control the access or even partners who have the same vested interest in accessing, say, the same fantasy sports website.  You may be able to either learn the method to circumvent the filter or to even make a particular website generally accessible.

Of course, perhaps the best way would be to do most of our “surfing” either before or after work day.  Nevertheless, sometimes, a little distraction is a good thing and keeps us going as we make our way through our work.

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