A study done in 2007 found that “our minds drift away from our tasks fully one-third of the time.” That tidbit from Wired, Nov. 2009 at 56, set my thoughts to wandering … about moments of time off at work. No one works hard all the time; everyone slips in some downtime (See my post of Nov. 6, 2006: skiving at work; Feb. 25, 2008: attorneys and wasted time during a day; 60-90 minutes a day; and Aug. 21, 2008: main leisure time-wasters for workers.). The point of the Wired article was that drifting away may actually be useful because when we lapse our brains are reconfiguring and reprocessing input, which can help us be more creative.
A lesser form of unproductivity is delay (See my post of Nov. 17, 2008: putting off work; and Nov. 17, 2008: procrastination can harm health.). A worse manifestation is disengagement.
On the flip side, some friendliness and collegiality may appear to be frivolous, but it oils the gears of a department and helps build camaraderie. Whatever the diversion, if lawyers are not genuinely working, it should reduce what some managers consider their chargeable hours (See my post of May 21, 2009: internal chargeable hours with 12 references.).