The other day, I took one of our new aggressive associates with me to meet my oldest client, who was bringing along his 20-something son. Over lunch, the talk turned to Twitter and Facebook, and the two kids discussed how far behind the technology curve the old fogies were. “Dinosaurs,” I think they said. My associate was particularly critical of the partners at our firm and how they use, or don’t use, technology.
Afterward, I got to thinking about all the new communications options I have, and what they could do for me. Then I talked to different lawyers I know who use them well, to see what they get out of each one. Here’s what I learned:
- You can use up a lot of time learning a technology, so don’t chase after every new one that crosses your path. Do your homework first and figure out how you will really use it.
- Learn the technology’s limitations and learn to use it responsibly. You can’t tweet a brief. And you’d better be sure all your Facebook friends really are friends.
- If you plan to use some new technology to communicate, check first to see that the people you want to communicate with can or will use it.
- Make sure the new technology compliments what you already use, whether a mobile device or software for your practice. How many gadgets do you want to carry around? Will the effort you devote to the new one detract from the existing one? Is that new Cloud application really compatible with your legacy system, with no customization or extra cost?
- If you’re going to use the technology in public, then know how to work it. Ever sat in a conference room listening endlessly to “Stayin’ Alive” while someone tried to figure out how to turn their cell phone off? Or worse, while they tried to find it in their briefcase, purse or coat pockets?
- Technology, at least at work, is not a status symbol. Clients want to know that you can get the job done, not that you spent a bunch of money and time on the flashy new gadget.
- Remember that technology is a tool. You want to use the right tool for the right job.
Remember that technology is a tool, that’s all.
You want to use the right tool for the right job. And it’s probably also worth mentioning that how you use technology, and how you handle the technology, says a lot about you to your clients and coworkers. If you’re a good lawyer, you’ll be able to turn off all that technology and still “get it done” for your client.
Oh, that new aggressive associate I took to lunch? Well, he should be able to get another job. After all, he’s just a “tool.”
Otto Sorts has been reading law since before Martindale met Hubbell. Of Counsel at a large corporate firm that prefers to remain anonymous, Otto is a respected attorney and champion of the grand tradition of the law. He is, however, suspicious of “new-fangled” management ideas and anyone who calls the profession the legal “industry.” When he gets really cranky about something he blogs at HeyYouKidsGetOffMyLaw.