/LTRC Roundtable Discussion: Technology Training & Support

LTRC Roundtable Discussion: Technology Training & Support


This month, we asked our panel to tell us about technology training and support.

Our Panelists:

William Goren (WG),  Dennis Kennedy (DK), Allison Shields Johs (ASJ), and John Loughnane (JL)

How do you keep abreast of the changes in the law and its practice, specifically with regard to the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology?

JL: No question that doing so is a constant challenge.  I try to stay connected with resources that focus on the area – sites such as www.lawtechnologytoday.org/ for example.  In addition, I subscribe to various podcasts and newsletters focused on legal technology.   I also try to write and speak about issues of interest as doing so is an excellent way of engaging with others and staying current on developments.

WG: Law360 if the absolute best at keeping up with any changes in the law and practice. With respect to practice changes, Law360 has different things you can subscribe to (they often call them, “your topic authority.”). However, even if you don’t subscribe to that and you only subscribe to the Law360 regular piece, you can see headlines of where the practice is going. With respect to your practice area, Law360 is indispensable. A large part of my blog entries come from things that I see on Law360 first.

DK: I have a standard set of blogs, podcasts, and social media I follow to keep me updated. The research I do for the Kennedy-Mighell Report podcast and for my classes at Michigan State University College of Law and University of Michigan Law School keep me up-to-speed as well. In a real sense, I have long made legal technology part of my lifelong learning efforts. I’m probably the exception, but you need to make a learning plan and execute it.

What are the best resources to train legal professionals in basic technology (ex. Word, e-mail, presentation software, etc.)?

JL: Most basic technology is designed to be very easy to use.  Thus diving in and exploring features and functions can often be the best way to get up to speed.   Beyond that, resources (such as vendor help sites)  that offers guidance on the  most common problems/solutions is highly recommended.   Many tools have robust capabilities that will be of interest to power users but will not be worth the time and effort for the typical user to master at the outset.

DK: I really on Google searches and the built-in help tools, which are often quite good) for just-in-time help. YouTube and other video tools have become part of my arsenal as well. However, engaging the services of a great trainer can be the best tech investment you will ever make.

AS: The Law Practice Division has some excellent resources for basic technology training. We have been publishing a series of ebook titles in conjunction with Affinity Consulting that cover subjects like Microsoft Teams for Legal Professionals, Microsoft Excel for Legal Professionals, Microsoft Word for Legal Professionals, Microsoft Outlook for Legal Professionals, and more. We also have a wonderful book covering Adobe Acrobat – The Ultimate Guide to Adobe Acrobat DC. You can find our technology titles in the bookstore. We are also beginning to put together a series of videos through the Legal Technology Resource Center that will be published here on the Law Technology Today blog with some basic technology tips.

Outside of the ABA, I am seeing more and more courses being given specifically for lawyers on legal technology topics. One such series of courses is being given by Hofstra Law School and is open to lawyers and their staff – the Legal Technology Skills Certificate (Full disclosure, I am working with the Law School and helped develop the program). The series includes courses on Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat.

How do you evaluate new legal technology when selecting solutions for your firm?

JL: For firms with more than just a few attorneys, forming a beta user group is well worth doing to help test out the solution before full deployment. Soliciting feedback and addressing concerns early can help ensure a successful firm-wide launch.  Speaking with other firms and careful diligence is also very important of course for a firm of any size.

WG: My number one criteria is whether the technology is accessible to voice dictation users since I use voice dictation myself. After that, it becomes a question of whether the technology works with my particular style.

DK: I’m a big fan of Clayton Christensen’s “jobs to be done” theory.” Everything starts with the question, “what am I hiring this tool to do for me?” My next steps flow from that. In a form setting, it’s important to start with, “do we already have something that will do this?” These days, I only consider cloud tools with mobile apps. I also look to the category leaders, especially in percentage of marketplace so I’ll be using something that people will be familiar with and it will be easy to find training for. And I keep asking myself, “am I overthinking this?”

AS: I’m no longer practicing law, but when I am evaluating new technology for my consulting practice, or working with my clients to evaluate new technologies for their firms, it is important to understand how the technology will add value to the firm and/or its clients and to weigh that added value against the costs of implementing the new technology – including not just the price, but the ongoing cost of maintaining the technology, and the cost of training. How will the new technology better serve the needs of the people who will be using it? Have other, similarly situated firms chosen the same technology? What is their experience with using it?

It is also important to see how that technology will fit in with what the firm is already using – does the new technology integrate well with existing programs, or will additional changes need to be made? What is the learning curve on the new technology? My Simple Steps column, Introducing New Technology to Your Law Firm, in the January/February 2018 issue of  Law Practice covered some of this in more detail.

When you have a technology problem how do you solve it?

JL: In order to solve a technology problem, it is first necessary to understand the exact nature of the issue.   Thus, before deploying time and other resources towards a solution, it is worth taking some time to consider the exact problem and whether the issue requires a technological response or some other response.  As with other types of problems, it is worth listening to others who have shared the same problem and considering steps taken to resolve.

WG: Customer service for the software is really critical.

DK: I’ve run into so many tech problems over the years that I rely on my experience and general principles I’ve developed. I’ve become disappointed in Google’s search results in many ways, but Google still excels in surfacing answers to the specific tech question that you have. Don’t overlook the help and support pages for the product causing the problem – they might well have a simple fix. I run the newest versions of programs, fully updated, and that solves many problems. Lately, YouTube videos have become a great resource.

AS: Depending on the problem, I may do any or all of the following – and not necessarily in this order:

(1) Turn it off and turn it back on again.

(2) Go to the website of that technology (either manufacturer’s website, or the software website) and look for troubleshooting or the help feature.

(3) Describe the problem in a few short words and do a Google search to see if someone else has already encountered the problem and has a solution that I can handle myself.

(4)Do the same on YouTube.

(5) Call or email an expert.

What do you wish you learned about technology in law school?

JL: My experience with law school is dated at this point – but generally I wish that law schools embraced technology not just as a tool to use for the conventional application of the law but also as an opportunity to help create more just access to the law for all.  Certainly, some schools today are doing just that — which is terrific to see.

DK: I’ve been out of law school for almost 40 years, although I’ll saw that the “Computers and the Law” seminar I took at Georgetown in 1982 provided me with many valuable insights I still use. It’s probably best for me to answer this from the perspective of what I’d like my current students to learn. I think you need a solid awareness of the landscape of the standard law practice technologies, especially anything client-facing or in the realm of collaboration. Having a solid understanding of what the tech competence rule might mean in the real word is big, as is learning to be able to ask for help when you need it. Getting very good at cybersecurity. Probably, choosing one tech that you become known for your expertise is a good goal. And, my theme for this roundtable, making legal tech part of your lifelong learning efforts. Another good one, if your law school isn’t teaching it, ask them to start teaching it. Finally, becoming good at legal tech can put you well on to the path to partnership and leadership roles.

AS: My law school days were so long ago that it wouldn’t have mattered, since everything has completely changed since then. We were barely beginning to do computerized research when I was in law school and few lawyers used computers at their desks then. I think the most important thing that law schools should teach about technology is to provide practical skills that young lawyers will need starting out, in the context of how they will be used in practice now, while at the same time being open to the rapid change that is sure to come. Familiarizing law students with how technology can be used to make lawyers more productive and more effective in and out of the courtroom, and introducing them to the kinds of technology that are available and how they can be used – from billing and practice management software to courtroom technology and AI, as well as cybersecurity and related issues.

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