Large mahogany desk. Crystal paperweight. Gold nameplate. Leather-bound books. Binders. Lots and lots of binders. If this is what you picture when you think of an attorney’s office—you’re not alone, but you’re dangerously outdated.
The days of an attorney flipping through code books and hunkering down with boxes upon boxes of discovery documents are over. In fact, they’ve been over for a long time.
Modern legal teams are coming to grips with the fact that, in today’s world, an iPad is a much better option than a dolly packed with banker’s boxes. You can still have all of the case documents at your fingertips—without cutting down all of those trees (or risking all of those papercuts).
With the COVID-19 pandemic, legal teams all over the world have been forced to adapt to all kinds of new experiences; hearings via Zoom, virtual deposition prep with your client from your kitchen table-turned-conference-room, electronic signatures and Dropbox links galore.
“The days of an attorney flipping through code books and hunkering down with boxes upon boxes of discovery documents are over. In fact, they’ve been over for a long time.”
Pandemic or not, there will always be that old dog who really doesn’t want to learn a new trick. You know the one, they always have a hard copy, and insist on sending that production on some kind of physical media because “it just feels more official”.
In my time as an e-Discovery specialist I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of tech-averse attorneys, and I’ve gathered my top 3 tips to help get your most stubborn support staff and Luddite lawyers to learn a few new (tech) tricks.
Showing off all of the complex searches your new document review tool can run may seem like a great way to get your team to appreciate the power of legal tech - but too many details can be intimidating to a new user. While it’s a great thing that your new tool can save a contact, link it with a matter, give you directions to their house, share it via text message, and start a video chat at the click of the button—sometimes all I want to do is make a phone call, and now I’m feeling overwhelmed and wishing for a good old-fashioned business card. I’ll be honest here, I’ve seen attorneys print out Google Map direction lists à la Mapquest more recently than I’d like to admit.
“You have to build their confidence first, before you can build their complex competency.”
As an administrator, it’s important to create simple, clear workflows for utilizing your new technology. As your team becomes more familiar with the platform they can branch out and establish their own preferences. But at first, I like to keep my team’s most important daily tasks in mind, and show them how to do those first. You have to build their confidence first, before you can build their complex competency.
Nobody wants to be the newbie, especially not your seasoned legal team with years of experience behind them. It’s embarrassing to find yourself with so many questions you aren’t even sure how to phrase them.
And when they’ve got a tried and true method, it’s much more comfortable for people to do what they’ve always done, even if it doesn’t make sense anymore (i.e. printing documents and scratching out sections with Sharpie to “redact”).
Try to create a culture of humility and exploration. For example, when we do training on new technology at my firm, Herrig & Vogt, I often open the conversation by highlighting some of the questions I had, and some things I struggled with when I was first learning the technology myself.
“Your team should feel like there is no shame in not knowing the answer right away. They just have to know where to look for help.”
Taking a moment to recognize the difficulty of what they’re learning, while signaling that they too can become an expert, helps to make the process less intimidating. This is especially important since so many platforms are updating literally overnight, and making tweaks to their user interfaces constantly. By the time you train your team perfectly on this system, version 2.0 has launched, and you’ve got to start all over again.
It’s this constantly shifting technology landscape that makes many people uneasy, which is why it’s so important to create a culture of constant learning among your team. The tech, like the law, is always changing and your team should feel like there is no shame in not knowing the answer right away. Remind them that they don’t have to know the answer, just like they don’t have to know the statute off the top of their heads—they just have to know where to look for help.
Though your fancy new legal tech may have a simple built-in chatbox for IT support, make sure there’s a person in your organization to act (either formally, or informally) as “the one” for help with this kind of tech. Oftentimes, people who are struggling with a new technology just really want a live person to help talk them through it.
"Some people may feel uncomfortable making a formal tech support request, but they don’t mind asking a quick question to their coworker.”
Since we’re doing more remote work than ever right now, the definition of a “live” person has changed a bit, but I’ve found that screen shares have a similarly positive outcome to standing over someone’s shoulder. In fact, the past few months I’ve found that while there are options to take control of someone’s computer remotely and handle the issue for them, using a screen share to point out what they should do and letting them “drive” their own computer to the solution is helpful for creating a kind of muscle-memory on how to solve the problem themselves next time.
Some people may feel uncomfortable making a formal tech support request, but they don’t mind asking a quick question to their coworker. Most offices have someone who is their Spreadsheet Sensei, or their Word Doc Doctor - make sure you’ve got someone to be your new tech leader for (semi-official) unofficial extra training.
With these helpful hints, and a global pandemic forcing the change, your legal team will be tablet-toting tech-wizards in no time.
Jennifer Resnicke is a certified eDiscovery specialist with an emphasis in document control, database creation and management, electronic discovery, and litigation support. A legal assistant at Herrig & Vogt LLP, Jennifer regularly provides administrative support to paralegals and attorneys and works closely with attorneys and construction analysts to identify and review key records to be used at mediation, depositions, or at trial.