Shout out to Megan Zavieh who wrote a “stating-the-unstated-obvious” article for AttorneysAtWork.com. Zavieh essentially points out the elephant in the room when it comes to the growing push for tech competence in the legal profession:
“Maybe our duty to maintain competence is easier to attain than public discourse would lead us to believe. Maybe the tools we are responsible for mastering are not the new ones, but the ones we have been using for years.”
YES! Every law firm trainer I’ve ever met is now lighting candles in Zavieh’s honor on their fireplace mantels. Since the ABA changed its model rules to incorporate technological competence as part of a lawyer’s ethical duty to his/her clients, people have been writing breathless articles about all the ways technology is changing the legal industry. Artificial intelligence, automated contract review platforms, chat bots, blockchain…
It’s easy to see why the average lawyer, who is already working around the clock, might think: “I have to learn all that to be competent?!”
The answer is: NO! You do not. Your clients don’t expect you to be able to book meetings with your voice. They expect you to be able to write their legal documents efficiently and share them securely.
Microsoft Office, PDF, Email: Master These First
“…despite being far less sexy, everyday tech tools are still far more important to law practice — and to clients — than those on the cutting edge. Growing numbers of lawyers may be using shiny new technology. But every single one of us (or thereabouts) is using Word, an email client and a PDF app.
“Core competence in using these everyday tools is what we need when it comes to fulfilling our ethical duties of technological competence.”
She goes on to say:
“So, if the idea of tech competence stirs up fear and anxiety, realize that you are not being required to learn to code. You are simply being asked to know how to properly use such tools as the redacting feature in your PDF app.”
I can almost see lawyers’ eyes rolling as they read this. They are either thinking, “Word?! I know how to use Word… well enough!” Or they are thinking, “Word?! Anything I don’t know how to do, my assistant can do/fix for me.”
Now THAT is what your clients do NOT want to hear. While your clients may not care if your pen can record the room and turn it into a transcript, they DO care if you burn hours trying to create a table of contents. Those hours mean dollars – their dollars. And clients are increasingly scrutinizing their attorneys’ work to determine if they are getting enough bang for their bucks.
How to Test Your Legal Tech Competence?
The Procertas Legal Technology Assessment (LTA) team has put together a list of fundamentals that attorneys should know. Shocker: It does not include anything about chatbots or artificial intelligence. It includes things like, “cut & paste” and “rename worksheet.”
- Accept/Turn-off changes and comments
- Cut & Paste
- Replace text
- Format text
- Insert hyperlink
- Apply/Modify style
- Insert/Update cross-references
- Insert page break
- Insert non-breaking space
- Clean document properties
- Create comparison document
- Copy/Rename worksheet
- Insert column
- Format column width
- Format text
- Remove duplicates
- Prepare to print
- Pivot Table
- Pivot Chart
- Convert Word & Excel documents to PDF
- Create single PDF from multiple files
- Recognize text (OCR)
- Extract page
- Highlight text
- Redact information
- Insert footer
- Create bookmark
- Create internal link
- Remove hidden Info
- Password protect
To this list, I would add: “Email security awareness training.” Email is the always-wide-open front door to your firm. It is the weak spot of choice for hackers who are looking to steal your clients’ sensitive data, so you should be trained to recognize phishing and other email scams.
Leveling Up is Not Rocket-Science – Or Law School
You’re a smart cookie! You graduated from law school! Do not be intimidated by these new tech competency requirements. Truly, you do not need to spend much valuable time in order to master these skills. As Zavieh says:
“We need programs qualifying for CLE credit to include seminars on using Word well. We need hands-on how-to programs on using redaction tools and creating tables of authorities. This is particularly important for solo and small firm lawyers who typically lack large administrative support teams. We need 101-level courses on security and privacy measures.”
Savvy Training & Consulting not only offers a stand-alone content library chock-full of the types of videos and courses that Zavieh mentions above, but we also offer LTA Assessment-Only Modules. AND we offer email security awareness training.
Simply put: Savvy can make you tech competent in the important fundamentals.
Don’t let the words “tech competency” strike fear in your heart. Contact Savvy today to see how easy it is to level up!