Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mastering Technology

There was a time when attorneys could get away with not learning how to use a computer, and burying their heads in the sand when it came to technology. Those days are long gone. If you want to succeed and thrive in the modern law firm, you not only have to be familiar with technology - you have to master it. To do so, consider the following:

Learn Word. Knowing Word Perfect is well and good, but today, most everyone uses Word as their word processor, and more than that, are intimately familiar with all its features. Take the time to go through the help functions that accompany the program and consider buying an Idiot Guide or Word for Dummies to learn it well.

Learn Excel. In addition to learning Word, learn Excel, the leading spreadsheet program. Whether you are preparing charts or keeping track of a lot of information, Excel is the perfect program for such jobs and an application that merits being mastered.

Learn Power Point. Whether it is for trial, a hearing on a dispositive motion, a presentation to a client or for a CLE course, today Power Point presentations are everywhere, and if you haven’ t prepared one yet, you’re one of the few who hasn’t. Again, there are books for the uninitiated. Buy them and read them.

Learn Westlaw. Law libraries have become an anachronism. You need to learn Westlaw, and to save your firm and your clients money, learn it efficiently. Also, Westlaw has all sorts of databases other than cases and statutes that have the information you are looking for.

Master the web. The internet is your best friend. Through Google, you will find out all sorts of things about that plaintiff or that expert you are preparing to depose. You will find all sorts of journal articles and websites dedicated to the scientific issues you are trying to get your brain wrapped around. Facts and data that would taken days to find in the basement of some library are at your fingertips.

Scan, scan, scan. We are headed toward a paperless law firm. It is only a matter of time before every document, whether received by a law firm or sent out, including every piece of discovery, will be scanned, sorted and organized, to be retrieved and reviewed with the touch of a few keys. Get used to scanning or having your secretary scan all your documents. You will be amazed how much time is saved when you no longer have to track down pieces of paper in your firm’s file room or at the bottom of a pile on the partner’s desk.

Get a PDA. Today, with clients expecting every access every minute of every day, you cannot leave the office without a PDA (personal digital assistant), to access your e-mail, the communication mode of choice these days.

External access to your firm’s computer system. Chances are you r firm has a way for you to access its computer system, whether you are at home, at the airport or in a hotel. If not, discuss with your firm about getting external access for everyone. This will allow you to work from home or anywhere else for that matter. Today, law offices are no longer confined by four walls.

Learn trial technology. These days, technology is king in the courtroom. So, what is the latest technology? Well, that is a bit of a trick question, because court room technology is always changing. By the time this is published, the newest and latest would have changed. That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for seminars, articles and web articles discussing the latest fads, trends and what works and what does n0t in the courtroom.

Technology, regardless of how overwhelming it gets at times, can and will make your job easier. It will particularly make it easier to manage the ever increasing amount of information and documents involved in litigation. Learn it, master it and live it.

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