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For small firm or solo practitioners, IT is just another one of those responsibilities – just like accounting, human resources and office management – that falls to the attorney running the business. When things are working well, IT is just an afterthought. But when problems arise or a creative solution is needed, where can busy lawyers without IT departments turn? First off, remember you are not alone. If you are having a problem with a program not working, or you want to accomplish something new, rest assured that many others have had the same problem at some point. This shared knowledge base can help many a computer professional and non-professional alike through problem solving or new application. The first place to turn, believe it or not, is the “Help” application that most programs have. The “Help” option is usually located along the top right of the program, and may feature a searchable database built within the program, or link to the program manufacturer’s Web site. Included within these Web sites are often discussion groups of users, many of whom are happy to share their wisdom with you. If you find some advice within the group, be sure to thank the individual. Likewise, if you come up with a solution to your problem, post the resolution so others may share in your knowledge. Besides the manufacturer Web sites, independent sites have been created for specific applications. At Google Groups, for example, there are more than 800 different groups on computer topics. Most of these are written in “geek speak” and are probably not applicable to lawyers unless there is a certain problem being researched. But bar associations often have specific discussion groups devoted to legal technology issues. One such resource is the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Technology and Information Services, which has an active discussion group where you can search for answers or post questions. Blogs and Web sites are another place to hone in on technology as it relates to lawyers. Law.com’s Legal Technology Center ( www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/index.jsp) provides articles and numerous technology tips for lawyers. Other useful sites include www.lawtechguru.com, and the Web site www.futurelawyer.com. If you’re not looking for the answer to a specific question, but you want to learn more about an application, the best place to start is by reading a book on the subject. Obviously, this can take away from billable hours, but reading on the train while practicing on your laptop can be a way around that for commuting lawyers. Instructional courses can also be very helpful, but if you sign up for a course, make sure you have actually researched your application sufficiently. When attending a class, if you know what questions to ask going in, you will be more prepared to actually learn something. These days, many computer-training programs offer free re-enrollment for the same class within a certain time period. I’ve found this helpful, because a different instructor may cover things in a different way, and just reviewing the same course material again will provide reinforcement of what you learned, and shed new light on topics you may have glossed over the first time. And finally, ask around. Your colleagues, no doubt, have the same issues you do. Nothing beats having someone you know or trust show you a trick or two that they learned along the way. BRIAN R. HARRIS is the director of information technology for the ALM Pennsylvania division and the former editor in chief of The Legal Intelligencer. Technology questions can be sent to Harris at [email protected].

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