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Lawyers have a range of options for continuing education — conferences and networking activities are just a few of the ways to keep up with the changes and trends that affect the law. Law school training enforces this behavior, and state bar associations often make CLE a mandatory requirement for licensing. Curiously, technology is woefully absent from most lawyers’ training regimen. It’s undisputed that using technology in today’s law practices not only makes work more efficient, but also saves time and money. Some technology tools, such as online cite checkers, have become the rule rather than the exception. Why then, in the latest American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report, do the findings show so many attorneys responding to questions regarding software availability with “don’t know?” Common legal software is still a mystery to many survey respondents. Overall, 27 percent responded “don’t know” to the question, “Do you have trial presentation software available at your firm?” For the same question, an astounding 70 percent of lawyers in firms with more than 100 attorneys responded, “don’t know.” Similarly, 36 percent of respondents did not know whether rules-based docketing software was available at the firm, again with lawyers in firms over 100 overwhelmingly unaware (78 percent) of what is available. It is time for some serious education on what hardware and software is available at your firm, and how to use it. Once attorneys are made aware of the available options, the next step is learning how to use it. There are many opportunities for training, including live classes, online courses, videos and CD-ROMs. Live classes are offered both inhouse and offsite, taught by staff, consultants or vendors. The survey shows that 31 percent of respondents found live classes taught by firm staff to be the most effective. Large firm lawyers agreed (78 percent). A cost-effective, and often successful tactic is to “train the trainer,” where one person is sent for classes, and then returns to teach others. Savvy firms will provide a range of opportunities that meet their staff’s various learning styles, from one-on-one training, as well as hands-on classroom style and print manuals. Some staff members may prefer online tutorials and videos, others may ask for written materials to read at their own pace. (Firms can purchase general technology training materials from the software vendors or third party merchants to have in house.) Computer-based training materials come in many forms; some hosted online, others available as a customizable software package hosted in house. Take advantage of your “super users,” have them create training manuals based on the firms’ customization and implementation of the available software. In addition to formal training, attorneys have many resources for getting problems solved and questions answered quickly. Survey results showed that 55 percent of respondents looked to internal support for hardware or software problems. But for those without internal support staff, there are myriad choices for quick answers outside of the vendor support hotline. Electronic discussion lists are a great way to get answers to questions, as well as user groups sponsored by vendors or bar associations. Having a consultant at the ready can also make any problems short term. Once lawyers have mastered the skills to use available technology and learned how to get problems solved, the next step is to approach technology as a practice area and seek out continuing education opportunities. When the firm upgrades to a new version of a product, make sure to get training on the new features available. For a daily dose of current news, hints and tips, seek out legal technology blogs. Make time to attend legal technology conferences and subscribe to publications that provide a steady stream of the latest news and trends. There are many technologies specifically designed to make the practice of law more efficient, practical, and logical. Take advantage of what the firm has to offer, learn about new technologies and get involved in using legal-specific software. Approach technology as a practice area, and make it part of life-long learning. Catherine Sanders Reach is associate director of the ABA’s Legal Technology Resource Center. E-mail: [email protected] For information about the 2003 survey, visit www.lawtechnology.org.

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