Tired of Tech

  • May 12, 2023

Dear Advy,

I wouldn’t say that I am an older lawyer, but I will say that I have been a partner at my firm for some time - I am certainly getting up there. My law firm is big on technology and introducing new types of software and apps that will “help us” do our work more efficiently. I’m not a technophobe by any means but learning new software and multiple meeting platforms is costing me a ton of time which I am finding to be so stressful. I know I’m not the only one that is having a hard time, but I am often the squeaky wheel in these types of situations. Any suggestions on how to approach this without just being dismissed as someone that is resistant to change?


Tired of Tech

Dear Tired of Tech,

You are not alone!  Many lawyers face similar challenges. As with any profession, lawyers are finding it increasingly necessary to adapt to technology in order to remain competitive and effective in their work. With the ever-increasing pace of technological innovations, it’s more important than ever for lawyers to keep up with new developments to best serve their clients. As you are likely aware, technology is changing the legal profession through the automation of many routine tasks and is also changing the way lawyers communicate with each other and clients. Videoconferencing has become commonplace in this post-Covid world.  Training and social support within the organization are key to overcoming the issues related to new technology such as user stress, burnout, etc.

  1. Consider asking the firm to create ways to learn and “fiddle” with the new technology in a low-risk way. We are often much more able to learn technologies like Facebook because making a mistake is pretty low stakes.  Making a mistake that erases your trust account records; not so much. If its case management software, see if the firm can create a dummy case file for you so that you can play with it a bit.
  2. Perhaps you can request additional training for yourself and/or your assistant. If your assistant is proficient in the technology, they may be able to assist you along the way and be an additional resource.
  3. Often a lot of the problems with technology aren’t problems with the technology. They’re problems with blind spots of the humans who built or rolled out the technology. A valid criticism of police departments using AI to predict where crimes will occur is that the AI is using data compiled by humans which is biased because of the history of where (and on whom) enforcement happened in the past. One problem with adjusting to new technology when you’re older is that there’s always the implication that when it doesn’t work the reason is you’re not smart enough. That in turn means every time you interact with that software, it’s freighted with feelings of inadequacy which makes learning more difficult. Reframing this way doesn’t give you license to blame everybody else for the problem, but it is a good way to clear the cognitive decks to let you learn these new skills.

The fact that less experienced lawyers are learning this more quickly than you does not mean they’re smarter than you. It means you are learning this by comparing it to what you have already experienced while they have less context to compare it to. Both of those learning paths are valuable. The “technology native” obviously can master the new technology faster, just as children learn languages with seemingly no effort. However, the “technology stranger” (you) can spot the blind spots in the technology more readily and find ways to improve adaptation of the technology because you have more to compare it to. Some, like Adam Grant, refer to this ability as “crystalized intelligence”.  That case management software is all great until the moment you realize the courthouse’s outdated technology means you can’t rely on projecting a .pdf of the next trial exhibit when you’re in the middle of cross-examination. That’s not a problem with the technology. The problem is whoever developed it assumed every technology environment you’d use it in would be the same as the one in the office they sold it to. You’re not a Luddite, you’re an assumption-buster.

Be well,​

Podcasts and PD on this topic: Developing A Strategic Tech Roadmap: Why…When…How?Legal Service Delivery: Integrating Tech into Your Practice

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