Tech tools are proliferating in the legal field, and employers expect legal professionals to not only keep abreast of the latest software and platforms but to use them in ways that drive efficiency and impress clients.
So where do you start? The first step is to educate yourself in the technologies that are reshaping how law firms work. The second is to decide which of these technologies you want or need to master, and then get the training you need to achieve that goal.
Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the latest legal tech
As a legal professional, it’s likely that you already use at least some of the following technologies on a daily basis. Of the rest, it’s safe to assume they will be arriving in your office in the near future.
- Cloud-based eDiscovery. The cloud is the most efficient way to store and process large quantities of data, which makes it the ideal platform for eDiscovery. With a cloud-based solution, you can run queries in a fraction of the time it would take using an on-premise system.
- Document automation. Document automation services take the drudgery out of creating legal paperwork. New technologies like machine learning and natural language processing will soon allow systems to create bespoke legal documents from scratch, without any manual intervention.
- AI-powered legal research. Legal professionals deal with artificial intelligence (AI) on a day-to-day basis, thanks to services like Westlaw Edge and LexisNexis Advance. Both of these legal research services employ AI to offer powerful insights that would be unobtainable if you were relying on manual research techniques.
In addition, legal professionals should be especially well versed in data security in order to safeguard confidential client information.
Step 2: Advance your tech skills on the job
Any technology you’re not familiar with takes time to master and how you approach that task will depend on your work style and priorities. Here are some ideas:
- Find a mentor. If there’s someone in your team with strong IT skills, ask if they’d mind giving you some tips. They could help you get up to speed with a new tech tool or suggest ways of working more efficiently with an old one.
- Look into online courses and certification. One of the easiest ways to learn about technology is via technology. Online courses can allow you to dip into everything from the pros and cons of specific software platforms to broad discussions on the future of legal analytics. If you want to focus more closely on a particular subject, consider obtaining a professional certification such as Certified eDiscovery Specialist (CEDS). It’s a time commitment, but there are few better ways to add value to your resume.
- Keep yourself briefed. Reading online blogs and articles is an effective way to keep up to date with law technology trends. Sites like Law.com have dedicated verticals on legal tech, while the American Bar Association offers legal tech surveys and resources.
- Become a beta tester. If your IT team is planning to roll out new software throughout the firm, they may need volunteers to test it. The upside for you is that you’ll have an expert talking you through the process and the chance to offer feedback that could improve the user experience.
- Ask for training. If you’re not the only one on your team struggling with a new piece of tech, that’s something your managers probably need to address. Don’t suffer in silence — talk to your colleagues about any tech problems you’re facing. If it turns out they’re in the same boat, put in a joint request for more training.
Finally, always remember that learning how to use technology is not an end in itself. The goal is to use it to become more efficient and proficient at your job. If you can master the IT tools you need, it will free up time and energy for you to simply focus on being a great legal professional.
Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a premier legal staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and global markets and offers a full suite of legal staffing and consulting solutions.