If you are a new lawyer, freshly hired into a small law firm, there may be a part of your work that doesn’t show up on a job description: unofficial IT support. While there is no reason your partners should assume you will be better at updating Windows or troubleshooting a printer, you may be able to use your tech savvy to your advantage.
Lawyers are notorious for having poor IT support. All too often we rely on our assistants, spouses, or family members to troubleshoot our technical difficulties. Now it appears that some law firms have found a new source for unofficial IT support: young associates.
Lawyerist.com author Sam Glover recently wrote:
Lawyers who have fallen behind the times often try what probably seems like a good solution: hire a young digital native and give them the job of updating the firm’s technology.
That isn’t always the intent. But as many young lawyers have found out, the “computer stuff” often falls into their laps.
While it’s true that young lawyers are much more comfortable with smartphones and social media than the average lawyer-of-a-certain-age, there is no reason to assume they are competent to do everything that involves a computer. Young lawyers may understand Snapchat, but good luck asking them to format a Word document properly, encrypt an email, or create a paperless workflow. Those aren’t skills picked up while posting selfies to Instagram (though you might have a slight advantage the next time you need to introduce a tweet into evidence).
I agree with him 100%. New lawyers should not bear the brunt of outdated technology or software policies that distract from their work and bog down their research, writing, or case building. That’s not what they were hired for.
But that’s not to say they shouldn’t put their tech savvy to go use.
When I was a newly graduated law clerk, I went to work for a small firm in a small town for a lawyer with over 35 years of experience. He was not tech savvy. His assistant would print his emails for him every day and he would dictate responses for her to transcribe.
As soon as he had a fresh new associate, my job included all things technical: electronic research, updating our digital filing system, and demanding and reviewing e-discovery. He even brought me in on every marketing sales call that had anything to do with the Internet.
That is where my tech savvy came in handy. I understood the value of online articles. I was an avid blog reader. Whenever I had a question, I turned to Google. I saw the potential of building referrals through regular online content marketing.
And so, in short order, I became the firm’s blogger. I used my tech savvy to propose a way for the firm to make more money. By doing so, I became indispensable to my firm. When I chose to leave the owner even asked to pay me to keep writing the blog.
As competitive as the legal market is today, new lawyers need to do whatever they can to make themselves valuable to their firms. IT support may not be what you had in mind. But as a tech savvy new associate, you can make a difference in your career by giving sound online marketing opinions and following up by offering to take over the firm’s blog. Who knows, it could even come in handy later, should you decide to leave.
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Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and web content for law firms and small businesses. If your firm needs regularly updated online content, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.