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Change: Working & Learning; Anywhere, Anytime

July 30, 2010

Did you get a chance to read through the sources that I shared with you in my last post?  If not, no worries. We are going to work through the information together.  One thing I want you to keep in mind, whether the topic is staffing, billing or technology changes, is that we are actually talking about workflow. The bottom line is to understand how these areas create change and cause disruption for our legal professionals so that we can use our expertise to guide them through the change. 

Let’s think about how mobile technology is a game-changer.  A common theme throughout most of the sources, mobile technology is also a dominant topic with Learning and Development professionals. To put things into perspective, the 2009 ABA Legal Technology Survey report emphasizes how much mobile technology impacts legal services.  Up from 53% in 2007, and 67% in 2008, currently 82% of surveyed individuals use some type of mobile device while away from the office.

Mobile Devices

Should you worry about the Blackberry or the iPhone?  I suggest you disregard the question of platform and instead think about the work being performed .   We can take what we know to be true today for document production and extend that knowledge to mobile and remote workflows.   Once you understand the workflow, check to see if you need to provide details and step-by-step instruction based on specific platforms or applications.  This may not be necessary because most of us seem to be comfortable using mobile devices without the need for formal classroom training events. I’ve personally observed attorneys who were uncomfortable with Outlook, but who were power users on the BlackBerry.

Working Anywhere, Anytime

Work no longer begins and ends when legal professionals step through the office door.  Mobile technology allows professionals to stay connected when away from the office and when our legal professionals have the opportunity to be connected, they are generally working.  In fact, the lines between working hours and personal time are blurring.  Working anytime and from anywhere removes the barriers, but also creates challenges for those back at the office who do have fixed hours.  We can expect working professionals will continue to work outside  the four walls of the office  and also outside  traditional hours.  Are you thinking about your role in providing  instruction on how best to use their technology tools to work efficiently?

Back in the day when I was a legal secretary, my attorney did not have a computer.  In fact, the idea of a handheld dictation device was fairly new. (And, no, it wasn’t that many years ago!)  We thought we were efficient when he would dictate on the plane or on his way back from court and then hand me the tape as he passed my desk.  I wasn’t envisioning a day when attorneys could dictate to a  smart phone and the secretary would get a digital file in near real time.   But here we are, and it serves as an example.  The core task is the same – dictation.  The recording device has changed, the delivery has changed and the timeline to complete the work has been accelerated.  In fact, it is possible that the dictation might go to a virtual word processing team rather than an assigned secretary. 

What else does that mobile device/smart phone do for our legal professionals?  It’s a phone, it is capable of doing email, contact and calendar management and often it provides access to the internet.  Depending on the device, there might be an application that allows scanning, document viewing or access to legal specific applications such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  With our Courts beginning to use social media to share just-in-time information via blogs, FaceBook and Twitter, it’s a tool to stay connected and current with our communities of interest.

Will the iPad speed up the anywhere, anytime workforce?

Given the number of blogs written by legal professionals about the iPad , I think it is safe to say that the iPad along with tablet computing is a game-changer. Check out the Wise County & City of Norton Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office blog for a peak at some iPad screen shots and see how this prosecutor’s office is using the iPad in court everyday. 

 Learning Anywhere, Anytime

I’m taking in a lot of good information from The 2020 Workplace written by Jeanne C. Mesiter and Karie Willyerd.   The authors refer to mobile phones as “wearable learning platforms”.  This is an interesting concept. In a survey conducted by Human Capital Institute, of the 125 HR leaders who responded to the survey, 70% shared they were expecting to launch mobile learning  pilots in 2011 including training for product knowledge, compliance training and performance support.  Even schools  are experimenting with the use of  mobile phones to deliver math skills and quizzes to students.  Tomorrow’s workforce will already be accustomed to learning from their mobile device.

The TakeAway

 Mobile technology is changing how work is being performed and taking our legal professionals out of the office and away from our classrooms.  As learning and support professionals, we need to understand how they are working and be ready to advise them on ways to improve the workflow and to communicate clearly what they need for those back in the office.  Learning experiments are already underway in our schools and corporations.  Will mobile learning provide value for busy legal professionals?

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