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Who’s in the Driver’s Seat in Today’s World of Technology?

July 12, 2011

The curtain has dropped. The jig is up. They’re on to us. They’ve heard about this thing called YouTube, they realize that Google is the source of our l33t technical skilz, they are blogging and tweeting; and all of them want a new iPad.

There was a time when the IT folks would have to convince lawyers that an investment in technology would equate to increased productivity or reduced risk. It took effort to get that mysterious box set up in a well air-conditioned room; that box that would connect the office to the rest of the world, streamline accounting practices, help track billable time and recoup lost costs. Don’t even get me started on the ones we had to pry away from WordPerfect 5.2.

A recent ABA survey[i]estimated over 130,000 lawyers now use iPads. They’re looking through the AppStore, finding all sorts of ways to make more money. The guy who used to pound out briefs on his Blackberry on the train sitting next to me, now has a much better platform to create those documents on the go. Without asking for permission, they’re trying out new ways of doing things. They’re not even telling us.

Imagine the shock when the participants of a recent session I facilitated realized, after strongly asserting their people didn’t understand social media, a large group of lawyers at the firm had started using Yammer. I was a bit surprised when in the middle of an Office 2010 consulting visit, a tech looked up from a recent email to me and asked, “Do you know about this thing called Dropbox?” Yes. We’ve been shoved over. We’re not driving, anymore.

If we’re not behind the wheel, what can we do? Anyone who’s ever been on a road trip knows the value of a good navigator. We need to have and know how to develop the answers. We need to adjust our mindset. We can no longer believe we are the keeper of workflows. We need to support the paths of working our clients blaze on their own.

This means knowing the security tools available to protect the data they want to transfer to and from their mobile devices (Ten Tips to Enhance iPad Security), and understanding the enterprise management software developed for iPads and other tablets (Trials of iPad Enterprise Adoption). We need to sit down with them and have a frank discussion about appropriate use of Facebook, one’s virtual image and online privacy.

More than anything, we need to get comfortable sitting on the passenger side. We’re here to support our drivers; help them get to where they are going, the way that works best for them. We still need to keep them out of trouble and increased flexibility requires a different mindset than even 18 months ago. If we adapt…we’re in for a fun ride.

[i] Richardson, Jeff. 2011 ABA Technology Survey suggests around 300,000 U.S. lawyers use an iPhone, around 130,000 use an iPad. Retrieved from

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