I recently enjoyed the opportunity of speaking to a group of Law Firm Managing Partners for the Northern California Association of Defense Counsel, a branch of the DRI (Defense Research Institute). The most impressive part of all of this to me was that these law firm leaders all attended a series of cutting-edge presentations, all designed to demonstrate some of the current trends and options available. In my experience, with a few rare exceptions, law firms have generally been closer to the knife handle than the leading edge, when it comes to adopting technology. Given the inherent risk in dealing with the property and information of others, this is understandable. A recent example was noted in Law Technology News, where a major issue was discovered in the search function of Adobe Acrobat. A “little glitch” like this can bring the litigation process to a full stop.
Peter Hart, who organized the ADC Seminar, started off by sharing the results of a poll taken by attendees. It showed that associates and paralegals were billing more, and that they were increasing in numbers – perhaps an indicator of finding creative ways to bill at lower rates.
Adrian Dayton shared how lawyers and firms can use social media to bolster their web presence, and offered several success stories. Covering Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, he demonstrated the best ways to set up a profile, and how to maintain it. Using specific terms and your real name will help. With the increasing usage of the Internet for research, news, and shopping, it is more important than ever to be “findable.” The Yellow Pages is heading out to the recycle bin, along with the Classified Ads section. Dayton shared the incredible speed in which news can spread. Although he didn’t touch upon Google+, that is certainly one to watch now, as well.
Brian Anderson, of The Performance Edge, delivered an impressive presentation on engaging with your employees and clients. Of particular interest to me was the fact that he noted you should not assume everyone is on your level of technology, when it comes to relationships. Different age groups can have varying comfort levels with all of this. He pointed out that Baby-Boomers (probably the majority of attendees) are immigrants in the world of technology. They were not born into it. While I would probably respond to a Tweet mentioning my name, others may not – especially if they’re not actively on Twitter. So, a phone call may be in order. Even though you may be comfortable with all of the latest apps and protocols in social media, don’t neglect the original form of social media – talking to one another.
I covered a few topics, including visual litigation, expedited trials, and iPad apps for lawyers. A quick “raise-your-hands” poll of attendees revealed that only a few were familiar with AB 2284 (California Expedited Civil Jury Trials Act) and General Order No. 64 (Northern District of California), and the fact that a trial could be completed in only one day. With the pressure from clients and Insurance Companies to keep the budget minimized, this was a hot topic, since it can cut trial costs by as much as 90%. Of course, I presented my topics using my iPad. It would look kind of silly, speaking about iPad apps, using my laptop.
Apparently, the entire program was well-received. A note from Peter Hart:
“I want to thank you all for your participation as speakers at the 2011 Association of Defense Counsel Law Firm Management Seminar in Monterey, California. I say without hesitation that the presentations put on by each of you were very well received by the seminar attendees. I reviewed the speaker evaluations and they were very complimentary of both the content of the program and the direct relevance that each program had for the attendees. I especially liked the way that each speaker built upon prior presentations and the overall theme of the seminar.”
While I always enjoy presenting to various groups of attorneys and legal professionals, it is a special treat to present to law firm leaders, since they are the influencers and decision-makers. I also had the pleasure of meeting with Donna Seyle, who is now working with the California State Bar Technology Section. (Note: This meeting was a direct result of our prior contact on Twitter – we had never met in person). Donna has asked that I help promote her group and Annual Conference Reception. So, here’s the link for more info: CalBar Law Practice Management & Technology Section Networking Reception
And, if you’re in, from, would like to be, or just interested in California, you are welcome and encouraged to join the California Legal group on LinkedIn.