|Seinfeld, "The Contest"|
Jerry Seinfeld reminded Kramer that we should be the “Master of our domain.” While the boundaries of our personal “domain” may have been relatively clear back in the day, technology has had a significant effect on expectations and assumptions of what we ought to be familiar with.
Carolyn Elefant on MyShingle recently shared her frustration with young lawyers who are not also experts in technology, in her Open Letter to New Lawyer. She shares that a newly-minted attorney should be up on all of the latest techie tricks, including blogging, marketing, and social media. She then goes on to challenge the young attorney by stating, “You should be able to figure out, in a snap, how to use video editing tools if you don’t already and volunteering to create cool informational videos so I can market my firm and generate more business that will support more new hires.” While these things aren't necessarily taught in law school, she asserts that if one has grown up with technology, one should be comfortable with it.
Less than a week goes by and Josh Camson retorts on The Lawyerist in his Open Letter to Senior Lawyer, “Although I consider myself tech-savvy, I believe your expectations are unrealistic.” He adds, “…my age does not make me any more of an expert than you. Nor does it mean I should become your tech consultant.” His article suggests that even though one has been immersed in technology since childhood, it doesn’t make one an expert.
Both articles have interesting perspectives, and both include some great reader comments. While the MyShingle blog is directed more toward small and solo firms, the points made are worth considering, regardless of firm size. As a Legal Technology and Litigation Consultant having started in-house with a large firm (Brobeck), I have dealt with lawyers of all ages, and in all sizes of law firm. While there is indeed a “value-added” component to the young attorney who is comfortable with technology, it will likely be of greater value in the small firm. Larger firms are more likely to have attorneys working on cases, marketing people working on promoting the firm, and technology experts handling litigation support tasks.
Regardless of firm size, you will need to decide when to call in the experts. While you can be the “Master of your domain,” you must also be realistic about the boundaries of that domain. You might be able to learn some software well enough to cobble together a video, but you’re not likely to be nearly as efficient as someone who does it every day – nor is it likely to be of the same quality. Being a “digital native” does not necessarily make one a digital expert.
A small-firm lawyer must be proficient in law, technology, marketing and business, while a large-firm lawyer may be more specialized. Either way, the more you bring to the table, the more you’ll get to eat.