It’s no surprise that the legal industry is growing increasingly technical every day. New technical tools – both complex and simple – are getting utilized to provide legal services more efficiently and more skillfully. As a result, today’s attorney should have a few levels of technical knowledge in their skill sets. This holds true no matter if you’re at a senior level, a junior level, or a recent law school graduate. Here’s what you should know when it comes to being a tech-savvy lawyer.
The Model Rules
Let’s first consider Model Rule 1.1 of Professional Conduct. In 2012, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates voted to update the rule given the legal industry’s growing reliance on technology. Comment  of the rule, with regards to Maintaining Competence, was amended to read: “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology…” (Emphasis added).
Yes, as an attorney, you’re now required to become and remain tech-savvy – to at least some degree. Excellent research and writing skills are great to have, as are effective negotiating skills. But, lawyers now must also possess a degree of technical knowledge.
Below are some basic technical areas/tools that almost all lawyers should know. These basics include:
- Microsoft Word. Document drafting is critical to the legal profession. As lawyers, we’re called upon to create memos, agreements, contracts, client letters, motions, etc. every single day. Since most firms and corporate legal departments utilize Microsoft Word to generate these documents, attorneys should have every single element of the tool mastered. This includes review tools, layout options, and distinctive designs.
- Microsoft Outlook. Believe it or not, firms and corporate legal departments email – both internally and externally. Since most legal entities will choose Outlook as their email software system of choice, lawyers should know this system in and out.
- E-filing systems and tools. Many state courts now require e-filing. Federal and appellate courts also require e-filing. Therefore, litigators must know e-filing basics, including: whether e-filing is in fact required, what specific documents are necessary, the actual tools to make the process happen, and the fees involved.
The following are some of the more advanced technical tools that a lawyer should know; or, at the very least, be aware of. Keep in mind that attorneys come in many different shapes and sizes. Given your practice area or specialty, these advanced tools and areas may actually be considered basic.
- Microsoft Excel. Many of today’s legal cases and issues require the collection, analysis, and manipulation of data. Most firms and legal departments use Excel as the go-to tool for this area. Lawyers should have a general idea as to how Excel operates, and they should be able to generate documents using this tool, as well as, sort, review and organize data within it.
- Document management systems. Your legal employer will likely use a document management system to store and organize emails and documents. It’s a promising idea to become familiar with this system so that you can locate documents when necessary.
- Microsoft PowerPoint. Many attorneys already have a decent working knowledge of PowerPoint. But, if not, get caught up to speed. A large chunk of us have sat through many presentations in the past and we all know the difference between an engaging slide and one lacking in content and pizzazz.
Again, all attorneys are different. Depending on your niche, the above may not even come close to an “advanced” label. The point though is to find those technical areas that are worthy of the label and get familiar with them. As lawyers, we are now all required to become and remain technically competent. Let’s get there. If you need help in identifying what technical tools will help you stand out as a lawyer, simply contact us today. We’re always here to help!