Staying ahead of the changes in the law has always been a challenge that paralegals have embraced. In fact, it’s part of our job and helps us better assist our attorneys in providing the best legal representation possible for clients. However, technology has changed how we do our jobs. The traditional roles of attorney, paralegal, legal secretary, and receptionist have changed as the role of technology has evolved in the law firm.
To remain a valuable member of the law firm, paralegals and legal support staff must be willing to adapt and be flexible as our roles, responsibilities, and duties change through the use of new technology. Being technologically savvy is now one of the most important qualities you can have as a paralegal in the job market. It makes you extremely marketable to law firms that are using technology to its fullest potential as well as to those that are just beginning to learn the value of technology and how to incorporate it into every day operations.
It’s important that you master technology as well as learn how to stay ahead of the curve. By doing so, you help yourself by working more efficiently but also by providing clients with exceptional legal services. Technology is an investment for the law firm and paralegals are part of that investment.
How does technology impact the way we do our job?
Lexis Nexis reported on the trends that are currently affecting paralegals in a Business of Law blog post last year. Of the nine trends listed in the blog, six of those trends directly related to the use of technology. Examples of include eDiscovery, electronic filing, communication with clients, marketing (law firm websites), document management, trials (i.e. graphics, audio, video, etc.), billing, and law office management.
The paralegals who are threatened by technology are often those who are most reticent to use it. Given how valuable these tools can be, it behooves you to master new skills that benefit you, your attorneys, and their clients. Challenge yourself to stay ahead of changes in technology and remain relevant, valuable, and marketable!
Technology is a part of our everyday lives. It continues to change and evolve. If you don’t keep up with it, you’ll:
- Fall behind others who are making an effort
- Become irrelevant because you’re unaware of what’s around the corner
- Miss opportunities to grow your career
- Be less organized and efficient because you’re failing to use technology to streamline your work
- Potentially become obsolete as law firms look for paralegals to assist the law firm in using the latest technology to grow business.
How can you stay ahead of the curve with technology?
Avoid becoming obsolete and embrace technology - go slow if it’s overwhelming at first and find ways to stay ahead of new advancements. I’ve included several tips that you can use to learn about technology, stay on top of the changes, and find tools that are useful to you in your job (and maybe even personally).
Analyze the situation and set goals – If you don’t identify yourself as “tech savvy,” analyze your current situations and set goals to become more valuable to your law firm. Decide what technology you need to learn and use and devise a plan to learn about it. It could be that you need to learn how to use software that’s specific to your area of law (i.e. bankruptcy software, real estate closing software, eDiscovery, online legal research tools, etc.) or use specific technology tools such as iPads, smartphones, and portable scanners.
Set automatic updates through social media or websites for articles related to technology – The internet is an incredibly valuable tool for learning about what’s new in legal tech. Sign up to receive updates through newsletters, blogs, and articles and subscribe to tech magazines. Some websites that have excellent articles about legal technology include:
Embrace new technology – Don’t be afraid of change. When new technology develops, jump in with both feet, be the first to learn how to use it, and think about ways it can help you.
Invest in the future – Consider taking classes or courses to learn about technology and how to use it. This is an investment in your professional development and career.
Choose the technology that’s best for you – Not every technology benefits the law firm. Learn about new tools that save you time and help you collaborate, whether it’s preparing for a deposition or for use in the courtroom during trial.
Be internet-savvy – As I mentioned before, this is often your most valuable tool! You can find anything on the net if you know how to look. There’s much more to it than Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and YouTube so go explore.
Join a paralegal association – Networking isn’t only relevant for the job search. Encourage your local paralegal association to hold seminars dedicated to technology in the law firm. Suggest dedicating two meetings each year to updating members on technology. You can also elect an officer who’s dedicated to taking 10 minutes of every meeting to introduce a new piece of technology. Don’t forget about national and state associations, too.
Local Bar Associations - Most state bar associations offer Law Office Management Assistance through their websites. You’ll find a great deal of information about using technology in the law firm and it would be a great place to start for paralegals who aren’t tech savvy.
Attend conferences and seminars – Local, state, and national organizations offer great seminars, conferences, and courses that deal specifically with technology. The two that you may want to check out are Legal Tech and International Legal Technology Association. If you can’t attend, follow the daily digests from the conference and read blog posts from those in attendance (for example, this or this).
Technology will continue to grow, evolve, and develop. Paralegals who refuse to change will be left behind. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the importance of technology in the law firm. Take some steps now (even small ones!) to make sure you’re ahead of the rest when it comes to using technology at work.