Lawyers who have fallen behind the times often try what probably seems like a good solution: hire a young digital native and give them the job of updating the firm’s technology.

That isn’t always the intent. But as many young lawyers have found out, the “computer stuff” often falls into their laps.

While it’s true that young lawyers are much more comfortable with smartphones and social media than the average lawyer-of-a-certain-age, there is no reason to assume they are competent to do everything that involves a computer. Young lawyers may understand Snapchat, but good luck asking them to format a Word document properly, encrypt an email, or create a paperless workflow. Those aren’t skills picked up while posting selfies to Instagram (though you might have a slight advantage the next time you need to introduce a tweet into evidence).

Legal tech competence must be deliberately acquired—ideally by every lawyer and staff member at the firm. You can outsource IT to a professional, but even then you need to be competent enough to understand the advice you are given.

You can’t meet your obligation to be technologically competent if you don’t understand your IT consultant’s recommendations. Or the recommendations of your young associate.

But while you shouldn’t force your young associate to be the firm’s de facto IT consultant, you should listen when they (or anyone else who works at or with your firm) complain about your hardware, software, or systems. Young associates may be extra sensitive to areas where you or your firm need improvement.

Leave a Reply