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March 19, 2014

Forget what your IT manager says – here are the real dos and don’ts of tech

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There are times when it feels like the world and her husband are lining up to take a pot-shot at the legal profession. If it’s not ‘edgy’ TV dramas portraying solicitors as having roughly the charm and moral rectitude of Beelzebub at his Friday night poker match, it’s the Government taking a scythe to Legal Aid.

And just when you thought it was safe to come out, dust off your Austin Reed, sink a triple-shot from Café Nero and get on with the job you (mostly) love, here comes another shot across the bows: Casey Flaherty, general counsel to KIA Motors, has declared that the legal profession’s IT skills leave much to be desired. Whilst he didn’t actually say “a moderately trained chimp with a first-generation iPad could do a better job of managing their IT than you lot”, one can’t help but feel chastened.

His concerns weren’t, sadly, pulled out of thin air, but came from a series of tests KIA administered to the firms they instruct. With this in mind, here are our top Dos and Don’ts for the today’s solicitor looking to impress with their IT skills*.

  • DON’T bother with any of that ‘out of office’ auto-reply nonsense on your email. At all costs, preserve your air of mystique. If you really must let clients and colleagues know you will be away until next Wednesday, set up an out of office response which either makes profligate reference to your second home in the Algarve, or is written entirely in Binary Code.
  • DO bring as many of your personal phones, tablet computers, laptops and other devices into the office as possible. If you’ve got the iPhone 5, mention it throughout the day: people love to hear about that stuff. Practice holding two simultaneous conversations – one to a client, the other to the friend whose stag night you’re arranging. For extra kudos, do it on speakerphone. No-one ever joined the legal profession for a quiet life!
  • DON’T make any efforts to negotiate the shared filing system. Have fun with setting up folders embedded within folders with names no-one could possibly decipher without one of those funny little boxes off of The Da Vinci Code. Keep colleagues and admin staff on their toes with hard-drive treasure hunts to really put the ‘dead’ into ‘deadline’.
  • DON’T bother with any of these new-fangled legal tech innovations they’re always telling you to use. eDisclosure? eDiscovery? Digital bundles? Each and every single one is destroying the romance and mystery of the law, not to mention contributing to the poverty of all employed in hand-weaving that iconic pink tape. Besides, every decent lawyer is a secret stationery fetishist – could you really face a world without colour-coded tabs and Post-Its?
  • DO insist on using the same software packages for the next decade or so, and strenuously resist any attempt at an upgrade. This modern fad for continual modernisation must be challenged: just as you come to terms with where you’ve put the icons on your desktop and how to use that Windows Explorer thingy along they come with another bit of software that takes a good couple of years to get used to. They might very well quote some nonsense about ‘firewalls’ and ‘viruses’ and ‘hackers’ and so on, as if they’re talking about a football match between firemen who all have the flu, but stick to your guns. Your clients will thank you.
  • DO try using different fonts. Comic Sans is a particularly popular option, lending a light-hearted and amenable air to the most formidable of documents. Worried about saving paper? A 9-point font is perfectly sufficient for all but the elderly and infirm.
  • DON’T accept any attempt to facilitate remote working. All this talk of Cloud data storage and virtual working and telephone conference facilities is designed to confuse. Do you really want to spend a Tuesday afternoon away from the delights of your desk, the shared kettle, and the lack of window, and that colleague who always eats his apple noisily at 11am precisely?

Is there really anything to be said for doing your day’s work in the comfort of your own home, or possibly in a quiet café with a good coffee and a slice of c….oh. Wait. Hang on… SP

* We accept no responsibility for the consequences.

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