The term “digital native” has been used for the past fifteen years to describe those raised in a digital, media-saturated world. These “Millennial” or “Generation Y” members are often touted as the first converts to the cult of technology. This buzz appears in the legal press as well. For example, a recent blog for the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism says that,
“Millennial attorneys have been aboard every technological change that has taken place in the past thirty years both at home and in the office…Technology is thoroughly integrated into their lives. And they expect that integration at work as well.”
And multiple sessions at legal conference ILTACON mentioned Millennials’ attempts to make legal technology progress, despite opposition from Boomer lawyers. This narrative is so prevalent that it made me wonder: does the experience of Generation Y lawyers match these expectations? So, I asked an expert: Nicole Abboud, Gen Why/Y lawyer. Here is her take on how the younger generation of lawyers approaches technology.
Ana: Many people have opinions about Gen Y’s use of technology. What do you think? Are Gen Yers better at decoding technology than other generations? How is their approach different?
Nicole: Gen Yers grew up during a time where technology was booming and rapidly changing. The world grew closer as access to technology and information increased. As members of Gen Y, we’re very comfortable around technology, and, in fact, feel connected and powerful because of it. We certainly embrace technology in our personal and professional lives. Sure, it might look like we’re glued to our smartphones at all times (and perhaps that’s reasonably true), but having instant access to our phones and computers allows us to remain informed, responsive, and well-connected. As lawyers, these three qualities are instrumental in helping us provide great service to our clients who want and expect quick response rates.
Ana: What’s your take on the discussion of AI and machines taking over lawyers’ work?
Nicole: This is an interesting question to answer because we’re still in the midst of learning the full extent of technology’s role in the practice of law. I do think that we’re already seeing how technology is transforming complex litigation and ediscovery. We’re witnessing more and more software programs being developed to ease due diligence and contract drafting and analysis. It’s very likely that AI will replace the duties that are typically handed to new associates, like document review. This thought scares many new lawyers.
I think instead of fearing that robots will take over legal jobs, lawyers should consider technology a partner in their practice. (Tweet This!) Embracing technology and using it to make your practice more efficient and productive is a better approach than living in fear that you will lose your job to a machine. [Ana: And robots may not be able to do as many legal tasks as we fear, according to new research.]
Also, keep in mind, no matter how advanced a machine might be at performing certain legal tasks, at the end of the day, people want to interact with other people. (Tweet This!) The ability to connect with another human, listen to someone’s story, empathize with their situation, analyze the intricacies of emotion, and earn a person’s trust cannot be replicated by a machine.
Ana: What tips do you have for how to learn new technologies and tools that can improve your practice?
Nicole: My first tip would be to remain open-minded when it comes to new technologies and tools. Many lawyers are resistant to change and any new tech tools threaten their comfort levels. Thus, step 1 is to get over that because unless you begin to integrate tech into your practice, you will be left behind.
My second tip is to educate yourself about what’s out there and what’s available to you. Attend legal tech shows like the ABA TECHSHOW or subscribe to blogs covering technology and the law, like 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. I am certain most of your fears will be dispelled once you realize what a great opportunity a lot of these new tools and gadgets afford you and your practice.
Ana: As a solo lawyer, what do you look for in the technology you use – whether it’s billing tools or Pinterest?
Nicole: As a solo, I look for a few things:
- it must be either free or cost-effective; and
- it must help me stay better connected with my clients and network.
With regards to the latter, it goes without saying that your network is your net worth so building relationships and staying in constant contact with the people I meet is a top priority for me. As such, I look for apps or resources that allow me to organize the contacts I make and remain top-of-mind. I recently discovered an app called Cloze. It’s a free relationship management app that allows you to organize your contacts, inbox, follow-ups, and notes in one place. Cloze sends you an email notification every day reminding you of people you need to connect with and tasks you must handle.
Ana: Because you have your own podcast, do you ever get people asking you for IT help?
Nicole: Yes! I get that all the time. The sad part is, I’m not really that techie. I know enough to record, edit, and upload my episode, but that’s about it. I’m hoping the more I delve into podcasting, the better I become at all of this IT stuff.
So, perhaps Generation Y lawyers’ technology adeptness varies, but their level of openness to using it is what sets them apart. What do you think?