Tech Mentorship in Law
Mentorship in law is undeniably important. Whether it be for law students or young lawyers, the guidance we provide as mentors and how we deliver it is crucial to their development as legal professionals.
If you are reading this you are probably among the small percentage of lawyers who are innovating and adopting technology in your practice or are planning to do so. You have also probably struggled to find law students who are technologically savvy. For all the talk about the future of lawyers, and a generation of young lawyers raised on iPods, the web, smartphones, and social media, these are not the tech gurus that we were expecting.
The sad fact is that the vast majority of students are not exposed to as much technology in law school as we would expect. They are often not trained on the use of technology in law and how it can strengthen or compliment a legal practice.
Law schools could do more to train their students, or encourage them to use different types of technology, by incorporating tech uses and strategies into the curriculum.
Besides a few notable exceptions, the majority of schools are still teaching from the podium, and not encouraging students to experiment with online systems or the development of these systems. Very few law schools are equipped with the technology to video stream law lectures; so forget the possibility of live streaming a lecture. What about podcast lectures or video conferencing instead of the traditional office hours? As law schools learn to embrace technology, their students will follow.
Until the law schools catch-up, mentorship could play an important role in the adoption and use of technology by young lawyers. Unfortunately, I have seen some lawyers or firms actively discourage the adoption of technology. For example, I often hear lawyers claim that the cloud is insecure, even without understanding what the cloud is. I have also heard students who repeat these concerns with even less understanding of what they are concerned about and failing to think through the alternatives.
So as mentors we have to think about what skills we are imparting and the attitude we are encouraging young lawyers to adopt. Encouraging these young lawyers to adopt and use technology should be one our primary concerns.
Richard Susskind, author of End of Lawyers, and lecturer and consultant on information technology to law firms, explains the trait of lawyers who reject new ideas, as “irrational rejectionism.” This is generally because lawyers are looking at maintaining the status quo instead of thinking about their clients or achieving a competitive advantage. They are looking to their peers for example, to see whether they are tweeting and blogging.
Every other industry and profession has caught on to the use and adoption of technology, like social media, why not ours? But those lawyers who do tweet or blog and stay ahead of the curve are able to capture clients before others. They will be able to comfortably connect with their clients in a way that is in line with societal norms, thus making the client more comfortable and the lawyer more accessible.
As a mentor you can do your mentee a big favor by encouraging them to be proactive in adopting tools, not to stand back waiting for the firm to tell them what to do and encourage them to use online tools to start to brand and market themselves. Instead, tell them to go out on their own and jump in before they’re left behind.