Kennedy on Tech

5 ways to make good on your New Year's tech resolutions


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New Year's "E" (for Effort): Making tech work better for you. Illustration by Brenan Sharp.

A new year brings another round of resolve and resolutions, especially for lawyers wanting to make better use of technology. Too often, this year’s resolutions look a lot like the ones that didn’t get completed last year and the year before. Yet a new year brings new optimism. I have a two-part recommendation for your new year’s tech resolutions.

First, focus on one or more of the tried and true approaches: Learn one new technology that appeals to you. Even more doable, learn at least one advanced feature of a program or technology you use every day. Even better, get some training on software you use all the time, like password management and basic security techniques.

Second, try to find something that stretches you. It doesn’t have to be dramatic, but it should be something that forces you to reconsider how technology might really help you.

STRETCH GOALS

I have five suggestions for you in this category:

1. Relieve a major pain point. You know what your major irritations are because you experience them every day. Make your resolution simply to fix or improve one irritation. Many are easy to fix. Slow boot time? Get a solid-state hard drive. Screen hard to read? Get a new monitor or increase the size of your default font. Look for easy wins that give you practical benefits.

2. Try some apps with a purpose in mind. Often, the approach to adding apps is ad hoc and unfocused. Some of the most interesting apps for lawyers are those that allow us to extend the scope and range of our regular computers—to continue to do work when the computer is not there. In thinking about apps, ask the question: “Wouldn’t it be great if I could … ?” One example might be an outliner app to capture ideas, organize thoughts and outline drafts of documents quickly and easily while using a mobile device.

3. Make yourself user friendly. I’ve long been convinced that sending a technology survey to clients is one of the best things you can do. You can also learn a lot by informally asking clients how they would prefer to work with you using technology. Looking for ways to make it easy for clients to talk with you and send you more work is an approach that should pay good dividends.

4. Work on your referral network. Change your perspective on social media from just getting clients and consider ways that you might use social media, especially LinkedIn, to create, maintain and nourish your referral network. The results might surprise you.

5. Analyze your data. The year 2014 will certainly be the year of big data and data analytics. Will this apply to you? Probably not, but making better use of the data you do have (time and billing info being the best example) offers some great opportunities. Do you know the clients growing in billings, the profitability of engagements, the time spent on standard activities, and other simple business stats and ratios? Dig into this information in actionable ways to improve and target your efforts, and to understand what is really happening in your practice.

Lawyers who use technology successfully have a good understanding of what they need to accomplish and how technology can help. If you start to ask some different questions and take some different perspectives, you can change the target of your technology efforts. You also might find you achieve your resolutions and improve your practice more than you expected.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “New Year’s E (for Effort): Making tech work better for you.”

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