Happy New Tech Year: 4 First Steps for the Next 365 Days

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Illustration by Jim Frazier

The key to successful new year’s resolutions is to make them manageable and doable steps toward larger goals. Making resolutions for improving your relationship with technology can follow a similar path.

Think of resolutions as first steps that are simple, easy to accomplish and targeted toward areas that will reduce friction between you and the rapidly changing world of technology. Here are four categories where you can make easy and productive resolutions that you can actually accomplish in 2011. I’ve given you some suggested resolutions for each category.

Protect yourself: Security and privacy are front-burner issues. Strong passwords (combinations of letters, numbers and symbols) are your best first line of defense, so resolve to update and change all of your passwords to new, strong versions.

Try a free program like KeePass to securely keep track of them. Another free program, TrueCrypt, will let you experiment with encrypting sensitive data. Secunia Personal Software Inspector, also free, analyzes the programs you run and lets you know whether security patches are needed.

In the Windows world, Microsoft Security Essentials is a free tool to handle a variety of security issues on your PC, while for some, security might be a reason to justify getting that new Mac you have your eye on.

Spruce up your online presence: Your search results, social media activities and other Internet mentions—including lawyer ratings websites—can have more impact today than your own website does. Use the major search engines to search for your name and your firm’s name and you might be surprised.

Next, take a look at your website from the eyes of a visitor, or engage someone to critique the site from the user point of view. If you are on social media, review your pictures, profiles and descriptions to make sure they are up to date and professional. And check to see when your site was last overhauled.

Learn: The pace of technological change is accelerating rapidly. You probably hadn’t even heard of social media a year or so ago, and now you can read someone every day telling you that you are missing the boat if you aren’t immersed in social media. Therefore, focus and simplify. Pick one or two areas of technology (hint to litigators: e-discovery) and resolve to learn more in 2011. You want to know enough to carry on a reasonable conversation and feel you know enough to ask the right questions. Blogs, podcasts and online videos can be great resources for this.

Also, this is a great year to attend one of the big legal technology conferences (ABA Techshow, the International Legal Technology Association Conference, LegalTech New York or West Coast) or one of the excellent state solo and small-firm conferences to get a good overview of the big picture in technology for lawyers. As an alternative, you might consider subscribing to one or more of the legal technology podcasts, such as those on the Legal Talk Network. No surprise, but I especially like The Kennedy-Mighell Report.

Innovate: My own approach to technology is to try at least one new thing each year. In 2011 you have much to choose from. There’s cool hardware, including the iPad, Macs in general, tablets, smartphones and solid-state hard drives. Office 2010 is out, as well as other new software versions. And the Internet offers a huge amount of new, often free, services and applications, from photo editing to collaboration tools and much more. Also 2011 might be a great year to dip your toes cautiously into cloud computing and see whether it makes sense for you.

Technology is definitely complicated, but lawyers have to keep up. The best way is to have some written resolutions that help you take small steps. Go for easy wins, build momentum and surprise people—including yourself—with how far you can go in 2011.

Dennis Kennedy is a St. Louis-based legal technology writer and information technology lawyer. is his website and the home of his blog.

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