News & Views

Technology and You. Where Exactly Do You Stand?

9 April 2021

Author: Maria Antrea 

When was the last time you stopped to think about technology? Perhaps it brings a smile to your face when you think about getting you first TV remote control or mobile phone or how email made your life much easier, and you can hardly wait to see what the next wonderful thing might be. Or maybe you have had it with endless updates (where they always hide your favourite features), too many new user interfaces, and, most of all, the constant demands to spend your time getting to know all of them.

Now, if you are reading this, there is a good chance that you are practicing or studying law or are in close contact with lawyers. Perhaps you have also heard the rumour that legal practitioners and law firms are typically not frontrunners in innovations and agile methods. Some say lawyers might even find all changes downright threatening, yet the new technology is supposed to cause major disruption in the legal industry.

“Disruption” does not sound like a lot of fun, does it? It used to be enough to master the substance of law and business, but should you now also be some sort of a whizz-kid tapping away on your computer at an amazing speed chatting with artificial life forms about the ongoing project? Or else risk that your career, if not the entire firm, will be doomed, soon to become as extinct as Blockbuster.

Maybe you should not worry so much.

What if tech enthusiasts are not some weird species after all?

What if embracing tech is not a trait by nature but by nurture? Firstly, consider all the misinformation surrounding tech in general. For example, growing up in the 1980s, I was repeatedly told, in more or less subtle ways, that males are inherently techier. Today, I am surprised at how often I hear it being said that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks (which, by the way, the MythBusters have proven wrong). I have not asked to be targeted by this kind of nonsense, but it kind of grows on you like the call centre holding music. You try to shut it out, but after a few repetitions you often find yourself singing along. So, how about challenging the discriminatory statement that lawyers were born to resist change?

Secondly, some people like to teach themselves by hacking away into the night alone in their lair. Most people do not. How technology has been introduced to you, and how much support you have had during your learning process can make a huge difference. Adequate training and a positive feedback loop can lead to very different results.

So, if you find yourself stuck with old ways of thinking when it comes to using more technology at work (or any other topic for that matter), there is most likely a reason for it. Would you not like to stop for a moment and figure out how it is for you personally? In general, if something feels uncomfortable, it is useful to bear in mind that it is just a feeling, not a law of nature. I hate to state the obvious, but feelings are not the best basis for decisions. I do advocate that they be handled – and the good news is that they usually can be, preferably with the help of a friend or colleague who has time to listen to you.

The human brain actually enjoys change and challenges

How much we enjoy adapting new things today is somewhat related to our tempers, but I claim most of our routines are just something we have slid into. Some of them actually make us more effective and release brain capacity for more demanding tasks, but habits can also be a trap requiring dozens or even hundreds or repetitions to get out of.

At the same time, we know that stimulating the brain regularly even helps prevent dementia. We were built for dealing with changes. If you have forgotten how to do it, start with baby steps. Take another route to the supermarket or order a dish you have never tasted before.

The world is changing – why not enjoy the ride?

What if I gave you the keys to the most modern and high-tech vehicle on earth and asked if you would like to take it for a spin? Would you be apprehensive due to the opaqueness of the technology involved or would you trust that if it is still a car then how hard could it be to drive it? After all, you know the traffic rules and how to make the wheels turn.

Now, how about imagining yourself in the driver’s seat of a mean, lean DD machine?

Invest in your future

If you keep very busy, then you might think that your relationship with tech is not the relationship in your life that needs fixing most urgently. (And you would probably be right.) But what if tech is the very thing that will ultimately allow you to do more by doing less? I think it is safe to say that any training related to information searches will pay itself back very quickly, and if you have to regularly play with figures, then you might as well do it effectively using pivot tables. The list of low hanging fruit is long, and I bet your in-house legal ops specialists would love to hear about your pain points. (I would.) In case you do not have anyone to turn to, you should seriously consider hiring a consultant. Because sticking to the old ways of doing things manually is not really compatible with work-life balance, is it? That is why I encourage you to notice and question all the work phases that require repetitive and low-value work and strive to replace them with the help of tech. Get analytical and estimate how going through a little pain of change weighs against the cost of doing things the old way.

The tradition obliges

Having said all this, how on earth is our law firm cooperating with something like The 2020 Millennium Innovation Forum? I believe it is because in addition to having long traditions in CSR, our relationship with tech is even longer. As the story goes, the founder of the law firm was quite popular with the legislators of our young nation at the beginning of the 20th century because in addition to his legal skills, Mr Hannes Snellman even owned a typewriter!