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Getting down to the business of lawyering

October 19, 2016
glover-sam-mug.jpg Glover

Evansville attorney David G. Harris pointed out a disconnect between the ivory tower and the real world.

“Law school does not teach us how to run a business, and law offices are businesses,” he said.

As a partner at the three-attorney firm of Frick Powell LLP, Harris understands well that lawyers, especially those in small and solo practices, need to have knowledge beyond torts and contracts to keep a law office operating. Technology, in particular, is driving change in the legal profession with the capabilities spreading to virtual practices and meeting with clients only in cyberspace. International Legal Technology Association/InsideLegal’s 2016 technology purchasing survey found that more than half of law firms increased their budgets dedicated to buying technology as compared to last year.

One way Harris educates himself on practice management and keeps abreast of new high-tech tools is by tuning into the Lawyerist.com podcast each week. He listens to the hourlong conversation about the business of lawyering while getting ready in the morning, cleaning his house or mowing his lawn.

The podcast, he said, mixes theory of what is happening in the legal profession with practical application.

Harris is such a fan that he was the main driver behind getting the Evansville Bar Association to invite the Lawyerist founder and editor-in-chief Sam Glover to speak. The Minneapolis attorney-writer will be in the southern Indiana city Oct. 27 to make a presentation about practicing law and lead attorneys through a four-step process to secure information on their laptops.

Although he is excited about Glover’s visit, Harris is concerned about turnout. He is worried that many attorneys might not attend because they are not familiar the website.

“I’m a little anxious,” Harris said. “I know if they come, they’re going to get a lot out of it. But convincing them to come might be the problem.”

Lawyerist, which offers articles, podcasts, videos and chatrooms, covers a range of topics from the benefits of sleep to how to use email to land clients. However, the focus is technology. Reviews of software programs and devices mingle alongside podcasts about the dark web and reasons for tossing your smartphone.

Even when talking about the practice of law in the future, Glover reiterates the role of technology. The pace of change accelerated over the past decade and will only continue to speed up, but he said the legal profession is resistant.

“Of course lawyers have to be technologically competent, but I think lawyers also have to be technologically proficient because technology is a tool we use to solve clients’ problems,” Glover said.

Harris, who described himself as the go-to computer guy at his firm, sees a sharp divide opening in the legal profession. On one side are typically younger lawyers who are very comfortable with technology. On the other side are traditional attorneys who, while not resistant to technology, are not excited about it.

However, he said lawyers cannot brush off the changes. Echoing Glover, he said lawyers today who do not have a minimal competency of computers are not meeting their ethical obligations.

The roots of the Lawyerist extend to clunky software and frustration. Ten years ago, Glover was trying to integrate technology in his practice but he kept running into computer programs that were aggravating to use, often crashed and required a consultant to install.

lawyerist-factbox.gifHe described those times as “super frustrating.”

Eventually he began tapping out his thoughts in his blog on the new gadgets and software that were coming on the market and what he had learned about their use. He estimated that his early blog, original titled “SoloSmallTech,” probably attracted a dozen readers, but they gelled into a community that commiserated over the headaches and shared ideas and tips about technology.

That principle of building a community with readers where everyone can learn and experiment together and then share the results remains a key part of the Lawyerist.

“We can learn as much from our audience as they can learn from us,” Glover said. “(I) think of it as a community of lawyers who are thinking in innovative ways.”

The Lawyerist occupies much of Glover’s workday and has limited his law practice to a small number of pro bono cases. Technology is a part of how he does his job, but in his off hours he unplugs — literally.

A cyclist and runner, he forgoes the earbuds and iTunes, preferring to exercise in silence. And, vacations with his wife and two young daughters often mean a winter camping trip to the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota where reception is impossible.•

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