Technological development often breeds fear of that same technology. When bicycles promised to revolutionize travel in the 1890s, people feared developing “bicycle face” from the strain and speed of travel. Indiana’s own Benjamin Harrison avoided touching light switches in the White House for fear of electrocution. The common thread through these examples is that many of us fear new things. Today, that often translates to fear of technology because technology is often on the cutting edge.
Yet Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct states that attorneys must provide competent representation, and Rule 1.1(6) specifically discusses technology: “To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with the technology relevant to the lawyer’s practice[.]”
As a result, attorneys are duty-bound to be technologically competent. How, then, do we overcome the fear of technology that is natural to many of us?
Identify your fear: In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Charlie Brown seeks help from amateur psychiatrist and neighbor, Lucy, about feeling blue over the holidays. Lucy tells him that if he can identify his fears, they can be treated. While taking advice from a cartoon 10-year-old may not always work, this time Lucy may be on to something. Normally we don’t fear technology as much as we fear what lies beneath that reaction. Whether it is fear of the unknown, fear of change or just plain stubbornness, identifying why technology causes that reaction can move us past any hesitation — allowing us to take advantage of the benefits technology offers.
Demystify technology: Technology is a tool, nothing more. Whether we are using a circular saw or new software, it’s a good idea to learn how that tool works lest we cut a finger or lose that important document. Also, learning how technology works removes the psychological impediments that can accompany its use. When technology becomes better known, we lose our trepidation over using something new. Take a class, watch an online video, or read an article about how to maximize your use of that tablet, or how to use that new software.
Find a Yoda: Learning something new involves several steps: 1) I watch someone do something; 2) we do that something together; and 3) my teacher watches me do something. Obviously, this cannot happen without a teacher. Find someone who knows more than you, and see if they would be willing to help you with any technology issues you may have. Having a Yoda is comforting, and often enlightening.
Experiment: Different people learn in different ways. A large portion of the population are either visual learners or kinetic learners. Visual learners learn through visual example like seeing a chart or graph. Kinetic learners learn by interacting with something in a “hands on” approach. If you fall into one of these categories, then perhaps the best way you can learn about technology is to experiment with it. Go ahead and create a document, then play around to see what all those tabs at the top of the screen will do. If you have a new device, hit those apps you know nothing about and see what happens. About the worst that will happen is you “x” out of the document you created, or your Yoda has to talk you though how to get back to your home screen.
Stay informed: Technology is a moving target. What was last week’s cutting edge thing is this week’s relic of a bygone era. While one may feel comfortable with technology today, it is easy to fall behind in the face of constant innovation. Thus, staying informed on developments in technology keeps fear at bay. The good news is that this is a relatively easy task. See what your colleagues or friends from other offices are doing to keep pace with developments. Read a tech blog to stay informed, or take a few moments a week to search the internet for updates.
No doubt, these tactics only scratch the surface of how we minimize any reservations we have about technology. We as attorneys are ethically bound to stay current with technology. And if all of that is still unconvincing, remember that while some of us may not rely on technology, our clients do.•
• Bradley J. Schulz is an attorney with State Farm Claim Litigation Counsel in Indianapolis and serves on the board of directors of the DTCI. Opinions expressed are those of the author.