Practice Readiness with Legal Tech Instruction

Last semester, IT Librarian Jason Tubinis and Web Coordinator Rachel Evans introduced students to the Legal Technology Audit (LTA). The LTA is essentially a series of mock assignments developed by Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, Inc. Flaherty used the audit to test the basic competency skills of Kia’s outside counsel in the programs Word, Excel and Adobe Acrobat. All of the firms tested – including one firm which took the audit twice – failed. The Legal Tech Audit is now a tool available to any firm or client that wants to evaluate their attorney’s skills.

The LTA is just one of many signs of an increased awareness of the importance of technology in the legal profession. Even the ABA approved an addition to its Model Rules of Professional Conduct in August 2013 to address this sea change.  The amendment states that “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology…” However vague, the overarching intent of the addition acknowledges that legal professionals as a whole are often either unaware of or inefficient with today’s technology. This includes basic office productivity software like the LTA tests for.

Now is the time for law students to become aware of this shift that is taking place in the legal field. If students ready themselves now with the skills many attorneys are currently lacking, they could gain an edge in the legal profession as they prepare for interviews with employers before and after completing their degrees. The library is here to help!

As a continuation of the introductory session offered last semester, the library is offering an instructional series throughout this Spring semester. The series will include six opportunities to learn more about the tech audit, including two sessions each which will focus specifically on the three programs the LTA covers. These sessions will teach you the skills needed to pass the tech audit as well as help students become more practice-ready by allowing students to feel more comfortable navigating the three programs in the context of their future legal careers.

The first three sessions in the series will be held at 11:30 a.m. on  January 13 (Excel), January 27 (PDF), and February 10 (Word). The second three sessions will be offered at 2:30 p.m. on February 25 (Excel), March 4 (PDF), and March 18 (Word). All six sessions will take place in Classroom B. As an added incentive, students who attend all three sessions and complete a brief assessment for each piece of software will receive a certificate in tech audit readiness from the law library. Anyone who plans to attend the series is encouraged to bring their laptop with them so that they can follow along and ask questions throughout the how-to segments of the sessions.

The inaugural session this Tuesday will focus on Excel, and explore practical applications for the program in the legal profession. Skills such as spreadsheet formatting, functions and formulas, cell and sheet reference, auto-features and more will be covered. How-to exercises will also be demonstrated to provide real-time practice and serve as illustrations of usefulness, including: (1) learning basic Excel features and functions using your own personal budget, (2) expanding on the basics by applying those skills to an attorney’s billable time spreadsheet as well as a small firm project and financial analysis spreadsheet, and (3) using the program to create a case timeline for both internal reference and trial presentation.

If you do plan to attend the first session and do not already have Excel installed on your computer, faculty, staff, and students can download it (and the rest of the Microsoft Office Pro Plus suite) for free through UGA’s EITS.

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