Open Letter to New Lawyer: You should be dragging me into the 21st century not the other way around

Dear New Lawyer,

At 48 years old, I am old enough to be your mother.  And you should be ashamed of yourself.  Here you are, coming to me for a legal job when you don’t know the first thing about RSS feeds, blogging (reading them, let alone writing them), Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube.  And what’s more, you have no comprehension of the importance of these tools to my practice and seemingly no interest in learning how to use them.

Just out of law school, your skills are of minimal use to me.  Nothing you research or write will be worthy of filing without significant oversight and feedback. And that’s okay.  Starting out, I wasn’t very useful myself either. But each time my research memos and briefs came back blushing with redline (or back in my day, red ink), I learned just a little bit more about how to craft a solid piece of work product.  Within time – a matter of months, (and hours and hours of practice on my own time) – I could soon produce a file-ready document on my own.

These skills are what I’m willing to teach you. It’s part of my professional obligation as a lawyer to see to it that new generations learn the craft.  But what I can’t abide is having to teach you how to tweet about current events.  How to set up an RSS feed. How to track and stay on top of news from two or three industry blogs.  Supposedly, you grew up on this stuff.  So why do you need to take instructions from someone old enough to be your mother on how to use tools that should come as second nature? You should be coming to me with a week’s worth of proposed blog posts. You should be streaming out a dozen tweets on industry developments and setting up RSS feeds to share with me – not the other way around.  You should have as robust an online footprint as I do, or more – yet I’ve got thousands of blog posts to your…zero? You should be able to figure out, in a snap, how to use video editing tools if you don’t already and volunteering to create cool informational videos so I can market my firm and generate more business that will support more new hires.

Yet somehow, there’s a disconnect.  Are you living in a cave? For gosh sakes, Justin Bieber, the biggest rock star of your generation was discovered on YouTube? Don’t you understand how powerful this stuff is?  Even putting myself in your shoes, I just can’t comprehend why this stuff doesn’t matter to you. Maybe familiarity breeds contempt so social media doesn’t wow you the way it does me, but even so, you’re 25, not 85; too old to be so jaded.  You should be dragging me into the 21st century, not the other way around. 

That’s how it worked, even in the stone ages when I came of age and when technology didn’t have nearly the power it does now.  Back in 1987,  as a summer associate at big law, my fellow summers and I were routinely tasked to research extensive complex memos. We’d take notes on photocopies of cases and draft up the memos on legal pads for the secretaries to type.  Though none of us had our own personal computers or laptops back then, we’d grown accustomed to using computers to produce our papers in law school, so handwriting drafts for someone else to type seemed inefficient. So we set up a meeting with the managing partner to ask for access to a computer so that we could type our work product, which would save time.  The managing partner refused; said that we couldn’t possibly type as quickly as the secretaries and our time was better spent focused on being lawyers.  Still, at least we tried.

I’d love for someone working for me to set up a video channel or newsfeed or help me install a system to video chat reliably with clients in a way that looks professional. Introduce me to technology that I haven’t yet met. I’m not all that cutting edge and for every piece of tech that I’ve mastered there are dozens of platforms that I’ve never heard of.  Bring ’em on!

Some of you newbies have told me that law school discourages use of technology. That career offices tell students to stay off Twitter and not to blog for fear of creating an adverse paper trail.  To heck with that! You’re only young once; might as well use the facility for picking up new ways of communicating and make a few mistakes along the way then act like a middle-aged lawyer before you reach that point.  And by the way, you shouldn’t need someone my age to tell you to defy conventional wisdom either.

Newbie, there’s an  amazing future  that lies before you; opportunities to reinvent the law, to make it more  accessible than I ever dreamed back in the day when I plugged in my humble little Mac and changed my own destiny. I may be progressive for an oldie, but let’s face it; I’ll never see the world as will your generation.  Why don’t you step up and own it?