Sharon Nelson, Esq. of Sensei Enterprises, Inc., a boutique computer forensics and information technology consultancy service, who practices law associated with Sensei, a past Chair of ABA TECHSHOW and many times published author, and 2007 and 2009 Pacific Legal Technology Conference presenter, answers 30 Questions for busy lawyers who use technology:
1. Could you briefly describe your firm (number of lawyers, staff, areas of practice, etc.)
In the law practice side of my business, I am currently a solo practitioner and accept only cases involving electronic evidence. The consultancy service employs many IT as well as computer forensics people along with the typical office staff found in any business. I would be neglectful if I didn’t mention my life and business partner John Simek who not only maintains my inner balance but keeps the business side of our lives in order as well.
2. When was your firm established?
The law office was established in 1979 and Sensei in 1997.
3. Where do you practice (one office, multiple offices, virtual offices, regional, national, international)?
We have one office in Virginia.
4. What are the demographic backgrounds of the lawyers and staff in your firm?
I was pretty much your average WASP, I grew up in New England and migrated to Virginia when Georgetown accepted me.
5. What prior degrees and/or experience do the lawyers bring to your firm?
I have a J.D. from Georgetown and a B.A, in English from Tufts.
6. How would you describe the culture of your firm?
My solo practice operates in the same “space” as my corporation, Sensei Enterprises, Inc. We are very high tech with most employees being on the young side. This gives us a very fresh and young approach in how we approach business.
7. Can you describe the firm’s management style?
I delegate and trust everyone to do their jobs. We are very friendly here – it is a family atmosphere.
8. Does technology assist you in the management of your firm? If so, how?
Yes, it means I don’t drop balls. Also, it allows me to compete with the big guys. Technology levels the playing field. In fact, technology is our playing field.
9. When did you first embrace technology?
I saw the potential early on and completely computerized my office 20 years ago. From there it has been a matter of staying on top of developments. John is instrumental in that regard.
10. Can you describe the strategic advantage(s) that you feel that technology offers to you and your practice?
Research is easy, contact management is a cinch and case management is critical. My utilization of legal technology gave me the path to become a speaker and an author (five books and counting).
11. Are you a PC or a Mac office or both?
12. Which accounting system do you use?
Quicken – we have never needed more.
13. Do you use a case management application? If so, which one?
My system was developed in-house.
14. What off-the-shelf packages do you use?
15. Do you use MS Sharepoint or similar collaboration technology?
I’ve used Sharepoint – I am not overly fond of it.
16. Do you have a web page?
17. A blog?
Yes again. Ride the Lightning, a computer forensics and e-evidence blog.
I use them all.
19. Do you custom design any legal technology? If so, what?
I’m smart enough to let the youngsters do that. I’m the test case. That way, if I can do it, any lawyer can.
20. Are you a paper-less firm?
Much is electronic, but there is still paper in the office. Note to self: Must work on this!!!!
21. What other technologies do you use?
I love my latest Treo smartphone. And my new 7″ USB monitor. Give me a technology and I’ll play with it until a deadline looms and curtails my playtime . . . .
22. What specific technology is essential to your practice? Why?
I must have the Net to research and communicate. I regard case management as essential, especially if you’re a busy person. Time and billing keeps those checks coming in. And Metadata Assistant keeps me from hitting the “Send” button too quickly and sending out data that should remain private.
23. Are you contemplating any changes to how you use technology in your firm? If so, what are you considering?
Sure, we’ve moved to Web 2.0 and are watching Web 3.0. We’ll adopt Windows 7 as soon as it comes out in October 2009. We podcast now but are contemplating doing webcasts in-house.
24. How is your practice different from other practices in your area?
I don’t know anyone else here who does electronic evidence cases only.
25. Do you support telecommuting or other alternative work arrangements?
Nope. I’ve never seen a case where these arrangements weren’t abused. One exception: jobs where metrics can be very clearly defined – which doesn’t apply to anything we do around here.
26. Do you think there is a barrier to lawyers adopting technology? (age, gender, geographic area, practice area, etc?) If so, do you have any recommendations for overcoming these barriers?
Non-urban areas adopt more slowly, but that’s not just limited to technology. Things happen in the metropolitan areas first and then spread out over time. We still have an older generation of lawyers that are not comfortable with technology, but their numbers are shrinking. I think it will always remain true that “lawyers just want to practice law” and that most lawyers won’t be especially fond (what an understatement) of technology.
27. What about barriers for staff adopting technology? Do you have any advice to offer in this regard?
Staff is usually way ahead of the attorneys. Advice? Train, train, train! It increases productivity.
28. Do you find that clients appreciate your use of technology?
Very much so. They often come to me precisely because of my tech skills. Many times, they’ve heard me speak or read my books and articles. Writing and speaking have been great marketing tools for me.
29. What advice do you have with regard to other lawyers adopting technology?
Go slow. Take baby steps. Get yourself trained. Don’t get frustrated. Work on skills during quiet times, not when you have a deadline to meet. Realize how much mastering technology can mean for your law office, both in terms of productivity and increasing profits!
We welcome Sharon Nelson and John Simek as speakers to the 2009 The Pacific Legal Technology Conference which will be held – Friday Oct 2, 2009. We look forward to seeing you there!This entry was posted on Saturday, August 15th, 2009 at 1:29 pm and is filed under 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Adding Value, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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