Nils B. Jensen B.A.Sc., LL.B., LL.M. answers 30 questions for busy lawyers who use technology:
Nils Jensen is a senior litigator at the Victoria Crown Counsel Office. His innovative use of technology in the courtroom has gained him a reputation as a leader in the field. He has used technology before judges and juries in cases ranging from murder to impaired driving.
While seconded to the Court Services Branch of the Ministry of Attorney General he led the award winning expansion of the video conference network now used widely in British Columbia courts and correctional centres. He was also the driving force behind the ground-breaking adjudication system used to resolve municipal bylaw disputes. The project received a Premier’s Award.
He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law where he has developed inventive new ways for teaching advocacy skills.
He holds law degrees from Osgoode Hall Law School and London School of Economics and an Engineering degree from the University of Ottawa.
Nils looks at using technology from the perspective of a Crown Counsel:
1. Could you briefly describe your firm (number of lawyers, staff, areas of practice etc)
I work at the Crown Counsel Victoria Office which is composed of 25 lawyers. Our practice is restricted to criminal prosecutions and appeal.
2. When was your firm established?
3. Where do you practice (one office, multiple offices, virtual offices, regional, national, international)?
The Crown has offices throughout BC – there are approximately 400 lawyers.
4. What are the demographic backgrounds of the lawyers and staff in your firm?
We span the whole spectrum of ages and backgrounds: from right out of law school to 30+ years experience.
5. What prior degrees and/or experience do the lawyers and staff bring to your firm?
Some have LLMs – some come from the private sector to join us.
6. How would you describe the culture of the Crown?
We pride ourselves on striving for excellence and conducting our prosecutions impartially, effectively and respectfully, on behalf of the whole community.
7. Can you describe the Crown’s management style?
Flexible and hands on, recognizing and adhering to policies and procedures established province wide.
8. Does technology assist you in the management of your firm? If so, how?
All our cases are tracked and maintained on a central province-wide database. While actual files are still in hard copy we have the ability to access related information from files held in other offices.
9. When did you first embrace technology?
While I had a computer in the mid 80s it was not until the mid 1990ss when “Mavis Beacon” taught me to type that I fully embraced technology. Learning from “Mavis” opened up a whole new world filled with email, easily created documents and of course PowerPoint. From then on I never dictated. I became ‘virtually’ self-sufficient.
10. Can you describe the strategic advantage(s) that you feel that technology offers to you and your practice?
As noted above I am almost completely self-sufficient. I am significantly more efficient in communicating in writing and making court presentations. Technology has allowed me to do twice the work in half the time.
11. Are you a PC or a Mac office or both?
PC at work and Mac at home
12. Which accounting system do you use?
N/A – the government doesn’t ‘bill’.
13. Do you use a case management application? If so, which one?
On very large cases we have access to “RINGTAIL”. I have not yet used it myself.
14. What off-the-shelf packages do you use?
15. Do you use MS Sharepoint or similar collaboration technology?
16. Do you have a web page?
I have developed one for the class I teach at the University of Victoria Law School.
17. A blog?
18. Do you use any social networking sites (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, Twitter etc.) in connection with your practice?
I just started on Facebook.
19. Do you custom design any legal technology? If so, what?
20. Are you a paper-less firm?
21. What other technologies do you use?
I use a cell phone, laptop, projector and DVD/CD players for court presentations.
22. What specific technology is essential to your practice? Why?
A computer. For communicating via email, for drafting court documents and creating court presentations.
23. Are you contemplating any changes to how you use technology in your firm? If so, what are you considering?
There is group within the Branch who are assigned to do this. It is not done an individual office basis.
24. How is your practice different from other practices in your area?
It is much more reliant on the computer for communicating and creating court room presentations.
25. Do you support telecommuting or other alternative work arrangements?
While I personally support it the Branch has yet to permit it as a matter of course.
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?
The main barrier stems from the misconception that technology is difficult to master. The perceived long learning curve is not one a busy lawyer feels they can devote time to. To break down the misconceptions technology needs to be integrated into what lawyers learn at law school, at the bar ads and in professional development opportunities. After being called training should be made readily and locally available.
27. What about barriers for staff adopting technology? Do you have any advice to offer in this regard?
There appears to be less of a barrier with staff. Their training has already attuned them to technology. In any event a facility with technology is often made a pre-requisite of getting hired and retained.
28. Do you find that clients appreciate your use of technology?
N/A as we don’t have ‘clients’ per se. What I have seen it a real appreciation amongst police who we frequently work with. Their work is becoming more technology based and they certainly appreciate Crowns who can work in such an environment.
29. What advice do you have with regard to other lawyers adopting technology?
Jump in and use it. It’ll save time and money and generally reduce the stress in your work environment.
30. Where would you like to see the profession go with regard to legal technology?
Creating more training/learning opportunities on a local small-scale basis. Bring the learning to the lawyer.This entry was posted on Sunday, August 30th, 2009 at 8:40 pm and is filed under 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Adding Value, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, 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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