27 February 2018Jon Robinson
Lawyers are famously busy. How can you keep up with the newest technological advances as well as the latest in law?
Becoming a lawyer is signing up for a life of learning. In order to practice, you have to stay up to date on the latest decisions, awards, and regulations. And increasingly, in order to best serve both your clients and your business, you need to be informed on the technology that is optimizing the industry and transforming society. In fact, the majority of states in the U.S. have mandated that lawyers have an ethical duty to be competent in technology as well as the law and its practice.
But, how do you make time for it? Between clients, court cases, and families, how can you stay current in a field of constant innovation? The trick is to stop thinking like a lawyer and think like a tech reporter looking for his next scoop, a CEO who needs to maximize every second of her time or programmer who needs to stay ahead in order to build the future.
Here we outline how to strategize, organize yourself, and use tools to make staying informed as easy as possible.
Invest in (Artificial) Intelligence
The first step is to decide to stay informed. Half the battle is committing to being aware of what’s happening in the industry. Don’t think of it as one more responsibility or something else to check off your to do list, but as an exciting prospect. Being ahead of the technology curve will enrich every aspect of your life – not just your practice.
Additionally, think of the time you spend reading the news as an investment in your business. Those minutes may lead to a new case, or even your establishing a new practice area. Being tech savvy is not only knowing how to implement technology in your current practice, but thinking ahead, formulating how developments in other industries will affect your own, and preparing for it.
Be realistic about the time you have and allocate resources adequately. You probably don’t have an hour each day to spend perusing through newspapers, blogs, and industry magazines. Figure out how much time you can devote to this particular type of learning and maximize it. The most efficient way to stay up to date is by breaking down the task into smaller, more manageable, parts. Narrow down a niche and devote some time every day for the news most relevant to your daily practice. Every week, spend an hour catching up on news from the larger legal tech world. Every month, set time aside to think about trends.
Use the Right Tools for the Right Amount of Time
Spending a few hours setting yourself up for success now will allow you to minimize the time you spend trying to keep up in the future. You’ll only have to curate content once if you do it right the first time. Although you should find the method of consumption that best works for you, making sure you have a list of resources for every medium is a smart way to ensure you’re not missing out a particular beat or asset.
Scroll on Social Every Day
Twitter and Reddit are your friends. On Reddit, you can follow subreddits specific to law and tech, but also spending even a single minute a day on through the front page will ensure you’re never out of the loop. The trick is not to get sucked into scrolling – developing the discipline to only pause on content that is enriching and relevant is just as important as devoting the time to keeping informed.
Use Twitter to follow lawyers you respect, legal tech blogs, and relevant news outlets. Take a page out of your social media manager’s book and create a Tweetdeck, where you can make themed lists and get as specific as you like. The more specific your lists, the easier it becomes to minimize your time scrolling through newsfeeds and maximize your knowledge. If you have a separate list for your specific legal niche, another for legal tech news, and another for tech news outlets and beat journalists, you can efficiently devote as much time as you have on a particular day. Utilize people whose only job is to seek out the latest innovations and let them do the work for you.
It only takes five minutes of scrolling through your Tweetdeck lists every day list to gather a trove of articles you want to delve into. Don’t feel pressured to read everything right away – bookmark anything of interest and move on with your day unless you come across truly breaking news.
Dive in For an Hour Every Week
Set an hour aside each week to go through all the content you’ve saved throughout the week. If you (still) use RSS feeds, catch up using feedly. Pocket is another great tool lets you save articles you come across to read for later and it has both desktop and mobile browser extensions – as well as a Twitter extension so you can save posts directly from your Tweetdeck.
You can also go straight to the source and check on your favorite blogs. This article highlights the most well-known legal technology blogs today. Above the Law’s technology section and LegalTech News are good places to start, but the truth is that to be truly ahead of the curve, the best strategy is to follow tech developments directly and filter them through the lens of law yourself.
Most articles are only worth a skim. Be choosy and only read longform pieces that come highly recommended on social media or by peers. Pick only one or two pieces or podcasts to devote significant time to: the most thought-provoking and the most relevant to your practice.
If you’re an auditory learner, you can multitask for even more efficiency and listen to a podcast episode while you shower, on a run, or during your commute. Check out NPR’s How I Built This and Product Hunt Radio to be inspired by entrepreneurs, This Week in Google, TED Radio Hour, the Andreessen Horowitz a16z Podcast and Re/code Decode for the pulse on technology, politics and media, and Note to Self for thought-provoking questions on the humanity of technology.
You can subscribe to podcasts using iTunes or through third-party apps like Overcast and Stitcher. Configure your settings so that your feed isn’t cluttered and you don’t feel overwhelmed by all the unlistened-to episodes. Turn on automatic download so episodes sync immediately and set episodes marked as played to be automatically deleted. At the end of each week when you go through your podcast feeds, mark anything that doesn’t immediately catch your interest as “Played” to clear out your feed. Take advantage of the 15 secs back and forward buttons to skip ads and replay important moments.
If you prefer to get content delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for the best newsletters available.
Wired has both free Daily and Weekly roundups, MIT’s The Download provides the latest in emerging technology, Andreessen Horowitz’s Benedict Evans produces a weekly guide to the best of the last seven days, and the Import AI mailing list will send you the latest on artificial intelligence. Fully Charged – Bloomberg Technology and Business Insider’s Daily 10 Things in Tech and Bloomberg Technology’s Fully Charged are other options for a curation of the latest tech news.
Once you subscribe to each newsletter, ascribe it a label and make sure it goes into a special folder automatically so that they don’t overwhelm your general inbox.
Attend Events Every Month
At the beginning of each year, spend a couple of hours searching for conferences, pencilling them in your calendar, and scheduling for them. Check out the American Bar Association’s CLE resources and events in your area. Some notable events in 2018 are: ILTACON, the Annual Legal Marketing Association Conference, and our event with Google on how to future-proof your business in the wake of technology, Litiquest.
Diversify and Digest
Diversify not only how you consume information, but what information you consume. Don’t limit yourself to strictly legal tech publications. Read up on broader tech news and how it intersects with business, the economy, and science. Focus most of your time on thinking about how innovations can and will affect the law and the legal industry.
Each month, set aside time to digest everything you’ve read and simply think: how can you use what you’ve learned to make your own practice more efficient, better serve your clients, and ensure your relevance?