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5 New Technologies that Paralegals Need to Learn Now

5 New Technologies that Paralegals Need to Learn Now

By Tina Marie Hilton

Do you remember when conference calls were a newfangled technology? How about e-mail and computers? Once upon a time in order to talk with more than one person at a time you had to schedule an in-person meeting. And paralegals sat at electric typewriters creating letters to be mailed via the USPS. Now conference calling, computers and e-mail are all required knowledge for any paralegal.

Technology is constantly changing the face of the way things are done in business. And although sometimes it seems like law offices are the last ones to adopt the latest trends, rest assured that there are some things that will become as commonplace in the legal office as e-mail has become.
With so much new stuff out there, how are paralegals supposed to know which technologies to pursue to keep them on the top of their profession and which ones are just a flash in the pan, never to be adopted by lawyers?

I don’t claim to be Bullwinkle’s Mr. Know It All, but I do believe that in the not-so-distant future the following five technologies will be things that all paralegals will be required to know something about:

  • Online Calendaring: Online calendaring is more than just keeping track of appointments online rather than a paper calendar. These days there are programs out there that actually assist you in the scheduling process by allowing clients or meeting participants to choose the best times and days for their appointments. One of my favorites is a simple little application called When Is Good (http://whenisgood.net/) that allows you to send a link to all of the meeting participants and they can log in and choose time slots that work for them. Then all you have to do is coordinate using the information. Of course, having a calendar online that everyone in the office can access is important, too – that way you can all keep track of everything that is scheduled or when certain individuals are unavailable.
  • Remote Login Technology: This allows you to install a very small program on your (or your boss’) work computer, set an ID name and password, and voila, you now have access to that computer from any other computer with Internet access. There are several choices when it comes to remote computer sharing. I like LogMeIn (https://secure.logmein.com/home.asp?hp=2), which has free and paid versions of the service.
  • Social Media – Did you know “social media” recently passed “porn” as the top search category? No wonder so many people are hailing it as a necessity for reaching clients and potential clients. There is a lot I could say about the wisdom of social media, but I think that would be considered hi-jacking Lynne’s blog. Just suffice it to say that social media isn’t going away any time soon, and the smart paralegal will learn how to use it professionally. Popular social media sites include Twitter (http://twitter.com/), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/), and specifically for legal professionals, Justia (http://www.justia.com/) and AVVO (http://www.avvo.com/).
  • Blogging – If you’re reading this you certainly know what a blog is. But do you know how to use a blog to help market a law practice? Do you know how to add a post to a blog? Insert pictures into a post? Add a podcast? Blog marketing is quickly becoming an indispensable way to reach new clients. Chances are in the not-too-distant future paralegals are going to be called upon to add blog posts and the like. There are blogs hosted on the free and low cost services like WordPress.com (http://wordpress.com/– not to be confused with WordPress.org, which is free software to build your own WordPress blog on your own website), TypePad (http://www.typepad.com/pro/index-2b.html) and Blogger (http://www.blogger.com/). Then there are premium blogs which are set up on a company website. Familiarize yourself now, and you’ll be glad you did.
  • Web Conferencing/Online Meetings– Who says you have to have meetings in an office? These days all you need is a webcam and an Internet connection and voila, instant conference room. The education world has already adopted webinars to teach students anywhere and at anytime. It’s only a matter of time before the convenience to both attorney and clients makes web conferencing and online meetings standard fare in law offices. I’ve used both DimDim (http://www.dimdim.com/) and GoToMeeting (http://www.gotomeeting.com/), but there are others out there like Fuze Meeting (http://www.fuzemeeting.com/). Imagine attending a meeting from your iPhone or Blackberry. With some of these services it’s entirely possible. Can you see why it is bound to become the conference room of the future?

Now that you have this list, what should you do about it? Spend some time familiarizing yourself with it. Start a Twitter account and join social media sites like LinkedIn to start making networking connections now. Create a blog, even if it’s just a personal one. It will allow you to get a feel for how it’s done, and definitely read, read, read blogs, especially those in the legal industry like this one. (Lynne’s got a great blog list to start with in her sidebar here) Live in snow country? Install a remote login application on your work computer and you’ll be prepared for the next blizzard. Consider playing around with a webinar or online calendaring when you can, too. For example, instead of sending out a company memo asking for the best date for the Christmas party, send them all to When is Good. It allows you to test drive the application in a low stress scenario.

Although learning new technology may seem like just another ‘to-do’ on your ever growing list, taking the time to familiarize yourself with these five applications will be worth the added effort.

_______________________________
Tina, you can hijack my blog any time. Where did I meet someone as cool as Tina? Twitter, of course. Turns out she is a North Carolina gal, just like me, and we’re close enough to do something as shocking as meeting for lunch in person. Tina is the owner of Clerical Advantage Virtual Assistance Services, as well as one of the newest faculty members at Solo Practice University. She has a wonderful blog at http://clericaladvantage.com/blog/– add it to your Google reader!

2 Responses to 5 New Technologies that Paralegals Need to Learn Now

  1. I would add that any paralegal that wants to keep her job needs to be as techie as possible these days. Learn Summation, learn all about e-discovery, learn ESI procedures. Keep up on trends and migrate towards lit tech. It is not enough to know how to log in remotely from home or manage an electronic calendar, attorneys are demanding more and more tech skills. Basically we have to know how to do it all.

  2. I agree that these tech tools are must-learns for most legal support staff. Even just having a basic understanding of social networking and blogging will be a leg up! And how cool is it that you two live close enough to have lunch, I'm so jealous!

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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