Host Sean Harris talks with internet and technology attorney, Andrew Rossow, about millennials in the legal industry.
Sean: Hello and welcome to Civilly Speaking, OAJ’s monthly podcast on practical and timely legal issues, I’m your host Sean Harris. Our guest today is Andrew Rossow, who is an internet and technology attorney in Dayton, OH. Andrew thanks very much for joining us here today on Civilly Speaking.
Andrew: Thank you so much for having me, Sean.
Sean: And so our topic today is the concept of millennials and specifically millennial lawyers. What do you see as some of the differences between a so called traditional lawyer and millennial lawyers?
Andrew: You know Sean you’re looking at, first off the age difference between what a traditional lawyer is and who a millennial lawyer is and typically the millennial lawyers are individuals from the ages of 18 to about 35 years old and why there’s quite a bit of differences you’re really looking at the paper formality versus technological resources that are now becoming available and more readily available to people around them.
Sean: And you know, even that term millennial is kind of loaded these days do you find that people have a negative reaction to that term or that concept?
Andrew: You know I think the term itself it seems like it’s a negative connotation, but I don’t believe people really associate with a negative type of meaning and what I mean by that is the term millennial emphasizes the digital ways, the technological resources that these young lawyers or young people have available that a lot of traditional lawyers or other individuals in other generations did not have for themselves. So I think people try to use it as a negative connotation in terms of how a person would approach a situation or handle a situation or react to a situation because of the efficiency that these technological resources bring, but I don’t believe there is a negative connotation.
Sean: And how about, when we’re talking about technology, which is obviously more and more a part of the practice than it ever has been. What kinds of new ideas do millennials bring to a law firm?
Andrew: I think when you’re talking about efficiency in a whether it’s a legal atmosphere or a business atmosphere, particularly a law firm, there’s more efficient ways of organizing information, whether it’s preserving and protecting client information, whether its organizing information relative to the firm or even the particular lawyer himself. You have inter office communications, like the AOL instant messenger that took off many, many years ago. You have newer chat clients like Slack or Trillion or some sort of messenger program that allows for younger lawyers to communication faster whether in the office or in court. I know a lot of people started utilizing the Goggle Voice system for having a separate mobile number to better communicate with clients outside of normal office hours if there’s something that needs to be done, but you know as a millennial or young lawyers we’re always looking for a better way to operate more efficiently, but securely.
Sean: And tell us about Goggle Voice. My understanding is that’s something you can use, what you kind of have one number whether it’s mobile or office and it rings at all your different devices?
Andrew: Yes, so Goggle Voice is its own platform obviously associated with Goggle, but what it does is it allows you to create a separate number or rather replace an existing number that you already have with a carrier and use that to a cut cost, but b have a better idea and tracking of text messages that are sent, emails received, voicemails that are left and call history. I have a Goggle voice number, I have a separate number in addition to my primary number that I use strictly for clients and that allows me to communicate much more quickly with them if I’m mobile or on the go and not in the office, but what Goggle Voice does provide to the legal atmosphere is it allows more of a communication opening between the lawyer and the client.
Sean: And I’m just curious, do you set any kind of a boundaries with clients as far as you know, how soon they should expect a response whether that be a call or a text?
Andrew: When I do give that number out and I do have it on a business card they understand that you know if it’s something very, very important that can’t wait until either our next meeting or during the week, if it happens to be a weekend that they are more than welcome to call and I do encourage them to use that number. It allows me to screen whose calling ahead of time and if for some reason I can’t answer that phone call I am able to visually see their voicemail on my screen, I can respond quickly and if I am unable to get there that they understand that ahead of time, but it does allow for a separation between the private number the personal I guess life versus the business life, but at the same time you don’t really stop being a lawyer. You know you’re on the clock 24/7 in a sense and for those who really enjoy their job and working with clients as I do I like to make myself available as much as possible.
Sean: Sure. Well and I guess it’s always a balance right in my mind between you controlling the technology and the technology controlling you. If it allows you to do what you want to accomplish then it’s a good thing, but if you are feeling beholden to the incoming wave of calls and texts then it might be the other way around.
Andrew: Absolutely and I think getting back to your earlier question about the possible negative connotation of the term millennial lawyer or millennial you know, we’ve grown up in a digital age where technology has allowed us to become more comfortable and more suited to tasks presented to us and as you said there’s a balance between controlling the technology or having the technology control you and as long as we understand or the millennial understands that it is not a substitute for working hard or improving law firm atmosphere or working with your clients then that’s okay and it’s a tool not a substitute.
Sean: Well Andrew tell us whether, have you seen any challenges to being a younger lawyer these days?
Andrew: There’s always going to be a contrast between the old school conservative way of practicing law versus modern day technological tools that help one in the practice of law and as I just said these tools are not a substitute, but they are an addition to what foundation we already have or what is expected of us and I think where you have conservative lawyer whose been trained, whose studied a certain way or ways of doing things and then they bring in a younger lawyer a different generation that grew up or was trained differently you know there is always going to be a little bit of a struggle, not necessarily a bad thing, but there’s going to be a contrast between how things have always been done versus hey there might be an easier more efficient way of doing those same tasks.
Sean: Change is hard.
Andrew: Change is hard. Most definitely.
Sean: What about cultural trends these days that you see affecting lawyers and law firms, that may not be obvious to everybody.
Andrew: Well in a generation that I think where younger lawyers have grown accustom to technology making life easier there’s always a struggle with I guess jumping ahead of the curve because of that technology. At the same time there is always that risk of when you do skip or jump over these fundamental concepts they can only be learned or understood by maybe using a pen and paper or going to a law library or doing a lot of the mundane tasks that there’s risk with utilizing the technology solely and not taking the steps that a conservative lawyer or somebody from a different generation has grown accustom to and I think there’s going to be a difference in opinion or views on how the technology’s used. Whether it’s our generation or a different generation.
Sean: You know let me get the specific here just because I am curious myself are there particular apps these days that in your practice you can’t live without?
Andrew: Yeah, I know recently at least on the iPad there’s the iJuror app or similar apps that allow the user, the lawyer to select a jury and it has the seating chart of the court room and it makes it more efficient for the lawyer to play around with that than they would have to you know take out a pen and paper. There are recording apps that a lot of lawyers would use for depositions and they can upload to their computer and go from there. I mean there are a ton of different tools you’d be surprised whether it’s discovery packages that you can buy that provide tools for more efficient ways of conducting discovery, I mean there’s a whole thing and it’s a matter of what works for the firm, what works for the lawyer and at the same time what the courts are going to allow these lawyers to use in their court room.
Sean: Speaking of court rooms and law offices and these physical structures, we hear more and more these days about virtual law firms, first of all what is a virtual law office?
Andrew: Well a virtual law office is basically where you have a law firm that does not have a physical location or if it does have a physical location it is not one that typically a client would be able to walk into. It could be an office run out of the lawyer’s home. It could be a remote business location that all the communication, all the documentation, all the filing is done remotely. The interaction between the lawyer and the client would be through the phone, would be through emails, Skype, FaceTime, however the lawyer you know would discuss that with the client at the time.
Sean: And I wonder, it may be difficult to gauge, but I wonder what clients think about this new technology, whether they appreciate it because it allows them to be more flexible or whether they miss the kind of face to face sit down meeting.
Andrew: Sure and you know it is difficult for me to personally comment as I haven’t had a lot of experience with the virtual law firm or had the ability to speak to anybody that has had that experience, but I believe the rate at which we are seeing the growth of technology that I do believe that virtual law offices will continue to grow and make a presence. I think there is good and bad that goes with that and at least the most important aspect is protecting client information and those firms resources and I think there comes a time where the client needs to be comfortable with who they are going to and I think that starts with at least a face to face meeting where you can look at your lawyer in the eye, shake their hand and you know understand who they are. At the same time I think there is an advantage to the efficiency to the availability of resources between does there really need to be as much of a personal relationship versus here’s a task here is what I need. Can you do it? Yes, great kind of thing, but at the same time I think that depends on each and every client individually on what they expect.
Sean: And how about risks or potential risks that law firms are opening themselves up to as they continue to embrace technology.
Andrew: We’re starting to see it now, every day with news reports that there are exploitations or vulnerability’s that businesses are suffering whether its data breaches, whether its information being taken by a former employee unauthorized disclosures and I believe there will come a day when a business or a firm or its resources are exploited in some measure whether it’s big or small. I think the question really is not are there risks but are the firms or businesses prepared for when that risk does present itself and you know I think we recently just saw it with the Equifax a couple weeks ago. We’ve seen it with Yahoo in the past and like I said firms have an obligation protect to client information and protect its own resources and I think the more a firm starts to utilize and adopt technology and incorporate it into its business structure they have to be prepared for when something goes wrong.
Sean: Well and you mentioned the Equifax breach, what’s your understanding of why that’s happening now or the disclosures happening now and how that affects young lawyers, millennial lawyers who may have student debt still?
Andrew: You know it’s scary, this whole breach surrounding Equifax is scary and I think the scariest part of it is we still don’t have answers. I think when Equifax disclosed a couple weeks ago that it had been breached it had been breached a lot earlier than when the company actually said it was and it’s a scary concept because we are entrusting as a general public these agencies or businesses with very, very secure private information that we’ve been taught from day one, do not give out, be very careful, and I think with law firms and businesses and this applies to millennials, it’s very scary because a lot of young lawyers are starting to understand what credit means and how it effects their daily lives and their futures and I think in a situation where the public is told hey we don’t know if you’ve been hacked, but just be careful that’s, that’s huge and if an agency or business like that can experience a breach that’s affected about 44% of the United States and growing you know it can happen to anybody.
Sean: Andrew what advice would you give to younger lawyers who might be starting their own practice these days in relation to these issues we’ve been talking about.
Andrew: Sure, Sean. I think it’s important for young lawyers to be cognizant and aware of the people around them and take in everything, be a sponge and there’s a lot that you as a young lawyer can learn from these older, conservative lawyers who’ve grown up researching in law libraries and not having the availability of technology or Goggle or Westlaw at the time and while there is always going to be a struggle, there’s a lot that both sides can learn from each other and just absorb it, absorb as much as you can.
Sean: Well, Andrew Rossow thanks very much for joining us here on Civilly Speaking.
Andrew: Thanks so much Sean for having me.