Rethinking Younger Employees

Recently, I wrote quite a bit about the misconception that younger employees are automatically more technically qualified when it comes to understanding things like electronic discovery. As I said at the time,

The ability to use an iPhone has nothing to do with knowing how to create a data-map, a deep understanding of PST files, using hash values to locate duplicate files, an understanding of metadata and forensics, or the hundreds of other things an attorney may run into in the course of an eDiscovery project.

I still hold that as absolute truth, however a recent post over at Ernie the Attorney, The Young Turks of Information Processing has made me reevaluate how I view this younger generation of attorneys, to some degree. As Ernie says:

Most lawyers have trouble with email (and digital information in general) because they don’t understand how to navigate that world. Lawyers who don’t search for things on Internet are the worst. They lack a fundamental skill that’s needed to efficiently attack digital information. Naturally they’re inept when it comes to handling electronic discovery. Some of them are committing serious malpractice. But, of course, they have no idea.

The next generation of lawyers will not have this problem, or at least it won’t be a prevalent problem like it is today. The young turks coming out of law school today don’t have a passive relationship to information. They attack digital information the way sharks attack wounded seals.

I actually agree with this. People who are well versed in using web-based tools to find, keep, and share information are going to be much better-placed to work with the review portion of electronic discovery than attorneys who struggle to do anything more than read email. As an interesting aside, for all of the bad press keyword searching gets in the ediscovery world (and rightly so to some degree), I can’t help but wonder if it would actually prove to be much more accurate were the searches being done by folks who have spent years perfecting the use of Google and learned about how to track down the words others would use in a given situation, as opposed to attorneys who have never taken the time to grow past that “passive relationship to information”. When confronted with GB’s of email and the need to find relevant information, passive is not the efficient way to go.

Aside from that, I will also briefly mention one other area where folks who are comfortable with technology and do not view information passively will have a huge advantage is in using technology in the court room. They may not consciously be aware of this advantage yet, but the reality is that more and more as the population grows comfortable with processing information in these new ways, they will expect to be given more than just oral testimony from witnesses. Having attorneys who understand that, and are willing to present information in different ways, will fit in with the types of people you’ll see on juries. Heck, I’m not even that young and I can tell you that I don’t want to just hear about what’s in a contract, I want to see it for myself. I want you to highlight and draw my attention to exactly what I should be looking at in this document, not listening to someone else read it. I want to see someone who gave a statement or deposition, to see how they said what they said, instead of reading it from a transcript. Many jurors younger than me want even more. Attorneys who can only process information passively are not going to be able to fill that desire. They don’t understand it.

What do you think? Are there other areas where only having a passive relationship to information is going to hurt lawyers?

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