One savvy corporate giant is testing its lawyers for simple technical competency, and finding those skills lacking. This translates into higher bills to the company, or so goes the thinking of automobile maker Kia’s corporate counsel D. Casey Flaherty. As reported by the Connecticut Law Tribune (May 22, 2013), Flaherty told an audience at the LegalTech conference in Los Angeles:
… firms bidding for Kia’s business must bring a top associate for a live test of their skills using basic, generic business tech tools such as Microsoft Word and Excel.
For example, a common requirement of courts is to submit legal documents in PDF form with no embedded hyperlinks. Most of these documents originate in law firms as Microsoft Word files, and a properly configured system enables any Word user to “print” to a PDF “printer” and generate the necessary PDF document. This process, if done correctly, can omit any offending hyperlinks disallowed by the court. Flaherty tests associates by asking them to generate a PDF, perform simple searches in Excel documents, and do other common tasks he sees as required of any associating serving Kia. He calls this test an “audit”. Flaherty says:
The audit should take one hour … but the average pace is five hours.
He also warned against assuming that younger test takers will do better than older candidates, identifying older attorneys and judges who embrace technology and have led the adoption of it.
We get into dangerous territory if we think the young know tech and the older lawyers don’t.
I greatly appreciate that last aspect. It boggles my mind how many 20-somethings I meet who download an iPhone app and post a photo on Instagram and assume this means they are software savvy. Hardly.
The Connecticut Law Tribune reported much more of Flaherty’s remarks and includes a link to his Powerpoint presentation he used for the conference. It’s definitely worth reviewing.