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Myth of the digital native

by Joe Kaczrowski | May 22, 2015

Like the Jelly of the Month Club, ABA TECHSHOW is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year. The Saturday morning plenary session featured Casey Flaherty and Andrew Perlman, creators of the Legal Tech Audit. Among other topics, Flaherty sought to dispel the myth of the digital native.

The younger generations are often referred to as ‘digital natives’, people who have known technology their entire lives. Parents often marvel at the genius of their children, who are swiping iPads and accessing smartphone apps before they can walk. Flaherty pointed out that such anecdotes don’t indicate a natural or innate technological ability (or that the toddlers are technical whiz kids or geniuses) but rather are an example of the genius of Steve Jobs and Apple: that the interface and design of the products are so simple and intuitive that a two year old can use them.

Lawyers may recall Denzel Washington applying the same principle to legal arguments. Randy Juip’s presentation (part of the litigation track) similarly discussed the use of infographics to help the jury quickly comprehend complex data and analyses. Juip also discussed presentation style and offered PowerPoint tips, including slides are free so use a bunch. Less is more; fewer words and more slides can help your audience follow your argument.

A few examples from @rajuip:

Now try to imagine how that same data would look if presented as an Excel spreadsheet. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words; infographics offer one way to communicate and connect with your audience.

There are a number of free or low-cost tools out there to help you develop infographics, including and You can also use programs you may already have, like Word and PowerPoint. Even Excel’s built-in tools can help you present tables of numbers are colorful charts and graphs.

With the plenary session, the ultimate point was that technological ability is not something you are born with but rather a skill that must be cultivated and developed over time. As discussed in an earlier post, the Legal Tech Audit is one example of ways a lawyer can hone his or her technical skills. The changes to the ABA Model Rules (adopted by Minnesota) drive home the point, stating that a lawyer should “keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”

As many coaches and motivational speakers say, if something is important, you don’t find the time, you make the time. No one is born just understanding technology. While some technology is so intuitive a toddler can use it, most technology will require some experimentation and practice. Dusting off another old gem, you’ve got to spend money to make money; paraphrasing, with technology you have to invest the time upfront to reap the benefits down the road. While it may be hard to forgo some billable hours to spend time learning new technology, the long term benefit has the potential to far outweigh the cost.

FN: For those keeping score at home, and who read the previous post about MS Word's readability score, this post rated at 51 for readability with a grade level of 11.