For its 36th Annual Educational Conference this year, ILTA chose “The Catalyst” as its theme.
“A catalyst can be defined as something or someone that causes a reaction or activity between two or more things to create something new. The ILTA 2013 conference will be a time to make reactions happen that will affect our profession now and for years to come. Join us. And find your catalyst for change!”
That’s all well and good, but how do you actually BECOME a catalyst?
Network, Network, Network
With almost equal parts education and networking, ILTA has been providing a steady stream of ingredients and opportunities for reactions with its annual educational conference for 36 years.
Attending the sessions (remotely via Twitter or in person), networking with your fellow legal technologists and meeting with the premier legal vendors may be part of the answer.
Take Risks, Ask Questions
You can’t be a catalyst if you aren’t willing to take the initiative and to embrace some level of risk. If you sit back and watch the world change around you from fear or apathy, doing your best to simply navigate the waters, avoiding turbulence wherever possible, then the world will pass you by.
Take an idea or a concept that you believe in passionately. Try to narrow your focus so that you’re not trying to take on too much. Do your research. Ask the tough questions that others may not be able or willing to ask. Offer to your manager to investigate this idea on behalf of the firm. Learn about the hows and whys your firm does it the way they do it. Educate yourself, become knowledgeable and then lead by example.
The sheer process of asking questions may be that catalyst. This was something of a sub-theme at the Private Law Libraries’ Summit as part of the American Association of Law Libraries’ annual conference in July 2013. It was mentioned more than once that questioning and volunteering were the catalysts for professional growth in their firms. I know that is how my role in several firms has expanded.
Set the Stage for Change at Your Firm
Depending on the scope of the change and potential impact, there may be a lot of groundwork that needs to be laid. Perhaps there are stepping stone projects, or an education program that must be done first in order for your initiative to be fruitful.
Always remember that change must be manageable. Too much change without a proper foundation and you are sure to fail. Take too long and interest and momentum can die out. Spreading your idea and vision, achieving buy-in and convincing your boss can take time. Those initial sparks and reactions are great, but won’t mean much if you can’t sustain it long-term. Be patient, yet persistent.
Get Others on Board
Law firms are very political animals. Locate key players and decision makers and build strong relationships with them based on trust. Be diplomatic. Remember what works for your counterpart in another law firm may not work for you. The approaches used in other firms may not work for your firm. You know your firm’s culture, so be organizationally savvy and aware.
Now go out there and catalyze!
Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter @jeffrey_brandt, let’s keep the dialogue going.
Jeffrey Brandt is a former AmLaw 100 Chief Information and Knowledge Officer with over 25 years experience in Legal IT. He is currently the owner of Brandt Professional Services and the Editor of the PinHawk Technology Digest.