Left Behind


Left behind.  For those of us in the legal aid community who paid attention to millennial pop-religious culture some years back (who could avoid the overheated shouting?), you’ll recognize the phrase, perhaps with some bemusement.  We weren’t left behind to fend off all manner of tribulations when the clock struck midnight at the turn of the century.

Or were we?

I coined the phrase “technology rapture” for an American Bar Association Equal Justice Conference presentation in, oh, 2005 or so.  Having lived here in the deep south for the past 22 years, I have added words and phrases to my vocabulary that previously were rather foreign to me.  Rapture is one of those words.  My religious culture views the New Testament Book of Revelation somewhat suspiciously, and when it does consider the text, it considers it as a statement of triumph over evil rather than a tale of woe to come.  But it is indeed this latter meaning that is significant for the case at hand.

While a number of lawyers just a generation ahead of me consider a fax machine as “technology”, by and large, the legal community truly has embraced a multitude of real and proven technology solutions to improve outcomes for clients and to buttress their business’ financial well-being.

No matter your station, being left behind is always something to be avoided.  The jungle adventure straggler gets eaten by lions.  The high-heeled woman running from the sci-fi monster  invariably trips, falls, screams, and becomes, well, you know, an object.   The 1970s Three’s Company star Joyce DeWitt never gets that “if only” film role.  You get the point.

Are we pro bono folks in danger of getting left behind?  Will our programs’ viability and clients be harmed?  Are my rhetorical questions sounding like a Carrie-Bradshaw -Sex –in-the-City intonation?  Yes, yes and yes.

I don’t think there is a bright line test for knowing how much technology is enough for our pro bono community, for knowing how much to invest and which solutions are fool-proof .  And there is no scale of measure of left-behindedness.  I may take a stab at creating such a tool, though, and call it the Monahan Scale of Behindedness.

A case for planning and for action is in order so our clients will not be left behind.  Woe to us should we let that happen.

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About ProBonoGA

Lawyer and justice architect wannabe... I am the pro bono director for Georgia Legal Services Program and direct a program that is funded by GLSP and the State Bar of Georgia. I am a lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia, and not in any other jurisdiction. Nothing posted on this blog should be considered legal advice. Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship with me. I do not have an active legal practice and do not have clients. I am not using this site to market to clients. I do not recommend attorneys or law firms. If I reference an attorney or a law firm in this blog, I do so to tell a story, make a point, or urge you to think about an issue presented by that attorney or law firm.
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6 Responses to Left Behind

  1. Claudia C. Johnson says:

    Mike,

    I think the scary thought is that eventually our low income community will leave us behind. In other words, children who are now 10, when they are of age to seek the help of an attorney, will not call in, they will not drop into a downtown office, and they may not show up at the court’s self help center and pay $25 for parking downtown. They will do it using some handheld tablet (8X11 as the old papyrus scrolls standard became prevalent) or smaller and their consumer taste will demand that we provide the interactions on some Avatar driven 3D enviromnet that mimics gaming, like WebAlive of Avaya. So, yes, we will left behind–and it will be by the dramatic change in consumer taste and by our own clients, who arguable have less resources than we do as providers and legal non-profits. (As we study in micro economics, one of the basic 7 assumptions is that consumer taste is constant. When one of these assumptions changes, micro-econ laws and analysis do not apply–things get wacky). This is a time of great opportunity and even greater challenges! Thanks for the post.

  2. ProBonoGA says:

    Thanks, Claudia. I see your point.

  3. Susan Reif says:

    Words to be taken seriously, we have an obligation to our client population to use every tool available to serve them more effectively.

  4. Tony Lu says:

    Mike – if you need any help building the Monahan Scale of Behindedness, let me know. I’m already picturing the infographics we could put together…

  5. Kate Bladow says:

    Mike – Unfortunately, I don’t think that it’s just the pro bono community that suffers from being left behind. I’m seeing more and more nonprofits outside of legal aid who have also been left behind. Basic technology hasn’t been seen as important enough to build into their budgets, so these organizations are now using old, broken computers that haven’t been maintained. It’s such a waste of the limited resouces nonprofit organizations have to work with, and it makes me incredibly sad.

    What makes me even sadder is the number of legal aid, pro bono, and other nonprofit staff who declare that they “are not techies” when you begin a conversation about technology with them. This is not ok. Comfort using and learning about new technology is a key skill for any nonprofit staff to have. You wouldn’t begin a conversation about writing or public speaking by saying “I can’t really do that,” so why would you start a conversation about technology that way? As Sharon Webb from the Greater Baltimore Technology Council is fond of saying, “Technology is not a vertical any more.” It’s something that is embedded in every field, and that everyone is expected to use as part of their job. – L

  6. Bonnie S. says:

    Mike,
    Thank you for reminding all of us that technology literacy is essential to the future of pro bono and other legal services. My hope is as a community we can do a better job of sharing technology know-how so that a 12 person shop can draw upon a statewide 200 person shop with embedded IT support. While my organization is investing substantial resources in hardware and software, we need day-to-day training support to properly use the new tools we have acquired. Legal services training should include inexpensive and readily accessible training options. Centralization makes sense for technology acquisition and support, but we are all too busy struggling individually to think strategically about exercising the market power we have in the aggregate. I’ll stopy my rant. . . .

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