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LEGAL STAFF TRAINING CORNER
Chuck Linebaugh, Director of Information Systems, Chicago’s O’ Hagan, Smith & Amundsen [9-13-04 by Regan Morris] In the digital age, law firms are generally not viewed as cutting edge. “IT Guy” Chuck Linebaugh tells LawCrossing why the legal field is coming out of the digital dark ages and why his law firm is ahead of the game when it comes to technology.
Chuck Linebaugh is the “IT Guy” inside his
to take the core competency exams and
firm and for the countless readers of his
pass out of them,” he said, adding that the
cause, for example, a secretary will at least
monthly “Ask the IT Guy” column on findlaw.
firm withholds bonuses if the employee has
know that an attorney will understand how to
com. He says law firms have a bad reputation
not passed the exams. “You have to have
look up certain computer files and vice versa.
for being behind the digital times, but that a
top-down buy-in to get anything done. You
“revolution” has shaken up the industry over
have to have the people making the decisions
“It raises the level,” he says. “We don’t get a
the last five years.
and signing the paychecks making sure that
call every time a secretary moves to hook up
the people are complying with the require-
a new printer. She knows how to hook it up
Linebaugh says law firms can be an ideal setting for cutting edge technology if the
exams also help inter office relationships be-
While his firm does not have a standard Help
senior partners are supportive. Law firms
If people fail the exams - which include
Desk, Linebaugh himself has become a vir-
generally have good budgets for technology,
multiple choice questions about installing
tual Help Desk with his online column, which
he says, but too often the money is squan-
new printers and other basic computer skills
focuses on technology issues at law firms
dered on outside consultants with vague
- they can keep taking it until they pass.
and occasionally other types of businesses.
ideas of which technological direction the
Linebaugh and his team conduct frequent
firm should take.
seminars where employees can sit down with
Readers write to him as “The IT Guy” and he
an IT specialist and study computer guides
responds to their problems.
Linebaugh believes there is an old world
and learn how to handle common computer
culture within some law firms. For example,
he says attorneys in some firms spend hours in dusty libraries searching for precedents
- it keeps me fresh through the questions He says the effort has paid off.
when the same information could be found
and the problems that other people are experiencing,” he says. “So it’s mutually
online in digital form - in a fraction of the
“It’s a lot of time in training, but what we find
is then we don’t have the simple questions
With 260 employees, including 120 attorneys
“The column forces me to look into things
coming in. We don’t have a help desk position
Linebaugh, who studied computer science
so we can avoid that expenditure.”
at Indiana University and did some graduate
and 12 paralegals in seven offices around
work at the University of Minnesota, says
Northern Illinois, O’ Hagan, Smith & Amund-
Attorneys and legal staff are generally well
he tries to create a collegial atmosphere in
sen has just four IT people. How do four
educated and quick thinking, he says. There’s
the firm when it comes to technology. He
people support so many others? Through
no reason why they can’t figure out basic
also worked at the University of Indiana and
computer skills as well, which is why the
wanted to maintain the culture of collabora-
firm invests so much time in training the
tion when he moved to the firm.
Linebaugh didn’t want anyone to spend time
staff in computer skills.
answering simple questions about faulty
“The university is great, because of the
keyboards day after day, so when he joined
“We’ve invested in our employees, and tech-
collaborative atmosphere, which is what
the firm almost six years ago he developed a
nology isn’t going away anytime soon,” he
I’ve tried to do with my staff here,” he says.
core competency program that everyone in
says. “Why keep people at a certain level; at
“There’s more teamwork; everybody covers
the firm must pass.
least we’ve brought them up.”
“Within three months, everyone is required
Linebaugh, 32, says the core competency
And most importantly, knowledge is not kept
continued on back
LEGAL STAFF TRAINING CORNER
by department heads, it is shared. “It promotes a lot of idea creation, how problems are solved in a collaborative sense.” He says many of the firm’s attorneys are always looking for new technology solutions, so he is never bored. “It’s interesting working with the attorneys their needs always change,” he says. “So it’s a great growth area in technology. Law firms now are coming out of the dark and realizing that the law firms that are using technology to cut their client costs are moving ahead of the others.”
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