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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

ments.”

herself.”

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,

problems.

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

time.

is then we don’t have the simple questions

With 260 employees, including 120 attorneys

“The column forces me to look into things

beneficial.”

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

education.

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.”

for everyone.”

“Within three months, everyone is required

Linebaugh, 32, says the core competency

And most importantly, knowledge is not kept

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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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Chuck Linebaugh, Director of Information Systems, Chicago's O' Hagan, Smith & Amundsen