The old and the new; the paper or plastic debate is moot

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations, and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

The frequency of change in law stresses us out. For this holiday season my gift to you are my thoughts on adapting to change while maintaining steadfast practices. The theme I see most frequently is the change in form that retains the substance. To be successful we need to be able to adapt to change without compromising sensation, perception and memory.

Black letter law has been evolving for hundreds of years. Our laws ebb and flow with changes in society, policy and the nature of the times. It seems like there have been vast changes to law in the last decade; moreover, the practice changed the most, and technology created a stir. If you have ever tried researching and reviewing on the train, reading pdfs on a small BlackBerry screen you would long for an iPad, as I complain, I curse the ability to continue doing work regardless of time, place or space.

A friend recently suggested that my BlackBerry and I were out of date Gen Xers, too stuck in our ways to adapt and embrace change. While waiting for the train I posted a query on Facebook as to what new devices suited my needs and blended the full media options of the new Androids while still allowing me to type on a keyboard. My cousin, Emily, a busy lawyer was the first to tell me about a perfect solution. I thought – “How great is this, let my peers pre-shop and test devices for me!” You see, I have been embracing change and don’t realize how blended I am in mixing the new with the old.

At my office, you’ll find me with not the very latest, but very recent technology, and piles of paper. I went back to paper when learned more about my cognitive process. If I don’t print an important e-mail I will likely forget it if I don’t do calendar reminders. Who has the time to calendar everything? When I sift through my client e-mails I see my hand-written notes and quickly remember what I need. This is how I process and learn information – it looks different from the methods for transmitting information.

Looking further, I thought more about how we receive and feel about information processing. Today, when I meet new people I find valuable, I send them a professional letter on the very best stationery. I sit at a wooden desk and fold the pages perfectly. I still read print newspapers – and I scan and save the articles I like, using keywords and techniques for instant retrieval. I am a visual person and learn from viewing, writing and manipulating the written text. I tried going paperless and had more trouble than I wanted to admit.

The takeaway is that you can embrace all the new things while holding on to tried and true methods of learning, communicating and of course, practicing law. Just because something is new, does not make it better by definition. Ask the half of my office that looks 1930s blended with its 2011 technology. You’ll never take my antique globe, real wooden desk and print news.


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