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Kia's In-House Counsel Shrinks Bills with Computer Skills Test

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By William Peacock, Esq. on May 23, 2013 12:58 PM

What constitutes computer competency? How about attorney competency?

The answers might be closer to each other than you think. Earlier this year, the ABA revised their model rules to emphasize two duties relevant to both questions: keeping up to date on relevant technology and protecting clients’ sensitive electronic data.

That means computer competency, for attorneys, requires a lot more than simple typing skills. It might also require proficiency with PDF files, Bates-numbering, and Excel, at least, if you want to be outside counsel for a multi-national auto manufacturer.

D. Casey Flaherty, who works as corporate counsel at Kia Motors America, was tired of BigLaw bills for routine tech tasks. His response was to create a technology proficiency audit -- a test which was supposed to take one hour, and consisted of such tasks as saving a document as a PDF and Bates-numbering documents.

Nine firms sent a senior associate of their choosing to the test. None passed. One firm failed twice.

This may not sound like a major time saver. After all, what's the difference between hitting "CTRL+C" or clicking Edit-->Copy? One second? Even if that is done thousands of times, we're talking a difference of minutes in a day.

However, for those who failed the audit, the one hour test, which admittedly involved much more advanced tasks than the copy-paste example, took as much as five hours. Add that up for all of the work done by outside counsel, and you have an exponentially-expanding tab, all due to a lack of training in relevant computer skills.

According to the ABA Journal, Flaherty doesn't plan on keeping his ingenuity to himself. He has partnered with an outside training firm to design a similar course that will be available for free (FREE) to in house attorneys at other companies, meaning technological proficiency might become a prerequisite for most attorneys and firms seeking work as outside counsel.

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