Hi! I’m Michelle Spencer, the founder of LLDevNet. I would like to tell you a little about me, my journey, and why LLDevNet came to be at this particular time. For more detailed information on my background or earlier publications, you may access my LinkedIn profile. For my more recent thoughts, check out our Blog, follow me on Twitter, or like our Facebook page.
My journey starts back when I began working in accounting and data processing for a law firm while I started college and then completed a paralegal program. I worked as both a legal secretary and paralegal before transitioning into IT where I served as a support specialist, trainer, and finally training manager of an AmLaw 100 firm. All tolled, I have spent three decades in legal. Boy, has a lot changed in that time!
Back in the Day. The first firm I worked for used a Wang mainframe with centralized printing. Attorneys didn’t even have computers back then! Everything was done manually and on paper – piles and piles of paper. Of course, there was no email or smartphones, so there was more time to focus and get things done. Everything moved at a slower pace. That’s something else that has changed!
The desktop was also simpler than it is now. Today, there’s an app for everything! At my last firm, people were expected to use 20+ applications on a regular basis. The integrations necessary to support that many applications working together mean a very complex desktop. Plus, with everything being done electronically, that makes for some very complex workflows.
I was the point person for my firm’s transition when electronic filing was mandated in all Texas courts. There was a lot of hand-holding with everyone, but the probate folks and others, who were accustomed to only paper filing workflows, really struggled with the skills needed for paperless e-filing processes. That made for several challenging months as the courts and vendors worked out the kinks! I was proud to be recognized for my contributions on behalf of law firm filers by being appointed to the Texas Judicial Committee on Information Technology. As this change comes to other states and practice areas, there will be similar challenges, as well as others not even on our radars yet!
Change and Empathy. The nice thing about living through all of these transitions is that I have been able to learn most of the ins and outs of the Microsoft Office suite, Windows, various document management systems, and numerous other legal applications and hardware at a deep level. Also, surviving the dreaded WordPerfect to Word transition in several firms gave me deep insight into how people use and adapt to changes in technology. The first of six parts of design thinking is empathy. Working on legal teams and understanding the original paper-based workflows that led to today’s online workflows means I have loads of empathy for how challenging change and technology can be for some people. “You are so calm and patient” is a refrain that has been music to my ears for many years. I incorporate my deep knowledge of law firm practices, change management, and empathy into my consulting and instructional design.
Combine all of the aforementioned challenges with faster technology cycles and that leaves very little time for people to prepare and learn. Everyone is so busy just trying to keep up with the work that there is no time for the slow, deep thinking and planning that we used to be able to do. Even the sharing by thought leaders tends to be quick and shallow these days. We are also losing those people who had that deep knowledge as they start to retire or have left legal.
It is also a time of great change in Learning & Development (L&D). There are new learning technologies coming online, more of a focus on performance and informal learning, and a much greater understanding of the brain and how people learn. Many traditional practices in L&D are being debunked, and people are learning in all new ways. It is also a time of great change and transition in law firms with additional pressure for efficiencies and challenges to hourly billing. Many are fearful of these changes, and I appreciate that. I’m also just crazy enough to be excited by it though!
Why now? You see, I’ve had ideas rattling around in my head for several years. First, how training needs to adapt to survive by becoming more informal, learner-driven and collaborative. Also, by understanding that business goals are L&D goals, and leveraging new technologies that are becoming mature. My volunteer work as an ILTA officer for the past five years had me thinking about trainers and help desk teams needing resources and professional development to help them move through these changes and also develop the next generation of support staff. The training PeerShares (an interactive webinar format I developed and moderated) over the past couple years were instrumental in that. I gained great insight into the struggles and needs of support staff and attorneys in law firms.
Tradition with a Bright Future. A reduction in force at my firm finally gave me the time I needed to put those ideas (and a lot more!) together to build the framework of LLDevNet. With new tools and technology available to me, the timing could not have been better. I also had time to focus on where my passions lie. I’m most fulfilled when I’m helping people solve problems using technology coupled with great training. I would like to help light the way forward for my friends and colleagues in legal, IT, and training, so I’m taking a leap of faith in my instincts and the needs of YOU, the community!
What can you do?
You’ve stuck with me this long, so I’ll keep the remainder short and simple.
I need you to join me in my mission and also help feed my cats. There are six ways you can do that.
- Follow LLDevNet on Twitter.
- Opt-in for our email newsletter on our Blog page.
- Become part of our community by registering with LLDevNet.
- Like our Facebook page.
- Contact me to assist with one of your needs or projects.
- Attend some training or send your staff, and let me show you that we have the knowledge and information to help you get the job done!
These two rascals are my in-house rescue cats that your business will help to feed. At LLDevNet, we believe in giving back, so other animals and humans benefit from our donations and hours given to Austin Pets Alive, Capital Area Food Bank, SafePlace, and other charities.
Danica, Cleo, and Michelle appreciate your business and help in their mission!