One TECHSHOW Attendee’s Takeaways from the 2014 Conference: Efficiency, Productivity, and Swords of Truth

-By Philippe Doyle Gray

Gray is a barrister from Sydney, Australia, where he was one of the first barristers to have his own website. In 2012, he started migrating to a paperless office (and courtroom) to the complete bemusement of his colleagues. He uses Mac and Windows simultaneously to the consternation of his assistant. He works in front of 3 monitors despite having only 2 eyeballs. He is an avid proponent of technology, and refuses anymore to accept communiqués by facsimile transmission. But, he insists that technology is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Those ends include more fun at work for lawyers, and better justice for clients, courts and the community. His work focuses on civil litigation in the areas of commercial equity, corporate fraud, and building & construction, with occasional forays into the law of legal costs, the malpractice of lawyers and the malpractice of building consultants. His previous studies in Chemistry, Philosophy and Mathematics propel his special interest in expert evidence.

Along with Wisconsin attorney Robert Sisson, he will present “How to Never Forget Anything – Incorporating Evernote Into Your Practice” at ABA TECHSHOW 2015, on Thursday, April 16 from 4:00 – 5:00 PM.

A version of this post originally appeared at the ABA Law Practice Division’s Law Technology Today blog.

After 3 days of ABA TECHSHOW 2014, brimming with hyper-enthusiasm like a kid in a candy store on a sugar-high, in previous years I would burst back into the office ready to implement everything that I learned right immediately. EVERYTHING. And RIGHT NOW people – I want all those changes implemented yesterday! But, after the 2014 Conference I learned better.

I took a few days out, isolated myself in the rural countryside, away from telephones, clients and deadlines. It’s not exactly the Australian outback – I was in a rented beach house 10 minutes drive from my favourite winery, d’Arenberg Estate. Walking in the sand along the base of the sandstone cliffs, listening to the sound of crashing waves, seeing the leaves on the trees turn golden-brown, and knowing that a glass of delicious Shiraz waited for me by the fireside upon my return, I reached a state of tranquility. I had the opportunity to reflect upon and evaluate what I had seen and heard at TECHSHOW.

Being left in peace for a few days gave me breathing space to make a considered judgment about the path to walk over the next 12 months – until ABA TECHSHOW 2015. We lawyers stand at a cross-road. If we fail to choose the right path, then we will not simply place our own livelihoods at risk, but we will also jeopardise the proper administration of justice. Momentous decisions are sometimes better made – and made better – elsewhere than the maelstrom of a law office.

At ABA TECHSHOW 2014, the most important thing that I grasped was the difference between efficiency and productivity. Efficiency is a measure of how skilfully, quickly and cost-effectively you do something. Productivity, in contrast, is a measure of how skilfully, quickly and cost-effectively you do something that is actually useful. It’s efficient to plough a field using a tractor instead of a horse, but I’m not a farmer, so learning how to drive a tractor is an unproductive waste of my time. I came away from ABA TECHSHOW 2014 wanting to differentiate all the amazing things I’d seen and heard at the Conference between those that boost my efficiency from those that boost my productivity.

Productivity alone may be sufficient for business, but law is a profession. Someone wiser than me once observed that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. At a time when government intelligence agencies – both in Australia and the United States – have had their machinations exposed, who better to keep a lookout than lawyers abreast of the problems, and their potential – productive – solutions. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let us lawyers illuminate the way ahead.

When you next pass by the statue of the Roman goddess Justitia on your way into court, notice not only that she holds a set of scales, but in her other hand she wields a sword. That sword is the sword of truth. Smartphones and software may be lots of fun, but in the hands of lawyers they’re also swords of truth. And it’s up to us to wield those swords for the proper administration of justice.

Good luck. I hope to see you next month when I return to Chicago for ABA TECHSHOW 2015.