August 19, 2016 Dialogue

LRIS: From the Chair

By C. Elisia Frazier, Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service

Transitioning with Technology

Our lives are dominated by technology. It seems as if every action we take involves technology of some kind. As a high school and college student, I never imagined that my life—personally and professionally—would be driven by technology.

I remember when automated teller machines were unveiled. My mother was so intimidated by the ATM that she refused to use it. However, she loved the convenience of having ready access to her money. She would make me go to the ATM machine (ours was called “Tillie the Teller”) to withdraw her funds. I would try to encourage her to use the ATM, but she wouldn’t/couldn’t bring herself to use it. Then videocassette recorders became popular. My mother was fascinated with the idea of recording her soaps, but again was so intimidated by the technology that she refused to learn how to program the VCR. Inevitably, there would be a power surge of some sort and her VCR would have to be reprogrammed. Each time, I would urge my mother to learn how to program it. She always demurred, saying that it was too difficult to learn. Once I left home, my mother no longer had a personal assistant to go to the ATM or reprogram her VCR. As a result, she finally learned how to use the ATM and reprogram her VCR after a year of missing the conveniences of ready access to cash and watching her programs whenever. The freedom she felt was empowering and knowing what to do certainly was convenient.

During my tenure as Chair, I have often thought of my mother and her hesitancy to embrace technology, but remember the freedom she experienced once she began to fully use the technology available to her.

As the Chair of the Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service, I have witnessed how LRIS programs have embraced and deployed technology to enhance the effectiveness of their programs. I am sure that those of you who have worked for years in the LRIS community have experienced the power of technology and yet have had to overcome your own reluctance to embracing it.

The questions I find myself repeatedly asking are:  Do we know about the kinds of technology that can enhance our programs? Are we fully embracing technology? Are we making the best use of is? Is the technology we need too cost prohibitive? How will the use of technology provide a competitive advantage?

Some of these questions have arisen in the context of the competition that the lawyer referral community is experiencing from for-profit entities. I know that many of your programs are dealing with the entry of these entities into your marketplace. Will competition cause us to ensure that we are fully embracing and using technology to its best purposes, or will we make decisions under the guise of technology that may have a detrimental impact on our programs?

These are difficult questions without easy answers. I am heartened to know that there are some innovative uses of technology happening in the lawyer referral community, some of which try to solve the prohibitive cost issue by encouraging programs to pool resources. One example of an innovative use of technology is the brainchild of former LRIS manager-turned-owner of Matejka Marketing, Ken Matejka. Ken has developed LRSconnect, a web platform with the twin goals of increasing awareness of lawyer referral’s public service model while providing coordinated national marketing for LRS programs.

Ken’s project is one example of embracing and fully using technology to enhance lawyer referral programs. We know others are using technology in similar ways. We hope to hear from you to learn what your programs are doing. Meanwhile, the Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Service will continue to monitor these issues so that each of your programs will experience the freedom and success that my mother experienced once she embraced and fully used the technology available to her.