VirtualCourthouse ; Issue 5.2
Ten Tips for the New Millenium
Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt (Ret.)
TIP 1: BE A LEADER
Webster defines leadership as the capacity to lead and leading as the act of being at the front. However, leadership really is more than being at the front or having the power because you are placed at the front. A leader causes people to undertake activities that they do not want to do. A great leader causes people to be excited and enthusiastic about doing what they did not want to do. Judges, Bar Leaders and law firm partners have the position of leadership. However, in order to lead there must be something in addition to the position. A leader must desire to take people where they do not want to go. No special skill or ability is required to enable people to do want they otherwise would be inclined to do.
Judges across the nation are stepping up to the plate and leading the way to electronic public access to court records and electronic filing. JusticeLink, www.justicelink.com the leading electronic filing company in the country has electronic filing projects in Texas, California, Georgia, and soon will have projects in Colorado, Delaware, New Jersey, Ohio and Maryland. In each of those jurisdictions, it took the leadership of a Judge to get the momentum started. In Texas, it was Judge Mehaffy. In San Francisco, it was Judge Pollak. In San Diego, it was Judge Prager. In Colorado, it was Judge Sturat. In Georgia, it was Judge Newkirk. In Delaware, it was Judge Del Pesco. In New Jersey, it was Judge Longhi. In Maryland, it started with Judge Angeletti and now Judge Quarles. In Ohio, it was Judge Hannah.
Each one of those Judges took a problem and became leaders by providing a solution, which required enormous change. Now to be sure they were not in each instance alone at the front and other leaders stepped forward. They received support from administrative judges such as Judge Kaplan and now Judge Heller in Baltimore. Or they received support from the highest court such as Justice Martinez in Colorado. Support also emerged from Court Administrators. In California, it was Alan Carlson. In Colorado it was Bob Roper. In Delaware, it was Tom Ralston and in Maryland, it was George Riggin and now Frank Brocolino
TIP 2: BE AN AGENT OF CHANGE
Change will not occur without a sponsor. The sponsors come from all levels of your organization from management to entry level. A key factor for a successful agent of change is enthusiasm. Success will likely pass over the unenthusiastic and strident agents of change. If you cannot be enthusiastic, you might as well not try to effect change. Change is an inevitable product of the technology offered by the information age infocosim. Ordinarily, people resist, fight or ignore change. When those dynamics of resistance occur, change in people’s work patterns occur very slowly and productivity decreases. On the other hand, when change is embraced with an attitude of acceptance, people’s work patterns change very fast and productivity dramatically increases.
The dynamics or the patterns of change are rather predictable. When change is introduced into an organization, initially there will be some level of resistance. It should be expected that the resistance will produce a downturn in attitude and productivity. The level of resistance can be significantly reduced through the involvement of all the stakeholders in the process of planning for the change.
TIP 3: DEVELOP A STRATEGY
Solomon the wisest man of all time said ,”without a vision my people will perish.” In obtaining a vision, it will be helpful to write down the mission of your office.
How will you accomplish your vision? It is the strategy that enables the “rubber to meet the road.” How will you introduce change into your office? How will you get the decision-makers to decide in favor of your vision? How will you get the money people to make your vision a priority? It is your strategy, which counts.
History has shown that if you do not have a plan you will do nothing. You know “shoot at nothing and you are sure to hit it” Of course, a plan must be written and not just in your mind. A plan which is just in your mind is not really a goal. It is nothing more than a dream. On the other hand there is power in putting the plan down on paper. When you commit something to writing, commitment to achievement follows naturally. It is like New York Yankee great Yogi Berra said, “If you don=t know where you are going, when you get there you will be lost.”Ten Tips for the New Millenium
TIP 4: BE WILLING TO TAKE RISKS
Nothing ventured is nothing gained. In order to begin to use technology to your advantage, you must be willing to risk some of your time and a little bit of money. With risk comes reward. The track record for technology is that until you put your time and money at risk, your learning curve does not begin. The sooner you start the less time you will lose.
TIP 5: USE THE INTERNET
Everyday more content appears on the Internet. More and more useful information is becoming available. However, you need to become a student. Set aside some hours of the week, which will be devoted to examining legal resource web sites. Learn how to organize your bookmarks. Talk to your favorite law librarian (mine is Pam Gregory) about what is new and what is helpful.
TIP 6: READ, READ, READ
Read a book on the Internet; Pick up a periodical at the newsstand on the Internet. Better yet subscripe to a periodical. A good place to start is the newspaper. Most newspapers now have a weekly section of columns about computers. Some are very basic “how to” questions and answers while others are more narrative articles on some new software or hardware. The point is that if you start using the words often, you will soon know and understand the terminology. Another good idea is to buy a different computer magazine a month off of the newsstand and just read the advertisements and articles of interest
TIP 7: TALK TO LAWYERS AND JUDGES
Experience we know is a great teacher. If you make the use of computers the topic of conversation as you talk to other lawyers about your cases, you will be surprised at the amount of information you will gain in a very short period of time. What works? What does not work? What developments are helpful? What developments are duds?
TIP 8: ATTEND A TECHNOLOGY CONFERENCE
Hardly a month goes by when there is not a bar technology conference somewhere in the Baltimore- Washington metropolitan area. The programs are high quality, practical, educational events. The quality is similar to the usual high-quality Continuing Legal Education seminars for years sponsored by local, state and national bar association leaders.
Events you should consider are the Maryland State Bar Association’s Techshow on February 18 & 19, 2000, at the BWI Marriott. Contact Pat Yevics at MSBA headquarters for details at firstname.lastname@example.org . Or check at the Bar Association’s website at www.msba.org . Also, consider the American Bar Association’s Techshow 2000 in March in Chicago, Illinois. Check the ABA’s website at www.abanet.org for further details.
TIP 9: USE YOUR BAR ASSOCIATION WEB SITE
Your bar association is devoting more and more resources to its web site. As it becomes apparent that the Internet is a valuable tool for providing a continuous stream of information, more information is made available on the Internet.Have you checked out the new content and format of the Prince George’s Bar Association web site www.pgcba.com developed by Don Patterson of Koolstuf Internet Consultants, Inc. www.koolstuf.com . Better yet let Don publish your web page and teach you how to be your own web master.
TIP 10: USE E-MAIL
Make everyone you communicate with on paper aware that you would rather communicate by e-mail. Put your e-mail address on your stationary and your professional cards. Encourage your bar association to publish member lists of e-mail addresses. Make it clear to everyone that you communicate with that you would rather communicate by e-mail. I recently called Judge Ford in Oakland, California and her voicemail had a message, which said that she would rather communicate by e-mail and the message gave her e-mail address.