Adriana Linares considers it a badge of honor to work in the legal profession without being a lawyer.
Linares founded LawTech Partners in 2004 after several years in the IT departments of two of the largest firms in Florida. Now she travels across Florida, throughout the country and sometimes abroad as a law practice consultant and legal technology coach.
“Lawyers, as far as I’ve ever seen, certainly understand how to research and apply law in a way that helps their clients,” she says. “But where they might need my help is identifying tools and services that will help them with their practice management.”
Linares, an ABA Journal Legal Rebels Trailblazer, sees practice management as a hub that has various spokes—such as technology, marketing, management, accounting and finance—that help a firm be successful.
Her vision 14 years ago was to save attorneys “hours of time” by teaching them to use their computers better. While the vision has not changed, “we’re still covering a lot of the basic trainings we were doing 20 years ago,” she says.
To that end, she leads a lot of Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word training sessions. She says she still performs up to three conversions from WordPerfect to Microsoft Word per year, primarily for government agencies.
Not everything is the same, however. Linares sees added complexity with the increased use of mobile technology. Easier access to software and the advent of cloud storage have dropped the burden and cost to entry. Instead of having to set up a server room and train a person to run it, she now can do an install and training within a day with practice management software, for example.
Beyond the technical assistance Linares provides, she has spent time refining her translation skills when explaining technology to lawyers.
“Talk to lawyers in the business case: Why do you need this? Why do you want this?” she says. This tactic can be persuasive and edifying. She also says trust is required to make that translation stick.
“Anybody could give [lawyers] the right answers,” she says. “But they really have to trust the source” the recommendation is coming from.
While she spends her days working through these issues for small and large law firms, Linares also has been involved in the broader legal community. She was the chair of ABA Techshow 2017 and helped the Florida Bar develop its first technology CLE.
Starting in 2012, Linares was brought in to help the bar’s board of governors understand pressing technology issues, such as understanding encryption. Over time, her background and work with the bar led to the creation of a technology CLE, a three-credit requirement over three years.
She thinks Florida was the first to adopt this mandatory training. While she’s proud of this step, “three hours is nothing,” she says. However, the creation of the mandatory credits is a “signal from the bar that this is important,” which she says she deeply appreciates.
Beyond staying up to date on technology, she says spending time in a law office to “understand how lawyers actually work” is critical for those interested in this field.
“From there, as you gain that knowledge and expertise, you’ll move further up that chain of being able to make better suggestions—more strategic suggestions,” Linares says.
Story updated on Dec. 13 to remove reference that Allan Mackenzie was a co-founder of LawTech Partners.
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