Total Attorneys: An Outsider’s Point-of-View (Part 2)

This is part two of a 3-part guest post by Fantasy Job Camper, Kerri Olsen, about her day at Total Attorneys. To see part one of this series, click here.

Guest post by Kerri Olsen

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Photo by Jennifer Healy for RedEye

We arrived in Ed’s office and Camp was formally in session. Jen gave Ed some background about my Camp application and then I expanded on it, telling Ed about my legal experience and what I’ve been doing since moving from Austin to Chicago ten months ago. I can’t remember the first question I asked him, but I do remember taking out my diligent little yellow notepad and pen and three typed pages of questions and trying to casually peruse where to start. (I tried to hide the two duplicate copies of my questions in my notepad. Hey, I’m a paralegal. I was prepared.) Here are some highlights of what I remember from our conversation (this is not verbatim so don’t quote Ed on any of this):

My question: Lawyers are not, generally, the most technologically savvy people. How do you “dumb down” technology to non-technical people?

Ed’s paraphrased response: Everyone uses a computer, the internet and email in law firms today. The lawyers who are most resistant are closer to retirement, and the next generation that is growing into those roles are comfortable using technology, they’re used to it. It will be a natural progression with more people comfortably using technology in their day-to-day business and personal lives.

What advice do you have for people who are technology intimidated and don't know where to start? They've ignored or resisted social media long enough and now are starting to feel left behind, but they're overwhelmed. Where do they begin?

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the easiest way to create a professional presence on the internet and start connecting with current and former colleagues. Start following groups and peers and see what they are discussing in their conversations. There are professional groups and associations on LinkedIn for every field. LinkedIn is the starting ground and then you can move on to collaborative places like blogs and Twitter. If an attorney doesn’t have a blog, they will have a harder time jumping into Twitter.

Side note: I started connecting the dots here: Someone with a blog values the importance of sharing their ideas and collaborating with others. If one is not interested in sharing their thoughts and knowledge in a blog, then what is he or she going to discuss in 140 characters or less? Yes, Twitter is a great way to engage conversations with people whom you would like to develop a relationship with (professional, platonic, for latest info or just for laughs), but how do you develop those introductions and conversation bits into dialogue? You gotta direct them to your blog to expand past 140 characters. After Camp, I finally launched my website and started my blog to do just that.

Let’s talk about social media. I have a friend, who is successful in the investment world but not as ‘into technology’ as we are. I told him about some business ideas I have to utilize social media and asked him his thoughts on how social media was impacting and changing the scope of business. He wasn’t on board with social media because he didn’t see how it was measurable (by profits) to business. Total Attorneys utilizes social media and technology in all aspects: from the hiring process to international real-time communication and developing an envious corporate culture. How do you measure the value of social media

Social media has quickly changed the game for all sectors in the past few years. There is no way around it and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. You have to use it in a manner that makes sense to you and works best for your business.

In 2009 you were quoted as employing “social media hiring.” That is, you use the people you already trust and have working for you to recruit more talented employees, and you integrate innovative applications to help. How has that worked out for Total Attorneys?

It’s great! From the 2009 hiring push, over half of our new employees have originated from personal referrals from current employees. We also use Jobvite, a cool application that allows us to track and reward our employees for helping us recruit reputable talent.

Back to trust: I’ve watched many of your video blogs and you talk a lot about transparency. When most people think of law firms and attorneys, the last thing they think about is transparency. Why is transparency so important to you and how is it a cornerstone for Total Attorneys?

Transparency is a time-saver. Instead of working to portray your company in a certain light and explain how your company successfully operates, if you just show your current and prospective clients and employees all this, it’s less work. You also immediately build trust with these people from the beginning.

Good point. If I knew from the beginning of a relationship, professional or personal, that the individual or company was completely transparent and would continue to operate transparently while working with me, then all the legwork to “proving yourself” or “selling me” would be eliminated. We’d both get to focus on our business, whether that be through delivering services or products or the business of living a happy life. But what about competition? Aren’t you concerned that if you are completely transparent, then someone will steal your ideas?

If someone steals my ideas, then it proves to me that my idea was great in the first place. It’s 2010. Nothing is new. It’s about delivering the best product or service in the best manner possible. It’s not always about being first.

As I mentioned earlier, that is just a portion of what I remember from our hour-long discussion. Jen discussed more of our conversation and shared some of Ed’s quotes in her RedEye blog post.

Kerri Olsen lives and works in downtown Chicago and has recently launched her website after participating in Fantasy Job Camp. You can read more about her professional background here. Check back tomorrow for part three of this series.