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How to hire tech-qualified lawyers

By January 26, 2009law practice, websites

A lawyer friend of mine started his own law firm couple of years ago, which has grown tremendously. One of the big challenges he faces is hiring lawyers who are tech-savvy. I asked him if he had any tricks for weeding out those who couldn't cut it at his firm.

First of all, he automatically discounts heavily anyone who submits their resume in Word or WordPerfect form. His law firm uses PDF's extensively, and he doesn't want to have to spend a lot of time training lawyers on how to use PDF's. His assumption is that any lawyer who sends a resume in a word processing format probably doesn't know much about PDF's.

I asked him if he had any questions that he typically asked candidates to try to hone in on their tech skills. He said he really didn't because most people are good at pretending they know more about technology than they actually do. So, the trick is to figure out quickly who lacks the necessary skills.

This got me thinking…

While it may be hard to figure out who has extensive tech skills, it should be pretty easy to identify the tech-laggards. For example, I'd ask a potential hire to attach a file to an e-mail using Microsoft Outlook. I'll bet there are more than just a few people who don't know how to attach files to an e-mail. No doubt most of these people are over 40, but I think it would be a good routine thing to check for. Anyone who can't attach a file to an email is not going to fit into the modern law firm.

I would also try asking candidates to find a file by giving them a path description (e.g. documents/2008_Documents/Lebron Case/Attorney Notes).  I've seen paralegals who didn't understand filing systems.  Again, this isn't likely to find a lot of losers, but if it finds one then it's worth the effort.

I would also ask a candidate to copy a paragraph of text and then paste it somewhere else in a document. Anyone who uses the mouse for the entire operation is not a good hire. In other words, anyone who hasn't taken the time to learn the basic keyboard shortcut for copying and pasting is clearly someone who doesn't care about efficiency.  Here again, you'd be surprised how many lawyers don't bother to learn even the most basic keyboard shortcuts. 

Anyone else have ideas on to weed out the plodders?

P.S. If you're a practicing lawyer, check out this Law Practice Assessment . After answering a few questions, you'll get detailed recommendations for improving five key areas of your practice.


  • Tad Adkins says:

    Tracing a mobile phone number may sound like a difficult and time consuming process, the truth is that it’s actually quite easy to find out information about the owner of a specific phone number- even an unlisted one. It wasn’t very long ago that the tools needed to track down the owner of a cell phone were only available to law enforcement officials and private investigators. But today, with the help of reverse cell phone directory, anyone can be a PI.

  • Bob says:

    I would fail your friend’s test as well; and I have a degree in Comp Sci and spent several years in IT. And I’m extremely tech-savvy. (Although the PDF issue is a good point.)

  • mythago says:

    “And AOL accounts? Gmail/Yahoo are free and infinitely better.”

    They’re also a sign that you are not tech-savvy, because you don’t have your own domain name and Web presence. Any idiot can sign up for email at a web service like Yahoo!, but not so many can register and maintain a domain so that is their e-mail address.

    Yes, I am being a little tongue-in-cheek, but it’s no dumber than the test of “don’t send your resume in PDF”. First, Ernie’s friend ought to be specifically telling applicants, in his job listing or “Careers” web page, exactly how resumes and writing samples should be submitted. THAT will weed out people who don’t read carefully and do not follow instructions. Who cares if somebody knows how to save to PDF if they think “briefs shall be submitted in ten calendar days” is more like a suggestion?

    Second, many law firms PREFER editable files from applicants because it is easier for them to dump that information into a standard form or database. Even with OCR scanning, word processing formats are better for this.

    Frankly, little games like “oops, you used the mouse” or “sorry, you didn’t read my mind to know I wanted PDF format resumes!’ sound less like actual attempts to detect plodders, and more like a means of reducing the applicant pool through random chance.

    And from the point of view of a job applicant, this is actually a good sign that you might not have wanted that job. I’m sure we’ve all worked at places where the boss expected you to read his mind to know all his quirks, and got mad at you if you failed. Who wants another of those jobs?

  • David says:

    I’d like to take up anon’s cause on one issue. I bought my first computer in 1981 and have been using keyboard shortcuts from the time that they were the only way to format text. I still use them extensively, particularly to bold, italicize or underline text. And yes, sometimes, to cut and paste. But if I am using the mouse, why do you think it is a “shortcut” to take my hands off the mouse after highlighting text to use the keyboard “shortcut,” return to the mouse to reposition the cursor and take my hands back to the keyboard to use another “shortcut” to drop the text into the new place?

    It sounds to me like you want to hire someone who lacks the skills to use a mouse properly and who may not even know that a simple right click on the mouse will typically bring up a menu that will allow him or her to do the same task in less time.

  • Scott says:

    P.S. I’d recommend having an RSS reader link on your website if you want to be considered tech-qualified.

  • Scott says:

    Great post. I’ve been thinking about the law route. What I find most interesting, though, is that ten years ago, law firms probably could care less about how tech savvy you were. In today’s age, if you know how to set up email instantly (POP, IMAP, POP3), create websites and embrace technology in a way that saves yourself and your firm time, you automatically have more value than a candidate with a slightly better class ranking (correct me if I’m wrong). Coming from a tech/web 2.0/internet background, it should be an interesting journey…if I decide to go 😉

  • It amazes me how few people understand printing to pdf.

    As for sorting, you might also ask a candidate to send something to you via Google Docs.

    I would also trust that someone that operates a blog would be more tech-savvy than the general public.

  • If a hiring partner chose to judge my ability to practice law based on whether or not I copied/pasted text using a keyboard, I would draw two conclusions: 1. That the partner is a dullard who could not find a more insightful way to measure my technical acumen, and 2. the partner is likely a control freak who would hover over ever aspect of my work, picking nits along the way. Thanks, but no thanks.

    Perhaps a more thoughtful way to size up one’s tech skills would be to ask the candidate something along the lines of “name two software apps you’ve discovered recently that help you do your job better, and explain them to me, how they work and what they do for you.” That puts the burden on the candidate to discuss his/her grasp of current technology and the ability to put it to good use.

  • Ray Ward says:

    Ernie: Your test reminds me of an urban legend I heard a long time ago in law school. It concerned a hiring partner of a law firm who invited each job candidate to lunch or dinner, to test whether the candidate tasted the food before putting salt on it. Any candidate who salted the food without tasting it first flunked the test. Query: Is the mythical hiring partner imposing an arbitrary test?

    Oh, and please check anon’s comment time-stamped Jan. 28 at 9:07:08 a.m. It looks like someone forgot to turn off italics in the HTML. Result is that every comment below that one is displaying in all italics. (Does this mean I pass the test?)

  • Harry Styron says:

    I’ve hired 14 attorneys in the past 10 years, with ages running from 25 to 45, a variety of law schools, laterals and new grads, fixed salary and eat what you kill, tech whizzes and not, 10 men and four women, a variety of undergrad majors. Mostly, they disappointed.

    I have two terrific associates now, both women under 30, with different sets of skills and natural talents. One likes Macs; one hates Macs. One can hard-code HTML and solve network problems, and the other is only vaguely aware that HTML exists.

    Both write clear, simple sentences in 10th-grade English and place them in logical paragraphs and lists, which is the most valuable tech skill of all, because to do so requires high-level abilities to sift and arrange information of various types. It’s also a great lawyering skill, because clients, judges and other attorneys will be able to perceive whether the lawyer understands the problems that need to be solved.

    Both are responsive to clients and easy to get along with. They are good listeners.

    As for how I found and selected the good associates, I have to say only that they found me in times of need. I was lucky. I wish I knew the formula, but I don’t.

  • william schroeder says:

    Hmm… no doubt there are a lot to weed out in NOLA as well. I think my questions would be based around Katrina…

    1) After Katrina, how did technology help you?

    2) If a storm hit in the future, how would you use technology to help your law firm?

    3) What technology do you use on a daily basis?

    I would look for the level of creativity in these responses. I want people that are going to look at all angles of a problem. Also, if someone doesn’t use technology, how can they understand all the potential angles of application like the coming threat of 4g/wimax networks to traditional radio stations and billboard advertising? You need people that think out of the box.

    1) (My responses) Since the 504 area code numbers weren’t working due to a bad switch, I got a new Vonage number and forwarded all calls to it. I used a soft phone on my computer to make and receive calls since my cell phone was down. I bought a Go Phone to use till I could switch my cell number. After this switch was allowed, I forwarded all calls from Vonage to my cell so it would ring both. I was already set up with an Google Apps type system for my work so all information was easily available. AIM was the primary mode of communication other than text messages with coworkers. For work, we used GotVmail and redirected callers through our system to our new non-504 area code numbers. We used efax for our faxing services. With my outside friends, I used Myspace to communicate.

    2) If a disaster were to strike again, I would continue using Vonage because of it’s versatility to forward calls and be packed up and keep the same number as long as you have internet. AIM is a great tool but twitter is surpassing it as a way to get messages out. Facebook would be key for communicating as well. For a company though, is an amazing app for decentralized communication. I would use Bittorrent for uploading any public documents for easy access. For press releases I would use something like erelease. I would also make sure my domain is not hosted on local servers. I would use Google Apps or something similar.

    3) I use a MSI Wind Netbook running OSX so I have full computing power on the go. I use a iPhone so I can wireless tether to 3G for free. I use a macbook pro attached to a 22″ monitor at home with an on site backup of 1.5TB and an off site backup using Mozy as well. I chose the macbook pro for its power, mobility, and durability. I scan everything using a wireless scanner/printer/fax. I use MobileMe to keep everything synced at all times. I use my iPhone to listen to NPR through the 3g internet radio streams. I use apps on my iphone to track expenses, mileage, to do lists, map my runs, read ebooks, send receipts for my work, and to educate myself while I run or bike at the gym ( or podcasts). I use my netbook on the go to update notes for work (it weighs 2.3 pounds). I use a label maker and mobile filing cabinet for the few physical files that I am forced to keep with me. For fun I have a Flip Video camera to catch any video worth catching. I use facebook, twitter, and google reader to keep up with friends and the world.

  • Tim Perrin says:

    I’m just the opposite. I insist on resumes in RTF format, for two reasons.

    First, I won’t accept a .DOC file on my system since they can carry macro virusues. The same file saved in RTF format cannot.

    Second, and more important, I can tell more about the word processing skills of an applicant from an inspection of how they have formatted their file than I can from anything else. Have they used a style sheet or just used the computer as an expensive typewriter, hitting return twice at the end of a paragraph, indenting using tab instead of paragraph formatting, hard coding all of their fonts. Anybody can save a file as a PDF and the results will cover a multitude of sins. Give me their raw work product any day.

  • Tom O'Connor says:

    Lest anyone think Ernies point is just techno quibbling, take a look at the recent decision in In re Fannie Mae Securities Litigation, _ F.3d _, 2009 WL 215282009, U.S. App. LEXIS 9 (D.C. App. Jan. 6, 2009) where the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (”OFHEO”), was required to spend six million dollars, representing nine percent of its total annual budget, just to comply with a subpoena for electronic documents when OFHEO was not actually a party to the underlying action.Why? Because a techncially illiterate attorney agreed to do something anyone with a modicum of technical understanding would have rejected immediately as an absurdly overbroad request. If you want the ugly details, take a look at my blog post called “Same As It Ever Was” at

    Tom O

  • Kyle says:

    Ernie, I agree with you in principle, but I’m not sure about how to go about your “tech quiz.” I am an attorney looking for work; I’m a blogger; I understand HTML, regularly use Photoshop; I have Linux installed on my laptop (but can’t get my wireless networking card to work). I can certainly attach a file in Outlook, and I would agree that I would be suspect of anyone sending a resume in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF (not because I’d be worried about the employer changing the file, but because I want to control how my resume is laid out–you never know what your future employer sees when you send a word processing file).What’s interesting in this thread is how much of a “tech snob” each person is, or whether, what the metes and bounds of the “snobbery” are. I think PowerPoint is clunky and (generally) not effective, in the board room, in the court room, or otherwise. Do I know the ins and outs of PowerPoint? Nope. Likewise, I’m not a big fan of most of those organizational management pieces of software, so that’s outside of my scope of knowledge.

    I guess, in an interview, I’d ask these questions:How do you feel when the computer systems or software packages are upgraded? Worried? Annoyed because you may have to learn new skills? Excited to take advantage of the newest technology? Or relieved that the tech guys finally took your suggestions?

    What technologies do you use in your every day practice? Which technologies do you wish you could incorporate into your practice?

    How do you ensure that your use of technology protects your clients’ confidence and your other ethical obligations?

    No need for a test–I think candid and FULL explanation to those answers will tell you all you need.

  • Alex says:

    First off I am not an attorney. I am however 3D animator for the legal community. It never fails every time I introduce myself to a new firm there is the host of computer related questions from attorneys and staff alike. So, on the side I have been teaching attorneys and their staff basic and advanced computer skills. Over the last 9 years I have even upgraded a few networks for some small 10 people firms. I can and have built complete computers, blindfolded (it was a bet). So that should hopefully cover my abilities.

    Finding out if someone is tech-qualified is not about what they already know but it should be about their ability to learn and adapt. You need to develop test that discover what the boundaries of the person’s knowledge are. Then follow up with something outside that boundary to see how they react. Even if they get the answer wrong it’s the reaction that tells you more about the person.

    As tech people it’s easy for us say if you are using IE instead of Firefox then you’re behind the times. But I find few people that can tell me why use one over the other. So when I explain to an IE user that Firefox is less vulnerable to viruses and security breaches along with other reasons, the reaction they have tells me if they understand the need to switch.

    Ok, so we can all agree that Copy& Paste is an entry level ability. So can the candidate copy & paste? If so how and are they willing to accept that there is a faster way of doing things?

    Do you know how to scan documents? What settings work best for what tasks?

    Do you know the difference between adobe acrobat and acrobat reader? Most offices I find myself in have only the reader version because it’s free.

    Can you read a deposition using adobe acrobat, make highlights, bookmarks, and notations?

    Can you create a link in a PowerPoint presentation so we can use the work you did on the deposition during a mediation or trial?

    Can you use any program to enhance a photo? For example brightness, contrast, color, and crop?

    If not then what is the reaction? Do they want to learn these things, or do they just say no and have the general air that should be a secretary’s work? (To me the later shows a fear of what they don’t understand and it may not be long before someone suggests me, a stake and some fire in the same sentence.)

    I think you need to start by asking yourself what are the basic skills that a paperless lawyer needs on an everyday basis. Make a list of these skill sets ordered by difficulty and frequency of use. I think these are the things that will help you pick a talented tech savvy lawyer over just a talented lawyer.

    Let’s face it if you can code in C++ and have a easy time at making AI for intelligent programs, how much law are you really practicing?

  • Phil, thanks taking the time to comment. I don’t think my observations are snobbish and misleading, but you have perhaps given this a lot of thought so I’ll consider what you said more carefully.

    I believe that the increasing prevalence of technology creates obstacles for some and opportunities for others, and I’d rather work with people who are especially alert to the opportunities. I don’t see as many of them around as I would like.

  • Phil says:

    That’s a misleading response because you do in fact suggest that not having good technical skills precludes someone from being a good lawyer or even a hard worker:

    “In other words, anyone who hasn’t taken the time to learn the basic keyboard shortcut for copying and pasting is clearly someone who doesn’t care about efficiency.”

    This claim is overstated and is I think a little snobbish. It’s fine if you prefer people who understand technology well, but it’s wrong to deride those who don’t like this.

  • Okay, the comments confirm what I kind of knew when I posted this: I should have spent more time explaining where I was coming from.

    1) I should have not taken it as a given that the first criteria in hiring someone is to find someone with excellent traditional lawyering skills. Obviously, as many of you have pointed out, it is more important to have good lawyering skills than to have technical skills.

    2) I should also have taken pains to point out that my friend was talking about the process of deciding which of the many candidates with good lawyering skills he would hire. Since his firm relies heavily on technology he wants candidates who reflect the environment that his firm has, and which he consciously developed. This is not surprising. If it’s snobbery than fine let’s use that term. I’d use preference or bias, but the precise wording doesn’t matter. Unless, you’re a lawyer who has a strong affinity for nuance in language. I know such lawyers. They care greatly about how people write, way beyond what most lawyers might focus on. They certainly have a tendency to prefer candidates who are word-smiths. I think at this point my very intelligent commenters can supply additional analogies if they choose to follow the point and not resist it.

    One thing I don’t regret, even though the post seems to have stirred up some bad feelings is admitting that I have a bias toward a certain kind of co-worker. I used the word ‘tech-qualified’ in the title to attract attention. But the more I think about it that’s kind of mis-leading. What I want is someone who is curious about how to do things differently. You don’t have to be interested in technology per se, but since I am that’s who I’d prefer to hire.

    Why is it so shocking that someone with a particular interest would favor hiring people who share that interest? There is a law firm in New Orleans that only hires women. They like that atmosphere and so do their clients. I don’t have a problem with that. If a group doesn’t want me as a member that doesn’t mean that the world isn’t filled with lots of other great opportunities.

    My view is that being a good lawyer isn’t always enough. There are other lawyers who feel the same way. If you don’t feel that way then don’t take this view personally. It’s not about you. My message is to those who might want to know how a certain kind of lawyer thinks. That lawyer is me. I don’t know how other people think. And I don’t care to make myself into the kind of person that other people (commenters on this blog for starters) might “approve of.” I see the world a certain way and I’m not ashamed of it. I offer my views for what they’re worth to the handful of people who might share that view. If you don’t share the view that’s fine. There’s no need to take my comments personally.

    I apologize for saying that I wouldn’t hire anonymous. Perhaps I would. But not if he applied to my firm as an anonymous candidate.

  • el stevo says:

    new term: “tech snobs”. I agree with Phil.

  • Anon says:

    It would be funny if you didn’t hire a really talented lawyer because he isn’t “Tech savvy.”

    Yep, but that would take more work than applying simple litmus tests, some of which, as I pointed out earlier, don’t make sense.

    Ernie, I’ve been reading your musings for a long time and enjoy your blog.And yes, I say I am tech savvy. Let’s see, I can hand code in html (and have and still do when necessary). I currently maintain a small ecommerce site with more than 250 products and more than 750 pages.

    I don’t practice law anymore but I: have more than 10,000 hours of Westlaw and Lexis use; have been using email since 1986 (ABANet and do you remember the then-ground breaking PipeLine?); have set up and maintain 3 separate blogs (none mine); have never used AOL but know many tech savvy people who have and do; use Macs and PCs; can create CDs and DVDs with all kinds of documents and programs including Audacity, iMovie, etc.); have been using the web since the original Mozilla came out and now prefer Firefox although I do use IE for the few sites that won’t work properly with FF (I don’t like or use Chrome – yet); have designed editorial systems using SGML; have designed products for the short lived AT&T Interchange platform, Westlaw, the web, and email; have been using Yahoo and Gmail (and GrandCentral, calendar, docs, etc.) since they came out; know how to buy (since 1996 – I was a little slow on the whole web thing)(and my company currently owns more than 1000 domain names, none used for cybersquatting), set up, and get all the settings right for a domain name and separate the MX records so you can use Google (or other provider) as your email host; know how to and do properly use metatags in web pages; know how to and do use Google analytics and create site maps optimized for search engines; can and do create, edit and alter the security settings for pdfs; am aware of and know how to strip out all the meta information from every document I produce; etc. Oh, and when I did practice law, my research and writing resulted in making very large law firms work MUCH harder than they thought they were going to against my little law firm. LOL.

    But according to my opinions about your litmus tests, you would not hire me. Don’t worry, I have zero interest in practicing law again or living in Louisiana (and I mean no offense).

    These kinds of tests and the attitudes expressed in your post reflect a (surprising for you Ernie) lawyer arrogance layered on the technical side of law practice. Previously, you have never struck me that way. But your comments above betray you.

    Phil gets it right:People can learn keyboard short cuts a lot easier than they can learn how to be a good lawyer.

    And Bryan, you need to learn how to read, which is what law school is really about. I never said I would send an editable document to opposing counsel. And if you don’t trust that a LAW firm to which you are sending you resume in Word, why would you apply there? Sheesh.

    You “tech-savvy” lawyers need to get off your high horses.

  • Brett Owens says:

    I like Bryan’s Webmail points system, and for another data point, their preferred internet browser could also be revealing.

    All Firefox and Chrome users would pass. An IE user would require further evaluation – and if they say “Fire-who?”, that could be a devastating 2nd strike.

  • Phil says:

    It would be funny if you didn’t hire a really talented lawyer because he isn’t “Tech savvy.” People can learn keyboard short cuts a lot easier than they can learn how to be a good lawyer.

  • Bryan Short says:


    Your tech undies are showing. Sorry, but you *seem* like precisely the person tech-savvy employers are selecting against. You would honestly send your resume as an editable file and not a pdf? NOTHING leaves my hands in editable format. PDFs are the default. If a client/opposing counsel asks for an editable file you follow up with the .doc/.wpd. If it takes someone 15 minutes to learn “how” to make pdfs they are digital dinosaurs. Sorry, that’s the plain truth talking.

    And AOL accounts? Gmail/Yahoo are free and infinitely better. To me that says that the person is so inured to change and prefer the familiar to a fault that they would prefer the old even if the new is better and easier to use. It says to me: “This person is incapable and unwilling to learn new things.”

  • Cathy says:

    This story reflects poorly on your friend.

    Tech savvy doesn’t boil down to such simple litmus tests, and people who rely on them are inevitably going to be missing out on good talent. I send my resume out in Word because it’s a conventional format and, given my current infrastructure, more practical than PDFing. But, if you really want to judge my tech savvy based on the format I send my resume in, I can always send it in hand-coded HTML…

    Which would be ridiculous. It’s not the right technology for the job. And that’s the point: technology itself isn’t the be all and end all. Technology is a tool, and what’s important is knowing when and how to employ it effectively for the task at hand. Someone who would rely on such artificially contrived metrics to assess people therefore seems like someone who really doesn’t understand technology very well himself.

  • Bryan Short says:

    Wow, those are considered “tech-savvy” skills. I would consider anyone who cannot perform those functions (or who sends “published” documents in .doc .wpd formats) as a nearly irrelevant relic.

    I understand that I am, by far, the most technological person I know (I use linux exclusively at home), but in a post 2000 world an effective worker needs to be able to do FAR more with a computer than just attach documents in outlook and search in file directories.

    I would ask potential candidates how they organize their tasks. Bonus points for anyone with a RemembertheMilk, Basecamp, or CentralDesktop account. In fact, any candidate who does not have a webmail account (as opposed to an ISP email account, e.g., or is immediately suspect.

    Webmail points:

    Gmail +3Yahoo +2Hotmail +1

    Ask candidates if they have ever used online collaboration tools. If they look at you like you just asked them to pushups, then they obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

  • Anon:I wouldn’t hire you. You say you are tech-savvy, but everyone says that. But it’s true that assumptions sometimes don’t pan out. For example, your assumption that I’m a WordPerfect diehard. What would you base that on? For the record, since I use Macs exclusively I can’t use WordPerfect. But when I used Windows I happily learned to use Word because I thought it made more sense to use the prevailing software.

  • Anon says:


    I’m fairly tech savvy, and don’t believe the first “test” above says diddly squat. Unless you ask for a pdf, you should expect Word or rtf. That’s what I would send. And I regularly use Acrobat Pro (currently v 9) for all kinds of things. And it takes what, 15 to 20 minutes to show someone how to make pdfs? Wow, big investment. What other big investments don’t they make?

    Attach a file to an email in Outlook or find a file using a path? OK, those are pretty basic.

    And cut and paste using only the mouse is not a good hire? I rarely use the keyboard anymore, but never for copy and paste. But I use the right click on my mouse all the time.

    Ernie, you sound like a WordPerfect diehard from the 80s or 90s….

    And never hire anyone with an aol address? Give me a break. And I say that as an original ABANet and Pipeline user back in the day.

    What a bunch of whiners. Sounds to me like you better look at YOUR internal training.

  • Dave! says:

    I start with the resume. People with AOL e-mail addresses don’t make the cut.

    I’d also ask them to do some simple searches on the web for some facts, maybe some gov’t docs. If you don’t know how to write a good search query, you’re useless. Not to mention, potentially costly (Lexis/Westlaw).

    Here’s one that really bothers me… ask them to set up a three way call! I can’t tell you how many people can’t do that on their phones these days.

  • Steven Vore says:

    Ask the candidate to send a link to the document rather than attaching the document itself. Then inquire as to what RSS reader they use, and to which podcasts they regularly listen.

  • Yeah, that’s what I meant. If you use the mouse to select COPY and then PASTE from the Edit menu then you clearly have no interest in learning keyboard shortcuts.

  • balt says:

    I’m kind of meh on the last one: if you asked me to do it I would have triple clicked on the paragraph to highlight the whole thing, then click-dragged it to drop where I wanted it, at least within a small document (scrolling is a pain in a big one — better to cut and paste). I’m guessing you meant using clicking the little icons or using the Edit menu, though. In which case, I agree: No.

    I think someone should be able to write a basic formula in Excel or Numbers. Not necessarily anything fancy, but at least “=B1*C1” to demonstrate familiarity with the basic concepts of a spreadsheet and how cells work.

    Also, moving an object from one program to another, like moving a graph from Excel to Powerpoint. Similarly, inserting an object.

    I think all of these are setting the bar pretty low, though.

  • bt says:


    1. As a long-time reader who started reading in law-school, I read your post from the position of a current attorney who has at least 15 years of tech-savvy professional experience (if you count research in a lab) as an ex-engineer, ex-patent agent, ex-start-up junkie, and current tech-lawyer-to-start-ups.

    2. Sadly, your tests wouldn’t see me as tech savvy. First, because I’m tech savvy and concerned about privacy issues, I have an anonymous blog and various technological experiences I’d never share and you’d never know about (unless you were stalking me, in which case, you should already know if you’d like to hire me or not). For example, in addition to my law school account, I have 2 gmail accounts, a hotmail account, 2 yahoo mail accounts and I’ve helped install new hard drives at a co-location facility for a startup where I have a super-secure encrypted email account for very rare and sensitive communications. I evaluate the security level of various relationships and allocate each one to the proper account. But your tests would never find out about those things, and, in fairness, much like my bank balance, it wouldn’t really be any of your business as my potential employer.

    However, I also know enough from reading your blog that I suspect you’d probably read my actual resume and recognize that you might be wrong about your initial filters because there is enough there to give you a pretty good sense that I may have a technical clue (fwiw, despite my dual-booted linux/windows home box, my resume would likely arrive in .doc [gasp!] format, because in my experiences in the last 5 years interviewing on both sides at no less than 5 Silicon Valley firms, it’s more likely than not to get through with the least amount of issues).

    3. My concern is that the less technically savvy readers of your blog who are looking for hiring preferences may not have your background or preference and would filter out the folks like me because, despite our large signals, we don’t express the specific filtered skills you indicated (which, in some cases, do not make sense).

    4. From my perspective, the preference for .pdf’s in resume’s was the single-most ridiculous “technical” preference in this post. I hate them when I receive them from candidates (which, is rare, thank goodness). I work at a firm that doesn’t pay for .pdf editable software packages, so how am I supposed to highlight things, comment on them, and forward them to my colleagues when evaluating a candiate? Annoying! I’d prefer raw text (short & to the point — in my expereince, anyone who takes this approach has either (i) serious issues (that are easy to spot); or (ii) serious experience and doesn’t need fonts to set it off), .rtf, or .doc (in that order). Basically, my perspective on resume document format is this: we have a document processing department — we need *Lawyers*! I gave up on being a tech-nerd who can wax philosophical about file formats when I switched fields to law.

    5. Finally, and somewhat snarkily but with the best of intentions, What’s up with the all italics since El Stevo’s post on 1/28? When making the argument that you know how to filter based on tech…

    6. I’d say, no matter what your level of tech savvy — go with the conversation. Talk to folks who claim to have technical experience and ask for help. If they can explain to you what they’ve done in the past and how it’s applicable or what they’d do at your firm in a way that makes you feel like you understand and you could repeat their actions (or you’d like them to do them) they are probably legit. At the end of the day, every law firm hiring committee needs someone who can communicate about tech in a way that makes them comfortable. Worst case scenario, if they seem very intelligent but waive their hands and talk about how complicated it is — I say run away!

    My 2 cents,-bt

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