With the recent election of 59 new judges in Harris County (civil, criminal, family, probate, and juvenile courts combined), notable changes in court policies and procedures have taken shape. As one would expect, each of the recently elected judges in Harris County has implemented specific rules for conducting business in his or her particular court. As a guide to understanding and meeting their new requirements, some judges have provided updated links to forms online; others have posted checklists of required documents; and several others are providing supplementary links specifically for self-represented litigants, including to the Harris County Law Library’s community resource guide, the Pro Se Litigants Handbook. The Harris County Law Library has been keeping abreast of and adapting to these changes in order to best serve our public patrons. We are also, as always, paying attention to any changes at the state level.
In late February, just shortly after the new Harris County judges were sworn in, statewide change was indeed taking place. Namely, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an order amending Paragraph 8 of the comment to Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, which now says that Texas lawyers must be aware of the benefits and risks of using technology in the practice of law. By adopting this standard, Texas joined 35 other states who agree that technologically proficient lawyers provide better, more efficient client representation.
Certain local court rules also require specific procedures that rely on technology. For instance, Judge Janice Berg, who presides over the 247th Family Court in Harris County, has included the following in her Court Policies and Procedures:
At final trial on divorce matters, parties must bring their proposed property division to trial in Excel or Google Sheets format on a USB drive.
Complying with the ethical standard and local rules may require both access and training on specific hardware and software. If it seems daunting, the Harris County Law Library is here to help! Our 25 public access computers have the software you need (including Excel) to draft and assemble all your legal documents. And, our Hands-on Legal Tech Training courses, which we offer, on rotation, every Thursday at 2pm, will give you the knowledge and skills (and one free hour of CLE credit for Texas attorneys) to use that software and easily meet the requirements of the courts. In January, we introduced five new classes, including a popular new offering, Microsoft Excel for Legal Work. It will be presented again soon on May 16. Don’t miss it!
For a detailed description of all our weekly classes, see the 2019 Legal Tech Institute Course Catalog. Classes always begin with a Getting Started portion. They gradually increase in difficulty until we Level Up. We then Go Pro, giving you an opportunity to build proficiency as the course progresses. We attempt to address every skill level in an effort to meet the needs of all attendees, and we’re always happy to answer any questions you may have about using tech tools and resources to strengthen your legal practice.
The Harris County Law Library is excited to announce a significant investment in new and improved technology — a 70 inch, wall-mounted digital monitor — for our Legal Tech Lab, the home of the Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute Hands-On Legal Tech Training program.
The Lab is fully integrated into the Law Library's research space and provides the perfect setting for participants to learn the tech skills they need to get legal work done at the Law Library and downtown courthouse complex. With seating for nine, the Lab also provides opportunity for participants and instructors to interact closely, ensuring individualized attention. Now, with last week’s installation of an impressive and much improved display screen, the Legal Tech Lab is even better equipped to offer legal tech training to attorneys, self-represented litigants, and members of the general public.
Consult our 2019 Course Catalog to find out which classes might interest you. Then, register online for the course of your choice, or drop in any Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm at the Harris County Law Library Legal Tech Lab. Texas attorneys will earn one free hour of CLE credit for each hour of class attended.
On February 26, 2019, the Texas Supreme Court took an important step in the advancement of legal ethics in Texas by amending Paragraph 8 of the comment to Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule, which addresses the duty of all Texas attorneys to be competent and conscientious in providing effective legal representation, now requires that practitioners also be aware of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
By adopting this amendment, Texas has joined 35 other states who also require a duty of technology competence for lawyers. The significance of this new development cannot be overstated. By order of the Texas Supreme Court, attorneys must become aware of, if not proficient in, using technology to best serve their clients.
If you are a Texas lawyer who needs to brush up on your tech skills and learn more about recent developments in legal tech, the Harris County Law Library can help! Our Legal Tech Institute offers a variety of learning opportunities including our popular Hands-on Legal Tech Training courses every Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm in the Law Library’s Legal Tech Lab. We also provide access to free online CLE courses via our On-Demand Learning Opportunities page.
To find out more about what the Harris County Law Library offers through our Legal Tech Institute, visit the LTI page on our website. With so many free learning opportunities at your disposal, it will be easy (and fun!) to comply with the new Texas Supreme Court requirement.
Resolve to build your legal tech proficiency by watching free CLEs in 2019! The Harris County Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute provides access, via its web pages and the Law Library’s YouTube channel, to several on-demand learning opportunities. Watch videos from the comfort of your home or office and earn CLE credit, including ethics credit, as you learn.
Visit our Legal Tech Institute On-demand Learning page to view the following videos:
Additional videos, which no are no longer accredited by the State Bar of Texas but are still useful tools for learning about legal tech, are available at the same link.
Supplement your online learning with in-person, hands-on legal tech training every Thursday at 2:00 pm in the Law Library’s Legal Tech Lab. View our new 2019 Course Catalog to find the right class for you!
Explore the rest of the LTI page to register for our latest installment of the Legal Tech Institute Lecture Series, Blending Your Legal Research, which will be offered on January 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm at Congress Plaza.
The Harris County Law Library will offer the latest installment of its Legal Tech Institute Lecture Series on January 17, 2019 at 12:00 pm. The presenters, Amy Small, Assistant Director of the Texas State Law Library, and Joseph Lawson, Deputy Director of the Harris County Law Library, will discuss strategies for using free and low cost legal research sources effectively. Attendees will learn to approach legal research systematically, utilizing free resources available online, including the e-books and legal databases in the Texas State Law Library’s digital collection. Presenters will also discuss how to use Westlaw and Lexis Advance, which can be accessed for free on site at the Harris County Law Library.
To enroll in this course, please visit the Blending Your Legal Research registration page. Look for other Legal Tech Institute programs, including the Hands-on Legal Tech Training classes offered every Thursday at 2:00 pm in our Legal Tech Lab in the Law Library. Our 2019 Course Catalog has just been published and is now available via the Legal Tech Institute online.
The Harris County Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute today released the 2019 Course Catalog for its Hands-on Legal Tech Training Program. This year, law librarians will teach nine courses on rotation at the Law Library’s Legal Tech Lab. Each course will focus on tech skills needed for legal work in a digital environment. Training sessions are free and open to all, and most carry free continuing legal education credit for Texas attorneys courtesy of the CLE Committee for the Office of Vince Ryan, Harris County Attorney.
“Since the Law Library joined our Office, we have worked to make it a destination where all residents of Harris County can connect with their government and access legal information,” County Attorney Ryan said. “I encourage everyone to take advantage of the free educational programs at the Law Library and to never hesitate to ask to use ‘our’ resources – they are your resources.”
Two instructors lead small classes of nine participants to ensure an interactive environment where students can ask questions and practice skills as they learn. Laptops funded by a 2017 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation are provided or participants can bring their own devices. Each class also touches on skills for all in attendance, from beginners to pros.
“Technology has clearly been a disruptive force in the legal community,” Legal Tech Institute Director Joe Lawson said. “While that presents competitive opportunities for some, it also creates barriers for others. For example, solo attorneys and self-represented litigants, who do not have in-house trainers and support staff like large law firms, may find it difficult to learn each new legal research platform or to use Microsoft Word in a way that complies with the new, tech-heavy procedural rules. As a public law library, our mission is to eliminate barriers to legal information. Offering these free, hands-on training opportunities to all is a big step in the right direction.”
Visit the Legal Tech Institute website at www.harriscountylawlibrary.org/tech to download a copy of the Course Catalog and to register for an upcoming training session. Anyone who is unable to register on the website can find assistance from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Law Library’s reference desk, located at 1019 Congress Street, 1st floor, Houston, Texas 77002, or by phone at (713)755-8153.
The Legal Tech Institute at the Harris County Law Library has released a new video CLE. Fulfilling Ethical Obligations with Legal Research is the latest additional to our Learn On-Demand CLE library that lets you earn CLE credit in Texas while staying up to date on legal tech. Visit the Law Library's Legal Tech Institute page for more legal tech learning opportunities.
This week (Oct. 21-27, 2018) is the 10th Annual National Pro Bono Week! Legal organizations across the country have planned events to celebrate and educate pro bono attorneys in their communities, and the Harris County Law Library is no exception. On Thursday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m., we’ll offer our first session of Free Legal Tech for the Public, which is designed to help pro bono attorneys and self-represented litigants make sense of all the great online resources available to help individuals representing themselves in legal matters. Everyone is welcome to attend this Hands-on Legal Tech Training from the Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute and Texas attorneys can earn 1.0 hour of CLE credit. Click for details and registration information.
Hats Off to Houston Volunteer Lawyers!
In the tradition of celebrating excellence in pro bono work during National Pro Bono Week, the Law Library would like to give a hat tip to Houston Volunteer Lawyers! HVL attorneys staff the “Library Booth,” which is a legal information booth where self-represented litigants with limited means can speak with a licensed attorney for free. The Library Booth is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the lower level of our downtown Houston location. Working in close proximity with HVL attorneys, our law librarians see the positive impact it has on our patrons to have ready access to pro bono attorneys who can answer basic questions. With guidance, self-represented litigants can make better use of the Law Library’s collection and have improved access to justice. Visit www.makejusticehappen.org to see all the ways HVL supports pro bono.
For more information about National Pro Bono Week, including a nationwide events calendar, visit www.probono.net
For information about National Pro Bono Week events in Houston, visit the Houston Bar Association’s Pro Bono Week 2018 page.
For more information about the Law Library’s Hands-on Legal Tech Training sessions, including the Pro Bono Week session of Free Legal Tech for the Public, visit our Legal Tech Institute website and click the Course Calendar.
Excel is a data management tool used for organizing, calculating, graphing, and sharing tabular information. The importance of developing proficiency in the use of Excel cannot be overstated. Knowing how to manipulate spreadsheets is just as important as properly formatting a written document.
According to some, we spend 10% of our working lives manipulating spreadsheets, so becoming adept at using Excel can only improve your efficiency and productivity. Several resources are available to those interested in developing Excel proficiency.
For starters, we recommend that you visit our On-Demand Learning page from the Legal Tech Institute where you will find a recorded CLE called Excel Essentials for the Practice of Law, presented by none other than Ben Kusmin, the go-to expert on using Excel for legal work. Visit his website, Excel Esquire, for even more helpful tips and information.
Secondly, we recommend that you download The Definitive 100 Most Useful Excel Tips, an outstanding resource guide that includes, along with each tip, a utility score, a difficulty scale, an estimated learning time, and a suggestion for how to apply each skill practically.
Certainly, there is a wealth of additional resources you may consult, but the suggestions provided here are a great place to start. Look for our Legal Tech Institute to offer a Hands-on Legal Tech Training course, Excel for Legal Work, in the new year. Hope to see you there!
Need even more inspiration to become an Excel master? Check out this competition for expert Excel users, the Microsoft Office Specialist World Championship, where a new Excel spreadsheet champion is crowned every year. Alternatively, consider the work of this incredible artist, who “paints” Japanese landscapes using Excel. Spreadsheets aren’t just for number crunchers any more!