Joe Lawson




1. What motivated you to market your library with the “Legal Tech Institute” program?

I am always on the lookout for solutions to my patrons’ pain points. While working with self-represented litigants and small firm attorneys in recent years, I noticed these groups share similar technological hurdles in their legal work. Downloading forms from databases, saving Word documents as efile-ready PDFs, or inserting a section symbol can slow their progress even while large firms are deploying artificial intelligence to streamline ediscovery workflows. The easy part of the solution is finding talented people to teach practical legal tech skills. My reference staff has, out of necessity, learned a variety of tech skills for their own work or as part of their desk duties that our patrons find valuable. The difficult task is reaching diverse groups who are not all on the same mailing lists, but who can all benefit from legal tech classes at my law library. Investing in our marketing campaign for the Legal Tech Institute helped my law library convey the value of our services and my staff’s expertise to our intended audience.

2. How has the program been received so far, and how will you evaluate its success?

I look at several indicators from participants and key stakeholders to determine the success of the program and marketing effort. The Legal Tech Institute has been well-received by the intended audience. We see 25-30 participants at lunchtime CLEs and our livestreaming audience is growing. Post-event evaluations have a high response rate and yield ratings of 4.5-4.9 stars for each program. The online video content has also been well-received based on analytics gleaned from our CMS and YouTube. Among key stakeholders, the program has received significant support. The Houston Bar Association regularly advertises our programs to its members and the HBA Law Library Committee has connected us with guest speakers. For our July program, our guest speaker is a successful litigator and blogger in New York City who contacted us to propose the program and has worked with us on scheduling between our cities. Most recently, the Texas Bar Foundation awarded a $23,000 grant for laptops and software to expand the Legal Tech Institute to include hands-on training. Looking at the overall support and data collected, I’m very happy with the direction of the program.

3. What “if only I knew!” advice would you give others wanting to replicate the program?

Ask for help… early. The point of a program like this is to help folks who do not have access to a centralized training program like you would see in a large firm. The implication is they are not all on the same mailing list or social media feed, so it can be difficult to get your marketing materials to the intended audience. Reaching out to groups that maintain mailing lists, who publish newsletters for your audience, or who come into contact with them at a public desk can help you get your message out quickly and have success early on, which may determine success later on. Some examples include your local bar association, bar associations specifically for solo or general practice, legal aid groups who can share the information with their clients, and public facing government agencies (e.g., district clerks). And don’t forget, asking for help can be mutually beneficial. Many of these contacts need to fill newsletters, expand benefits for their members, or guide the public to helpful resources. It’s a real two-way street.

4. Who is your personal hero?

My dad. He is the ultimate handyman. Throughout my childhood, he fixed plumbing, electrical, you name it, and he always asked me to hold the flashlight. At the time, I thought I was doing him a favor. Turns out I was the unwitting apprentice and he taught me not only how to fix plumbing and electrical, but also how to break down large tasks into component pieces for implementation. Most of my successes thus far have relied heavily on that ability.

5. Do you have a favorite quote?

"So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. "We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal."

President John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963