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Project Reverse Mentoring

General Tips for Teaching Senior Lawyers
Email and Internet


General Comments:

We are entering a whole new world of teaching. Many of the tips which appear here may not apply to the lawyer(s) you are mentoring.

This list was put together after a series of many hours of meetings with students at the University of West Los Angeles School of Law and San Fernando College of Law. The names of those who worked hard and spent many hours to contribute to this list and the curricula follows this list. JP Rems a California Senior Lawyer was and is invaluable.

We ask you to immediately communicate via email or list serve any problems you are having. You are also encouraged to make any suggestion you feel might help so that the other mentors in the program can apply your solutions. To enroll in the List Serv, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

In many respects, senior lawyers are no different from seniors who are not lawyers or lawyers who are not seniors. In many respects they are very different. Senior lawyers are typically much more educated than other seniors and as lawyers also have a fairly good understanding that law offices depend on being modern.

Unfortunately, many of the lawyers who graduated law school in the 1940's, 50's, 60's, and even early 70's were taught "Real lawyers don't touch keyboards." Lawyers and para legals often flatly stated that they refused to do any typing for their own work or the work of others. There was a social stigma attached to doing any typing, which was treated as a low-level clerical job. Lawyers and para legals used secretaries who did the typing or sent the materials to a word processing person. The Senior Lawyer may not even be aware of this subconscious equating a key board to a low level function and may proudly proclaim that they have someone to do their clerical work including typing and email.

Lawyers who graduated law school in the late 70's and beyond typically grew up with computer games and keyboards and have no psychological problems to overcome in order to use a keyboard.

Senior lawyers generally do not want to learn technology in a classroom setting. They want one on one personalized individualized teaching. Many are afraid that others will learn more quickly than they and will not want to be embarrassed by a young person catching on to something in a few moments for which they may require much more time. There may be a fear of failure.

Specific tips for specific situations:

1. Introduce yourself. Be relatively brief and give the senior what amounts to a resume. Learn all you can about the senior before the first lesson. Search them out in the various search engines, legal directories, state bar records, etc. You can find their college and law school through Martindale Hubble among other sources.
2. You will need to know their law school, undergraduate, university, bar association memberships, especially national and state and local organizations to give them links to those organizations.
3. Explain that the lessons can be at any location the senior prefers, but that the lawyer's office would be the best place, using the lawyer's computer and systems and that the school's computer lab would be the second best place. Explain that the computer lab at the school has high speed Internet. Explain that the lawyer's home is also a possibility if the lawyer has high speed Internet. Explain that with high speed internet you can reduce much of the time that is wasted simply waiting for connections. Most seniors are relatively impatient and don't like to wait to be accommodated, and a "less waiting" feature will probably be more attractive to them. If there are no other choices, a public library can be used, but that there is no privacy and you may be limited to 20 or 30 minute sessions.
4. Explain that computer phobia or techno phobia is neither new nor confined to seniors. Computer phobia is found in every law office and every business. Many people are afraid that they will not be able to "keep up" or learn new procedures and new equipment. Every new piece of machinery in the law office caused fears at the time. The steel tipped pen, the manual typewriter, the electric typewriter, mimeograph machines, photo copy machines, fax machines, word processors, multi party telephone systems, cell phones, and computers all in their time caused techno phobia. All were eventually conquered. Computer phobia is simply one of the newer forms of equipment causing phobias. Learning to use a computer for email, the internet and document creation is much simpler than learning to drive a car or than learning to type.
5. Ask them what they already know about computers, email and the internet.
6. Ask them if they have ever tried in the past to learn email or the internet and what was the result of that effort or efforts. Were there any special problems?
7. Ask them to show you what they already know.
8. Ask them if there is something in particular they want to learn.
9. Ask who does their email for them at the office or at home.
10. Encourage them to keep a notebook in order to jot down what they are learning if that helps them to learn. (Some people learn best when they can read what they are learning.)
11. Encourage them to jot down any questions they have for you, either while you are teaching them or when you are not present, between lessons.
12. You may wish to consider giving them a copy of this list.
13. Take a few moment to explain confidentiality, i.e., that you will not repeat their name nor their questions, so they need not be embarrassed. If they want you to help them with medical research on a problem (a distinct possibility) that you will not discuss their problem, likewise if they want you to teach them how to check stock prices or an Internet brokerage account, you won't reveal their confidences.
14. Take a few moments to reassure them that learning to use a computer for email and the Internet is relatively simple. Tell them that something which may seem complex at first will soon become simple and fun.
15. Remind them that the computer is just a dumb stupid machine that only do what it is programmed to do when ordered by an individual to do it.
16. Ask if there is a person in the office or at home who can help them if help is needed and you are not available.
17. Ask them if they already have an email address or need one. Tell them they can have an address at senior lawyers.org for free. Remind them they can always start over by going to the home page of www.seniorlawyers.org.
18. Be aware of the "Light Switch" syndrome. When they turn on a light they see the light or appliance go on instantly and when they turn it off they see it go out instantly. They might get upset and concerned when they don't see something happen instantly when they use a switch or click on the mouse or enter a command. They are not used to not seeing anything happen when they turn the computer on or off or having to wait for the "Booting up" or shutting down process to occur. Let them know that the gurgling noises they hear in the computer are simply the sounds of the command being carried out, not of plumbing gone bad.
19. At all times exercise patience, patience and more patience. Compliment them when the do something successfully.
20. Repeatedly tell them that they cannot "hurt" the computer. A keyboarding or other mistake will not damage the computer. The may be terribly afraid of causing damage.
21. Encourage them to play solitaire. This will give them hand-eye-mouse coordination practice. They can practice this in between lessons.
22. Understand that the mouse can be extremely difficult if the senior doesn't have manual dexterity and or bad eye sight. Hand eye coordination with a mouse may require patient training.
23. Encourage use of a mouse with a roller feature. Teach them to use the roller feature to expand the word processing and some other items to see better. Show them the zoom feature for enlarging type size.
24. Make the icons bigger if necessary. Use Start/Settings/Control Panel/Display. Set at 800x600.
25. Teach then how to use the browser, minimize, expand, close and back.
26. Teach the difference between back and close.
27. Teach left hand click as opposed to left hand double click and right click.
28. Try to avoid right click except to show them that right click is not left click.
29. Pop-ups often frighten a senior. They are afraid they did something wrong. They often cannot get rid of the pop up. Teach them to drag pop-ups down and to the left in order to close the window with the pop up using the x box.
30. The senior may have trouble calling the desktop a desktop. It may help to refer to "the screen" on the monitor instead of "the desk top." The senior may think that the desktop is simply the top of the desk.
31. Encourage the use of the printer, even for things you personally would not bother printing. The lawyer will feel good if they can hold a piece of paper with something they found or created.
32. Show them how they can print from the Internet. You can take them to this list at www.seniorlawyers.org and show them how to print it.
33. Demonstrate how to "turn on" and "turn off" the monitor, printer and computer. Show them that each piece of equipment (the computer, the monitor, the printer, the scanner, etc.) may have its own on-off switch to get power. Demonstrate that each piece of equipment may also require additional steps, including the start and shut down commands. Demonstrate that there may be a time lag between clicking or entering the command and the command being done. (To overcome the "light switch" syndrome.)
34. Demonstrate the "three finger salute" of alt control delete when the computer freezes. Again emphasize that they can't hurt the computer, it will correct itself when it reboots.
35. Do not allow the senior to become frustrated or stressed. Do not be concerned over how many times you must go over something until the senior feels comfortable and can perform the task. YOU MUST PROCEED AT THE SENIOR'S SPEED, NOT YOUR SPEED.
36. If the senior know how to type on a typewriter, compare the similarities between the keyboard for the computer and the keys of a typewriter. Demonstrate how the cursor can be moved with the scroll feature and how the scroll feature can move up and down.
37. If they know how to use a typewriter, explain how the keyboard and the typewriter are similar. Both have a capitals feature. The typewriter has the Shift lock key which stays down until relieved and the shift key on the typewriter which bounces back immediately. The keyboard has a CAP LOCK button which stays in force after stroking until stroked again, and has a light on the upper right of the keyboard which stays lit so long as the capitals feature is functioning. The typewriter has a backspace which backs up one space but does not erase anything. The keyboard has a backspace key which erases going backward so long as it is held down until released. The keyboard has a delete key which erases forward so long as held down until released.
38. Encourage daily communication by email between yourself and the senior. If the senior does not reply to your email, call the senior and tell the senior that there is an email waiting for them and they should send a reply acknowledging the email.
39. Show the senior how the cursor, when placed on a toolbar feature, will give an explanation of what that feature does.
40. Bring a blank floppy. Give it to the senior as a gift to be used to demonstrate the differences between a C drive and an A drive, and what the holes in the computer are for and how something can be saved onto a disc. You may also wish to bring a CD just to demonstrate the differences between a floppy and a CD and where they are inserted into the computer.
41. Explain the help feature of programs and that information that used to be kept in paper booklets is now often found in the help feature.
42. Be sensitive to signs that the senior may be tiring. Ask the senior if they would like to call it a day and continue at the next lesson or as a practice session during the week.
43. Try to get a commitment from the senior to practice at least 10 minutes per day between sessions.

Above all, patience, patience, patience. Allow the senior to progress through the various steps at is or her own pace.

Please sign onto the mentor list serv by going to www.seniorlawyers.org/mentorlistserv.

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