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Bar test drives an IT helpline

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The Board of Governors has approved a three-month “beta test” of an IT helpline that would be promoted to solo and small firms who need routine remote computer software and technology support.

At a January 29 virtual meeting, board members voted unanimously to approve a contract with Law Tech Partners for a three-month experiment. Details of the contract are not yet final.

“The anticipated target audience is the Solo and Small Firm Section because that seemed the most logical,” said Board Technology Committee Chair Jay Kim.

Law Tech Partners owner Adriana Linares, a legal technology consultant and trainer, offers a similar service as a member benefit to the San Diego County Bar Association.

A day before the board meeting, the Program Evaluation Committee voted overwhelming to recommend the proposal.

PEC backup material includes a handful of glowing testimonials from SDCBA members.

The beta test will require Law Tech to submit weekly reports with usage data, and will be used to gauge member interest.

The Board Technology Committee began researching the proposal earlier this year when it was looking for ways to help members cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee initially envisioned an “emergency IT hotline,” but scaled back the proposal after determining that the cost would be prohibitive, Kim said.

Instead, Kim said, the helpline will offer routine remote services, including basic troubleshooting, operating system support, and technical setup for home and remote offices.

“I think the important thing…is that it is not intended to be an emergency line,” Kim said. “What will not be included are hardware issues and malware and ransomware attacks, and things like that.”

The terms of the contract, when final, will determine such things as operating hours and which services constitute an emergency, Kim said.

Some committee members were worried that Bar members would show scant interest.

PEC and board member Melissa VanSickle referred to an October survey that asked Bar members how likely they would be to use a “remote computer/repair tech support initially for free followed by a reduced fee,” if it were offered as a member benefit.

Only 8% responded “very likely,” 14% responded “somewhat likely,” and 59% responded “unlikely.” Another 19% indicated they were unsure.

“I am not necessarily opposed to the beta, but I can’t help but notice the survey results,” VanSickle said.

President Dori Foster-Morales noted that technology was among the top three challenges that members expressed when she conducted a series of pandemic-themed virtual town halls in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits last year.

But she said she was concerned that the Bar would be forced to cancel a service just as some members come to rely on it.

“Once you give people a service, it’s hard to take it away,” she said. “I want to make sure that there is a real protocol during that beta period.”

Board member Laird Lile said a non-emergency helpline is too limited to attract many users.

“Let’s face it,” he said. “The only time people are going to use this is when there’s an emergency.”

But Roland Sanchez-Medina, a PEC and board member, said he was satisfied that Bar members will appreciate the help.

“As a member of a larger firm, being able to call someone when something hits the proverbial fan, it’s a great service,” he said. “I think when people start actually using the service, they’re going to fall in line.”

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