President’s Message February 2010

February 1, 2010

I didn’t come by my appreciation for technology naturally. In fact, some might say I was genetically predisposed against it.

I didn’t grow up in a house that was particularly cutting-edge when it came to the newest technology. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that we didn’t enjoy our 8-track tape player and our Pong, it’s just that these things all required a certain level of mechanical ability, and those tasks – usually the domain of the man in the house – didn’t fall on the list of my father’s favorite things. Anything with the words “some assembly required” printed on the box was to be avoided at all cost.

I remember when we got our first VCR (for the Barristers, let me explain – that’s an acronym for “video cassette recorder,” a primitive form of technology we used to watch a movie at home, before the DVD was invented). The excitement that was in the air at noon when my dad brought home the box was but a distant memory by 7 or 8 p.m. No hope of watching a movie that night or, for that matter, being able to tell the time by the front of the VCR. “Oh well,” my father sighed in frustration, “it will be right in six months.”

My mother’s mechanical abilities far exce- eded those of my father. My mother and I once spent the better part of an entire weekend assembling a reproduction of a suit of armor that had been given to my parents by a client. It arrived in a box that contained dozens of pieces, large and small, and my mother and I put the entire thing together ourselves. Of course, my dad supervised and, thanks to his frequent observations and suggestions, we didn’t have any parts left over when we finished. Carlos is still with us – my steadfast tin soldier, standing guard in my living room, a living and breathing testament to my technological and mechanical abilities. (OK, he’s not really living, I know that …but he gets presents at Christmas and a costume on Halloween, and since he never rolls his eyes at us or asks for anything, he is often the most-beloved member of our household).

Despite any aversion to technology I might have observed growing up, I was fortunate to have come of age in the Age of Technology.

For my generation, the use of technology turned from an option into a requirement, both in school and beyond. As a freshman in college in the early 1980s, it was still big news when someone in my dorm got a computer, and I was thrilled with my first one – a Tandy 1000 from Radio Shack that I got for Christmas. It got me through a few years of college, and would probably be worth far more today as a collectible than it ever was as a computer! Today it would be unthinkable to send a child off to college without a laptop, fully equipped with all measure of technology that I couldn’t have envisioned while working away on my Tandy 1000.

So with this questionable upbringing and immersion into technology, it might surpri- se you to learn that I am making technolo- gy the focus of my year as president. I owe thanks to my husband, Andrew, for helping me to not only learn about, but also appre- ciate, the various electronic and computing technologies we have today. Andrew’s tech- nological abilities come naturally to him, and he has used them to make a living for the last 20 years or so. Andrew never met a computer or piece of electronics he didn’t like, or couldn’t figure out how to use. In that respect, I didn’t marry my father, who only half-jokingly referred to the Yellow Pages as his toolbox.

When it has come to televisions, flat screen monitors, DVRs, wireless networ- king and countless other home and business technologies, over the years our family, thanks to Andrew, has become the Joneses in the neighborhood that you have to keep up with. It’s become my duty to balk at first, question the necessity, complain about the cost and wrinkle my nose at the instructions on use, and then a few short days later ponder how we ever lived without it.

My thoughts about what I would like to accomplish during my year as President overlapped with a major IT upgrade in my office. This started me thinking about how some of what I wanted to do at my firm could also be employed by the VCBA and, thanks to the creative energy and technological know-how from my husband, I decided to use an IT upgrade at the VCBA as a way to achieve some of the greater goals the organization hopes to achieve.

The starting point is a new website. The Bar underwent the first major redesign of its website during my first term on the VCBA board, in 2005, during Don Hurley’s presidency. I recall the board and bar leaders receiving an introduction to the redesign process, and looking at other state bar websites around the state. The process was fairly collaborative, and the redesign was developed within the standard of the time. Namely, it became the depository of information about the bar association, and visitors would go there to find out about the bar – its sections and committees, the upcoming events, local rules and practice, and the people serving as current directors or section leaders.

Most, if not all, of the information deposited onto the 2005 website is still there, along with some regular updates that have kept our calendar current, and the most “recent issue of Citations on the home page [Back issues may also be found on the website – ed.]. The current site is packed with information, much of it useful and relevant, and just about any question one may have about the bar can be found there

The challenge is that we – the “we” who consume this technology – have become very savvy about how we use it. And when we seek it out, we are using it differently than before. For example, rather than just “surf” the web for fun or general information purposes, people are visiting particular sites for very particular reasons. If someone wants information about the Ventura County Bar Association, the first place they go will be our website, and they will want to know particular things about us. I want to deliver on their expectations, and it can’t be done with the current site which, judging against 2010 technology standards, is a bit of a dinosaur – not as much as my Tandy 1000 would be today, but deserving of an upgrade.

Thanks to the hard work of our IT committee, our fearless leader Steve Henderson, and my talented other half, we are close to unveiling the new site. I think you will find it to be more intuitive, easier to navigate, and generally more representative of the organization as a whole.

I have other goals in mind for the bar when it comes to technology this year, and the new website is just a starting point. In fact, many of us today don’t go to a website at all for our information – we expect it to come to us, via a blog post, a Facebook update, or a ‘Tweet’ from a friend or colleague. My hope is that people who expect to get their information about the bar through those kinds of social media outlets will be doing so by the end of this year.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Twitter? Facebook? Blogs? These are words that weren’t even in the vocabulary during my DOS days. I wonder what my Dad would think of all this technology? I’ll go ask Carlos what he thinks.