California Bar Journal
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


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Front Page - October 1999
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Johnson confirmed for second term as bar's top prosecutor
Courts serve up mixed rulings on State Bar
Ethics association elects Karpman president
Six new governors join bar board
New group targets health care fraud
Public law section creates online library of public law links
JoAnne Spears honored
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Trials Digest
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Slaying an imaginary dragon
The perfect ending: Results
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From the President - This bar year ends on a high note
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Letters to the Editor
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Public Comment
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Legal Tech - Tips for network administrators
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New Products & Services
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1999 Honors
State Bar cites pro bono service
Young lawyers salute San Diego sole practitioner for outstanding service
State Bar hails 'lawyer's lawyer'
Aided by attorney, parolee cited, hired
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MCLE Self-Study
The Rigors of Fee Agreements
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Ethics Byte - Before you sue for fees, think again
Woman who impersonated husband ordered reinstated
Attorney Discipline


Tips for network administrators
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Dana ShultzWhile coaching technology managers, I have run across a recurring client frustration: Network administrators are usually not good at user support. They are great at solving technical problems, but they often lack the people skills and emotional insights required to effectively support users.

This is not a problem for large firms, which can afford separate administration and support groups. But small and mid-size firms are in a bind. With a one- or two-person Information Systems staff, the network administrator must also wear the user-support hat.

So if your firm has one of these dual-role I.S. staffers, you can pass along this 10-step user-support checklist.

Importance of support

1. Recognize that user support is just as important as network administration.

The best-running network is useless if users cannot make it do what they need. Their perceptions will be based on how well you treat them rather than on how well you treat the network.

2. Give users your full attention.

Whether you are contacted in person or on the phone, listen carefully to what the user says.

Don't cut the user off, even if the solution to the problem is obvious. Give the user the courtesy of a full hearing.

3. Acknowledge the legitimacy of the problem.

Even if the problem seems small to you, it is important to the user. Empathize with the user. State that you will solve it when your schedule allows, and give some idea of when that is likely to be.

4. Find out what the problem really is.

Users often label problems incorrectly. Walk through the operation with the user so you can learn where the problem really lies.

Tracking calls

5. Use a call-tracking system.

Don't let help requests get lost under piles of paper - this makes users unhappy.

Buy or develop software that will let you track the user, the nature of the problem, when it was reported and resolved and how it was resolved.

An added bonus: Over time, you will build a valuable data base to help you anticipate where future problems will arise.

6. Realistically assess when the problem will be fixed.

If you give unrealistically optimistic projections, you will lose credibility. If you need to do some research, say so.

Whatever the corrective action will be, let the user know what the next step will be and when it will likely take place.

7. Fix the problem.

You're a network administrator - this is probably the easiest of the 10 steps. If it cannot be fixed, let the user know right away and propose a work-around.

Confirming the fix

8. Confirm that the user agrees the problem has been fixed.

Your say-so is not good enough. Make sure the user specifically acknowledges that the problem has been resolved.

9. Check in a few days later.

See whether the user is still satisfied. The public relations value of a follow-up call is huge (and may even increase the size of your next raise).

10. Keep your boss informed.

Let your boss know about overall trends, significant problems and major successes. Managers like to know the important stuff, and they hate being surprised by bad news.

Follow these 10 steps, and no one will have the right to complain about your user-support capabilities.

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based certified management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He may be reached by e-mail at and on the web at