Further Thoughts on ILTA Survey
I briefly mentioned the woeful numbers when it comes to actually measuring the technical skills of law firm staff when I posted the link to the 2008 ILTA User Support survey.
Tonight, I’d like to dig into those thoughts a bit further. First, let’s look at the top answers of some of the relevant questions to this post:
- Does your firm conduct skills assessment? 65% -No
- If your firm does skills assessment, who do you test? 59% -Prospective Staff
- Does your firm have any ongoing technical training requirements for attorneys? 87% – No
- Does your firm have any ongoing technical requirements for staff? 67% -No
- What incentives are offered at your firm to support training? 52% -Food at sessions
- Does your firm have an official budget for your training department? 62% -No
So, let’s take those numbers and create a typical law firm staffer.
When you were hired, there’s a less than 50% chance that anyone actually bothered to test your technical skills, other than looking at your resume, but there’s a chance that someone would have, so let’s suppose you do actually have all the requisite skills for your job, currently. Over the years, as technology changes at a great pace, you’ll be given the opportunity to take some classes, mostly as part of large roll outs of new tools. There will be other opportunities for training, but no actual budget for it, and no one will be tracking whether you go to training or not. In fact, your skills will never actually be tested again, no matter how long you work with the firm. So long as you can continue to do the important stuff, you’ll be fine. If, however, you decide you’d like to learn more about taking advantage of technology, and be more efficient through using it, you’ll be richly rewarded, with a pastry.
Of course this is all different for the young associate attorney. For you, not only is your reward a lovely pastry, but you also get the lost hours of billable time that you’ll need to make up, and, if you really learn a lot, you’ll also be treated to missed billable hour minimums because your efficient use of technology allowed you to get work done quicker, and left you scrounging around for more work to make up your hours!
Which leads me to my last number:
- What are the biggest challenges facing training and user support efforts? 73% -Lawyer Participation
Next, some ideas on correcting this problem. In the meantime, I’d love to hear yours!
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It takes support from management to bring about change and most firms are busy worrying about other departments – marketing, office services, HR. On the flip side, are training departments offering unique and creative ways to deliver their goods? I see a lot of us relying on same skill set that we used when we started – focusing efforts on secretaries and preferring classroom instruction.
The technology has changed and the audience has changed. Attorneys don’t learn the same way that secretaries do and paralegals don’t learn the same way as either of the other two groups. I would also offer up that Partners don’t want to learn the same way that Associates do. Before I left big law, I worked on a project with my new employer to analyze a practice group in the big law firm. I came away with the discovery that Secretaries still prefer classroom training, Partners ask their secretaries how to use technology and Associates learn from each other.
After observing how many attorneys are flocking to tools like the Blackberry or Iphone and social networking sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, I’m not sure they are as technology adverse as we originally thought. I think they just prefer to jump on board with emerging technology rather than make up for the years of not using the word processor.
Even though we have a lot on our plate already – how many third-party apps do you have to know to teach Word these days! — we have to learn more about social networking, web conferencing, document collaboration via Google Docs. We also need to enhance our delivery skill set. Take advantage of those social networking concepts by creating Learning Communities within our firms. If they are going to ask each other, then let’s give them a way to do so with the correct information. And we need to learn how to effectively deliver a web presentation, consider moving some e-learning to a mobile platform. When the attorneys realize that the technologists are concerned about understanding the tools they are using, then we at least have our foot in the door to the “traditional” training that needs to happen.
At the same time we are asking our legal users to learn, trainers have a lot of new concepts and technologies to learn as well.