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Evaluating and improving a lawyer’s technology competence

Helping lawyers get up to speed on the technology they need to use starts with honesty about what they need. Several organizations offer approaches to help lawyers get the technology competence they’re expected to have.

That training is required goes without saying. D. Casey Flaherty warns against vendors selling easy solutions to such problems. “For every dollar you spend on technology, you probably need to spend $10 on process redesign and training,” said the principal of legal technology assessment consultancy Procertas during a 2017 episode of the Building NewLaw podcast. “If you won’t make the complementary investment, don’t make the initial investment.”

Continuing education and certifications

Dominic Jaar offered an idea from the world of technology consulting, where professionals study for and pass exams throughout their careers so they can add acronyms to their business cards. “Maybe we’ve reached a point where it should be mandatory for every lawyer to show understanding of the technologies they’re expected to use,” mused the Canadian advisory leader, clients & markets for KPMG Canada.

Mass-market training options

The author has taken several high-quality courses through sites like Access may be low-cost or free. Holders of a Toronto Public Library card, for instance, can access courses at no cost.

Certificate in legal innovation and technology

Boston’s Suffolk University Law School will offer an online certificate in legal innovation and technology. Prominent legal experts will deliver courses in:

  • Legal operations;
  • Process improvement and legal project management;
  • 21st century legal profession;
  • Design thinking for legal professionals;
  • The business of delivering legal services;
  • Legal technology toolkit.

Legal technology assessment

Flaherty tests lawyers on their technology abilities. He then uses results not to demonize law firms but to improve relationships between those firms and their clients. His efforts have resulted in several complementary initiatives:

“(The book is) about how (in-house counsel) can have data-driven conversations with their external providers,” Flaherty said during a 2017 episode of the Building NewLaw podcast. “In-house counsel can send it to outside counsel so they can be on the same page, sometimes literally.

“I wanted to change the nature of conversations between inside and outside counsel,” Flaherty said of his work. “We tend to have nebulous conversations about things like efficiency and productivity. Our nebulous conversations tend to fall back to discounts, which don’t do anything to modify behaviour.”

He noted that clients were asking for discounts. “This is a two-sided problem,” he said. “Both perpetuate the status quo.”

“These (measures) should be win-win initiatives. The client’s costs should go down and the firm’s profits should go up.”

The Legal Technology Core Competency Certification Coalition

Otherwise known as LTC4, this coalition consists of participants in the legal services arena like law firms, in-house counsel, technology vendors and law schools. Coalition members adopt industry-standard learning plans that they can use to both assess skills and structure training programs.

LTC4’s 10 workflow-based learning plans are:

  • Legal documents;
  • Managing documents and e-mails;
  • Collaborating with others: e-mailing and sharing documents;
  • Time and billing;
  • Road warriors
  • Data, reports and exhibits;
  • Security;
  • Working with clients (CRM);
  • Presentations;
  • e-discovery/e-disclosure.

“Right now, security comes high up the list,” said U.K.-based technology skills consultant Joanne Humber, who also serves LTC4 as a marketing consultant. LTC4 members can download these plans, and they do since “firms just want to use an industry standard to structure their training programs,” Humber said.

Connie Brenton tested LTC4 with the in-house legal team for NetApp Inc. “We had an enthusiastic participation rate,” said NetApp’s legal department’s senior director of operations. “It’s difficult to find time for training. Having been in operations for some time, I was skeptical about the participation rates we would get.” Brenton estimated 60 per cent of the department now holds certifications.

“It is different from anything we’ve experienced,” Brenton continued. “It has micro-training sessions, and when I say micro, I’m not kidding — they’re short! They’re two or three minutes and enable incremental progress. The time commitment is minimal, though you might have to complete 50 micro-sessions. You don’t sit and do 30- or 40-minute training sessions.”

She noted that much of the learning is not specific to law. It’s about using business tools more effectively, a topic that can benefit other departments in her company.

Both inside and outside counsel can take this training, and Brenton wants to see them do so. “There are few opportunities for inside and outside counsel to share learning related to running legal like a business,” she said.

This is the third column of a three-part series. Read part one here. Read part two here.

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily website, published by LexisNexis Canada Inc.