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IT training & Law Firms

Why am I here?
 
I have a genuine interest in legal IT but I find most publications rarely mention IT Training (or front line services generally), unless it relates to IT staff development. Surely there’s more to legal IT than just technology? I took it upon myself to jump on my IT Training soapbox. As a wise lady once said, “I believe the Trainee Solicitors are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. I’m sure those were the words...

For those who are interested (and a few who are not) I aim to explore the role of an effective IT Training function within a law firm – hopefully dispelling a few myths, exploring a few case studies and providing some food for thought. I don’t have all the answers and I certainly don’t claim to be the fountain of all training knowledge, but I am passionate about what I do.

Do you know what your IT Training team does?

Do you? Really? Ok, we train people. I cannot deny this fact. What else? This is an important point as some people may feel this is all IT Training should do. It may surprise many people to know that IT Trainers can spend less than half their time actually training people. This will vary from firm to firm, so all I can do is use my own experience as my example.

The business wants to see value from their IT spend. If the network goes down, or someone’s PC crashes, you will hear about it very quickly. Chances are they may not be too happy. Unfortunately the Helpdesk rarely receives calls from the average Partner congratulating IT on the prolonged stability of the network. But, the business does understand the importance of IT systems in the modern world. They could not imagine a life without e-mail and they understand the tangible value it adds.

So how does IT Training add value to a law firm? I think it’s fairly safe to assume that most people see the value in new starter induction training. It’s a no-brainer. The same probably applies to software rollouts. People simply need to know how these systems work. An area sometimes overlooked, in terms of value, is training support - for example, fixing a Table of Contents in a document that needs to go out to the client urgently. It might not be as technical as resolving network issues, but to that Fee Earner it may be as important. An IT Training team can receive dozens of questions every day. Not only does this help to alleviate pressure from Helpdesk/Support, it provides an important customer service function.

Developing a new course can take time. You have to do Training Needs Analysis, write delivery guides, write courseware, learn the course, run pilot sessions & evaluate these sessions. Some of the new courses my team has just launched have been in development for months and we will continue to evaluate and tweak these courses throughout their lifecycle. Much of this work is done at our desks and I have often wondered, over the years, if colleagues sometimes assume that if we’re not in the training room then we’re not doing anything. Have you ever had this thought about your training team?

IT Training for better business

Let’s say you’re pitching a new product to the Board. This product will increase document production efficiency by 10% and will help Fee Earners to manage their e-mails, documents & time more effectively resulting in improved billing. The good news is this can be achieved using current resources and won’t cost a penny. I’m sure the Board would be very interested in this product. It’s called training. Why is no one excited anymore? They should be. It can be achieved. The problem is many IT Training functions do not do enough to evaluate the ROI from their efforts. If your IT Training team doesn’t know who Donald Kirkpatrick is, you should be concerned. You really should.

IT Directors should expect more from their IT Training function. If the business has a positive perception of IT Training and is happy with the service then that’s excellent. But this should be the minimum the team should be achieving. What else are they achieving in terms of improving efficiency and aligning technology with business goals? If you don’t know then ask them.

A good IT Training service is a visible, customer-focussed, proactive service. We have one foot in the education camp, one in the IT camp and another in the customer service camp. That’s too many feet – but you get the idea.

Anyway, I’m climbing down from my soapbox now. I hope to have my next column posted up shortly. The topic may be “Are IT Training the poor relations of IT?” Yes, I know, I have issues.

Chris Davies

September 2008

 

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