In today’s technology driven world, it is often assumed that everyone knows all there is to know about how to use the technologies that have become an indispensable part of almost every aspect of the practice of law. Discussion of how generational differences between old world lawyers and digital natives impact the workplace have given way to debates over exactly which skills are actually needed, who has them and how you can tell.
Clients assume that to gain competitive advantage firms are maximizing their use of technology and lawyers are using the most efficient tools to achieve their goals. In reality, technology skills vary greatly between lawyers and firms.
Most States are beginning to grapple with the overwhelming effect which technology has on all areas of legal practice. New York has just become the first U.S. state to mandate that attorneys take continuing legal education courses in cybersecurity, privacy and data protection. Under the new requirement, all attorneys must complete one hour of training every two years in either the ethical obligations surrounding cybersecurity, privacy and data protection, or in the technological and practice-related aspects of protecting data and client communications.
However, in this constantly changing tech world, this seems a very small requirement which will have minimal impact on either skill development or risk reduction. Continuing education leading to technology competence across a wider range of skills should be mandated by EVERY bar association. While some states are beginning to realize the overwhelming impact technology has on various areas of practice, others, like Texas, have simply added comments to their rules. And in the UK there are no specific requirements although the SRA does state that you must “maintain your competence to carry out your role and keep your professional knowledge and skills up to date”.
Identifying the technology skills that are needed and proving tech competence was extremely challenging and subjective until LTC4™ came along. Standing for “Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition” and known now as LTC4™, it was formed because legal technology professionals across the US and UK had identified fundamental skills gaps and realised that there was no industry standard and certainly no recognisable accreditation. That was around 11 years ago. Since then the industry-wide Coalition has developed and maintained a set of 10 workflow-based Learning Plans which provide structure for training programmes which are relevant to the way that legal professionals need to work now.
Fee earning and support staff at every level engage with technology through the day, yet the value of timely technology education is underestimated. Even as law firms are enjoying increased profits despite the pandemic, investment in IT training is still very low down the list of priorities. To address this, LTC4 works with lawyers and training professionals across the world to take the guesswork out of technology training. In addition to defining the competencies, Legal IT trainers across the world share their thoughts regularly via a range of roundtable meetings, Trainer Talks and webinars*. Their challenges include attorney resistance to training due to time pressures; getting buy-in from the business for training initiatives; onboarding online; delivering shorter yet equally effective training sessions when there are more and more new technologies being introduced. As hybrid working has become more widespread different skills have been needed. When working from home no one is instantly at your side when you have a technology issue. Everyone has had to become more self-sufficient, and the risks of data breaches have increased exponentially. In response, LTC4 developed a competency specific to hybrid working.
In this new world there are many reasons both attorneys and staff need to improve and prove their technology skills. With improved skills there are measurable improvements in efficiency and profitability. Using an LTC4 competency to achieve LTC4™ Certification means that training has not just been delivered, it’s impact on the learner has been assessed and competence has been achieved and demonstrated to an independent non-profit organization. Clients will soon realize that as well. The 10 LTC4™ Learning Plans cover important topics such as cyber security, collaboration, management and storage of data, time recording, document quality and video conferencing – and the all-important Certification is achieved through an LTC4 approved assessment or “learning review”. When competing with peers who have been through such rigorous training and certification, the question should not be who needs to prove tech competence, but who doesn’t.
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