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Is your legal technology investment leading to efficiency?

Joanne HumberUnfortunately, clear thinking about the impact and the benefits of any technology investment is often coloured by short-term thinking and peer-pressure.  Among law firms’ competitors often appear to have far too great an influence on many decisions around technology investment – “they’ve got it so we must have it” is surely not the best way to judge the benefits of new technology. Technology is generally the largest area of investment for the average law firm.

The recently released Wolters Kluwer Report has highlighted that the digital transformation of the profession has significantly advanced with the widespread adoption of digital processes and technologies showing what technology can do, and what people and businesses can do when enabled by technology. Hence the urgent need for tech-enabled efficiency. 

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The fundamental skills gaps which exist in so many law firms across the globe were identified by the coalition of legal technology skills training professionals called LTC4™ around 11 years ago. They were acutely aware that productivity is directly linked to the adoption of technology.  These volunteers spent several years developing and fine-tuning a set of 10 learning plans which firms could use to structure training programmes to address the issue and now continue to review and maintain them.

Research has shown that average user productivity loss can be 17% when technology is not adopted.  In a world where alternative business structures are becoming more widespread and clients are building their own in-house legal teams surveys show that up to 48% of clients are reducing their outside spend and certainly examining their bills far more closely. Firms with highest rates of technology adoption billed 25% more and are experiencing far less “written-off” time.

There are lots of different strategies for success, one area is new hire onboarding programmes, including the firm’s trainee intake. After all they will be the partners of the future. It is a key area where technology competence can help drive user adoption and impact firm profitability, skilling the workforce for the future. When new hires go through the onboarding process, they are a cost to the firm so the sooner they are trained to carry out their role the sooner the firm will be benefitting from the investment they have made. The training received in these early days needs to be timely, provide context and be workflow-based so they are learning how to carry out their role using all the technology the firm has invested in. Workflow-based delivery of training also ensures that the transfer of learning takes place from the virtual classroom into the real world. 

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Without the skills needed legal professionals often start to see the technology as a barrier as opposed to an enabler inevitably leading to poor user adoption. It becomes a drain on internal resources, such as IT Support. There is an increased risk to the firm as well. Firms are generally diligent about training their employees to reduce risk in the area of cyber security, however poor adoption of document management systems, document automation tools, data storage and reporting applications also open up the firm to unnecessary risk.

Learning is a continuous journey, there is no one-size-fits-all training programme. When reviewing the roles within a typical law firm structure it is possible to identify the different personas that exist. Understanding their needs enables training programmes to suit the various individuals that exist, for example the transactional attorney, the partner who is bringing clients with them on day 1 and focusing on BD, the self-sufficient attorney….and so on. This requires continuous improvement and review. Firms must also give individuals the capacity to learn. Lawyer burnout is on the rise. 39% say that long work hours are negatively impacting their personal life. With improved skills and better adoption of the technologies in use that all-important work/life balance can be nearer to a reality.

Your training programme should match up to your tech investment, invest time to ensure it is fit for purpose and closely incorporated into any technology project. It can't be a tick box exercise or an after-thought. There are various opportunities where skills improvement can be targeted – upgrades, new system roll-outs, team specific projects or just overall firm-wide upskilling.

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The 10 LTC4™ Learning Plans cover cyber security, collaboration, management and storage of data, time recording, document quality and video conferencing.  Flexible and app-nostic they are designed to provide real-world structure for legal technology training. The all-important global LTC4™ Certification can be achieved through assessment or “learning review” following training.  

For more than 25 years Joanne Humber delivered IT training programmes to law firms across the world – initially through her own company and then as Director of Training for Phoenix Business Solutions (now Morae Int). Since leaving Phoenix in 2015 she has been actively promoting the Legal Technology Core Competency Certification Coalition (LTC4) which was formed more than 6 years ago by law firm training and IT professionals to address the skills gaps which exist within the industry. Her experience of working with law firms of all sizes clearly demonstrated the need to improve technology skills in a way which is relevant to the way they work, with whichever software or devices they choose to use and wherever they may be based. 
 

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