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Moving from technology competence to adaptability

Bonnie BeuthUsing legal technology is such a fundamental requirement for the modern lawyer that it should no longer be necessary to talk about the need to improve basic skills. However, conversations with technology training and service desk professionals paint a worrying picture in which some of the most commonly used desktop applications are not being used to their full potential simply because of lack of knowledge. 

Time pressures keep lawyers from training just as the need to function effectively and efficiently have never been more important.  Given the increased pace of technological change, Trainers are increasingly aware that what they need to teach is self-sufficiency and adaptability - to enable lawyers and staff to adapt to a constantly changing tech environment with confidence.

As firms use Microsoft 365 there are many areas where the functionality it offers are under-used or not clearly understood. Inevitably this will only increase. For example, co-editing in M365 has been available for years but is rarely used, and far too few lawyers understand that using Excel (or better yet Power BI) to manipulate data and to quickly perform and adjust calculations can be extremely efficient once its functionality is understood.  


Managing matter-related documents and emails in a way that makes them available both in the office and when working remotely is also critical.  Using document versioning and tracking changes saves time and frustration. Without a good understanding of how a document is structured and how styles are used a legal document can be a minefield.  How many legal professionals understand Word styles and know how best to use the Format Painter to apply them? Additionally, saving emails to the Document Management system ensures a complete client record exists in one place, and is possible whether you use iManage or NetDocuments, yet firms struggle to get adoption of email filing best practices. 

Cyber security and data protection risks associated with poor tech skills include headline grabbing and business ending vulnerabilities. The NY CLE Board recently issued a new rule that requires NY attorneys to complete at least one CLE credit hour in Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Protection as part of their biennial New York CLE requirement. Other states are sure to follow.

Against this background, in her excellent recent webinar Ivy B Grey of Wordrake outlined the duty of technology competence like this:

  • For any client representation, a lawyer must be competent 
  • Competence includes substantive knowledge and practical skills
  • Practical skills include business and technical skills
  • The minimum requirements are ever-increasing, the tools are ever-changing

Find the webinar here: How to comply with the Duty of Tech Competence

"To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology (…)" so say the US Bar Associations.  This is a rather vague requirement, somewhat ill-defined but it does, at the very least, acknowledge that this is an important area of concern.  

According to 2.2 million law firm helpdesk tickets … 

  • 43% of help requests were for MS Office 
  • 19% of help requests were for MS Word

Is it still worth asking if the latest Word functionality used to its full potential?  These things are fundamental to the production of good quality documents. To move from competency to adaptability, you must first achieve competency. About 13 years ago many of the issues which Ivy B Grey includes in her webinar contributed to the formation of a coalition of legal IT training, legal technology professionals and lawyers who wanted to address them in a coordinated way. They formed the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition (LTC4) and voluntarily spent almost 4 years of their time identifying the core competencies for lawyers and their support staff.  The result was a set of workflow-based learning plans around working with and managing legal documents and emails; time recording, remote working, CRM and security awareness. 

There are now 10 of these Learning Plans and Hybrid Working and Video Conferencing have been added to the mix over the past year or two, for obvious reasons! All the Learning Plans are regularly reviewed by LTC4 volunteers and LTC4 Certification has become the benchmark by which a firm can reassure its clients that their employees not only know their tech (regardless of which applications they use) but can actually prove they do. 

LTC4 banner

LTC4 is a not-for-profit organisation aiming to improve skills across the industry and offers these individual Learning Plans via its website together with assistance with assessment towards Certification. 

Law firms, legal departments and law schools across the world have become part of the coalition and can use these Plans to structure their training programmes and work towards individual LTC4 certification for their employees – there are two streams one for attorneys and another for support staff.  Certification is key – assessment methods can vary and LTC4’s own Certification Pod is there to help formulate the best method for each firm.

For more information, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Bonnie is the Learning and Development Specialist at FordHarrison LLP, a Labor & Employment firm with offices across the US. She is also one of the founding members of LTC4 and the current Chairperson of LTC4’s Board of Directors.

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