Law firms today are doing everything they can to squeeze as much value out of a dollar as possible. Today, clients rule the relationship and they are demanding proof that they are getting maximum value for their money. This is a huge shift in protocol from the heady days prior to 2008, when law firms ruled on high like monarchs.
In this shift, law firms have realized that, in order to maximize their profit potential, they must work leaner… not just in the number of personnel they hire, but also in the way that work gets done. Project management, knowledge sharing and technological prowess have emerged as key ingredients for profitability.
I’d like to speak to the technological prowess piece of the profitability equation. (Say that three times fast!) Namely, law firms know that they need to stay on top of technological trends… but how should they do it? Should they build their own training program or buy it? As with any question covering an entire industry, the answer is not one-size-fits-all.
Very Small Firms
If you have a very small firm (think: two to six people), you have the benefit of conversation! You can easily sit down and say, “Here’s our process and here are the technologies we must master.” Then, you will probably need to find community-based tech trainings that you can attend, or you could hire a professional law tech trainer for a day or a week to help you master the skills you’ll need to keep the firm running efficiently.
The benefit of contracting with a trainer is that you get personalized attention suited specifically to the skills that your team needs. And, if you hire the right one, he or she becomes an ongoing resource to help you stay on top of tech trends. (It’s not your job to be a technology geek. It’s your trainer’s job!)
Here are some of the technologies and related trainings that you’ll probably need:
- Document Management System: Even the smallest firms need to have a DMS that enables them to workshare, stay on top of versions, and secure sensitive client information in the cloud.
- Security Awareness: Your firm is just as vulnerable as the biggest firms. Make sure your trainer knows the latest in security awareness trends.
- Microsoft Office: Ongoing updates require regular trainings.
- Virtual Help Desk: You can’t hire your own support team, but you can contract with a virtual help desk for pay-as-you-need-it help.
Like middle-class America, it can be hard to exist in the middle of the law industry. Do you hire a trainer? Outsource? Do you buy tech? Lease it? Your resources are limited but your clients expect the same level of service (and security) from you that they’d get at a giant firm. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
In-house trainer versus contract trainer:
Obviously, it would be nice to have one person employed by the firm whose job it is to keep the training program moving forward. This adds a level of consistency and internal oversight to the process. However, I have increasingly seen mid-size firms move their training functions under the HR umbrella. While this makes sense to an extent, it also assumes that the HR team has an aptitude for technological savvy, an interest in geeking out on tech advancements, and the ability to train people on the constantly changing capabilities introduced by software upgrades. I’ve found that HR people are usually rather uninterested in these things (They are PEOPLE-people! Not geeks!)
Hiring a good contract trainer could be an efficient, cost-effective way to build and maintain your firm’s training program. Make sure, however, that this person possesses significant experience in the legal industry because we all know it is a unique beast!
Additionally, here are some of the trainings that you’ll probably need:
- Document Management System: You likely already have a DMS. Your contract trainer should be familiar with your system.
- Security Awareness: For a firm of your size, you need firm-wide trainings asap to help you prevent phishing scams that lead to ransomware and other nasty bugs.
- Microsoft Office: Ongoing updates require regular trainings.
- Virtual Help Desk: You may not be able to hire your own support team, but you can contract with a virtual help desk for pay-as-you-need-it help.
Additionally, you should get a learning management system (LMS). If you want your training program to move the firm forward, you shouldn’t expect your trainer to manage all of the training content, learning paths, test results, course schedules and more with a spreadsheet or in a PC. That’s like paying him or her to organize paperclips. An LMS is your trainer’s most important tool for keeping your firm tech savvy.
Large firms typically need in-house trainers who can work in a centralized office and frequently travel to branches around the nation or the globe. In this case, it is mission-critical for you to have a learning management system. There is simply no way for a training team (whether in-house or contract) to manage all of the trainings, content, schedules, individualized reporting and continuous updates that your busy firm needs to stay efficient and secure.
Additionally, your LMS should be cloud-based, providing the following benefits:
- Store massive amounts of data
- Enable attorneys and staff to work and train from anywhere (increased productivity)
- Work from any device
- Collaborate across the office or across the globe
- Reduced hardware costs (and reduced salary costs for professionals and vendors who service them)
- Free or inexpensive software updates
- Increased flexibility – purchase only what you need
Using your LMS, here are some of the training programs that you’ll probably need:
- Document Management System: You likely already have a DMS. Your trainer should be familiar with your system and your LMS should have plenty of training materials fully loaded and ready to use.
- Security Awareness: Ongoing security awareness training should be standard, pushed out at least quarterly.
- Microsoft Office: Ongoing updates require regular trainings. Again, your LMS should be supported by a company that constantly updates the materials for your trainer to access.
If you’re not sure how to find the perfect trainer or LMS for your firm, contact me to discuss! I used to be a law firm COO, so I understand some of the pressures and challenges you face! Doug@SavvyTraining.com