My Interview with Ari Kaplan, Part 1

On November 3, 2017, I had the privilege of speaking with Ari Kaplan, author and host of “Reinventing Professionals,” about ways that law firms can implement “lean training,” best practices for firms that are struggling with productivity, the most popular training programs, and potential changes in the law firm training industry. I’ve included more about the great Ari Kaplan at the bottom of this article.

Below, I’m running a transcript of the first half of our interview. Next week, I’ll run Part 2! Happy reading!

[Note: For those following the transcript below with the audio file of my interview, I “cleaned up” a few sentences so that they read better in print!]

Ari: So, tell us about your background and the genesis of Savvy Training & Consulting.

Doug: My background, at least prior to Savvy Training, was as chief operating officer for a midsize law firm. In that role, I got to wear every hat that you can imagine, from HR to day-to-day operations to finances to attorney productivity. One of the many things I noticed was that a little bit of training on technology can go a very long way.

Ari: How did the connection to Savvy Training & Consulting begin?

Doug: At that point in my life, I was looking for something else to do and Savvy Training came across my desk. Having been on the inside of a few law firms for years and seeing a lot and being a member of the Association of Legal Administrators and understanding ILTA, I was looking for a different challenge. When I was presented with a demo of the SavvySmart Content Library, everything really clicked into place and I saw a really inspirational path forward.

[Editor’s note: Doug later left his role as COO of the law firm and purchased the Savvy Training & Consulting company.]

Ari: What should people know about the SavvySmart Content Library?

Doug: The thing to help put it in perspective is not just the SavvySMART Content Library or the SavvyAcademy Learning Management System or the Virtual Help Desk, but really, in the world of training and the world of attorneys and law firm professionals whose job it really is to keep the engine going and craft the billable hour and create best work product for the clients, having intimate knowledge of how the applications work is critical to being a successful attorney and professional. So, understanding truly how Microsoft Office, Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe – as a few examples – how they work and how you can do things efficiently inside of those applications, it [training] cuts down on the amount of time that attorneys and professionals waste on crafting documents and any mistakes, errors, omissions that might happen through the crafting of documents.

Ari: How has law firm training evolved since the company was founded two decades ago?

Doug: It has evolved because it responded to the price pressure that was applied to law firms truly through the economic crash of 2008 and beyond where everything changed. When the crash happened in the fall of 2008, law firms around the world hit the brakes on everything. That included training, that included investment in technology, investments period. And when things finally started to turn around in 2010-11, now we’re at point where the resources that large law firms had that could apply to training had been slashed in half or more. And it’s also the rise of the Cloud and the rise of the learning management system and different ways of delivering that training. So, what has changed is that instead of throwing dozens of trainers at a project that takes three, six months, now you’ve got Cloud-hosted technology that is a learning management system that includes e-learning videos, that includes just-in-time, on-demand training. And, really, it’s made the training and learning experience more personal and more applicable to the individuals who need that education.

Ari: How does a law firm implement lean training?

Doug: When I describe lean training, what I mean is, you’ve got a law firm of 200, 300, 500 people and you’ve got one trainer, if that. Maybe two, maybe three, but unlikely. And you’re asking so much of that one person or those two people. What you really need is some systems where you can help focus all of your energy and attention. Where you can standardize training, standardize information. Where there is that one-stop shop for people to go to when they have a need. And it is beyond the help desk. It is beyond the trainer. It is a platform that helps deliver that on-demand, just-in-time training. The leanness aspect of it, is that it is very quick to get to and relatively inexpensive for what it is.

[Note: I’m speaking about the many ways that a learning management system can support lean training, through on-demand, just-in-time, individualized trainings.]

Watch this blog next week for Part 2 of my interview with Ari Kaplan!


In addition to Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace (Wiley, 2011), also released in Japanese, Ari Kaplan is the author of The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (West Academic, 2nd Edition 2016), which is about how law students, lawyers and other professionals can stand out in a stagnant economy.

Kaplan offers strategic and cost-effective suggestions for immediately transforming one’s perspective, profile and practice. He spent nearly nine years with large law firms in New York City and focuses the delicate balance between self-promotion and professionalism.

A legal industry analyst, Kaplan has published over 200 articles, served as an Internet law commentator for CNET Radio and has been interviewed on CNN. He received Apex Awards in 2010, 2008 and 2007 for feature writing, and was named a “Law Star” by LawCrossing. He is the principal researcher for a variety of widely distributed benchmarking reports and has also been the keynote speaker for events in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and throughout the U.S. Kaplan is also the founder of the Lawcountability® business development platform, a finalist for ILTA’s 2015 Innovative Solution Provider of the Year award.


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