Every lawyer is familiar with continuing legal education while already practicing law. In some countries, it is even required to complete certain continuing legal education (CLE) courses during the span of a legal professional’s career. Many lawyers pursue CLE even if it is not required, in order to improve their skills and knowledge. However, despite the changing landscape of legal technology and the innovations that could be leveraged to gain a competitive advantage, lawyers seldom receive technology education. Technology training shouldn’t necessarily be mandatory, but it should be more common. So why aren’t firms training lawyers to get the most out of technology?
As a technology vendor, we see the innovation gap in the legal industry and the opportunities that are left untaken. Let’s review the options for both law firms and lawyers in technology education.
Many firms already offer training and classes for their people. Nonetheless, fee-earners are more concerned with reaching their targets for billable hours than attending technology training. Therefore, the firm should be supportive in enabling staff training, with the ultimate goal in mind of increasing productivity and the bottom line.
Moreover, disruptive technologies such as AI and blockchain are making a greater impact on the legal sector every day. In 5 years there will likely be other “hot topics” that need to be known in order to make the right decisions for clients and the firm. Leading British law firm Clifford Chance recently launched their own tech academy to teach their lawyers about topics such as cybersecurity and e-commerce during full-day skills sessions.
In most law firms there is already a lot of technology in place, but its potential is often squandered when the technology is too complicated or documentation or training is lacking. As a result, new and costly technology is underused, because the barrier to use it seems too high. Vendors have extensive knowledge about their products, but sometimes the documentation does not translate their knowledge effectively. By involving the supplier of the technology in training the staff, you will get better results. More often than not, training for new software is only given at the implementation phase. It is essential to give users a chance to work with the software and then receive additional training. This means there should be additional training after the software has been implemented and used throughout the law firm.
Do you have to be a IT expert in order to be a good lawyer? Not really, but in this day and age you have to be tech-literate. Luckily, there are many ways to acquire tech skills without going back to school.
If you have an internet connection, there are endless ways to educate yourself about legal technology. Word and Outlook are probably the most-used programs by lawyers. Knowing the advanced features of MS Word and other document creation programs can mean an immediate boost in productivity.
Lawyers also have to know how to use online research tools. E-discovery is likely a big chunk of a lawyer’s workweek; optimizing productivity in this area makes a lot of sense. Fortunately, many of these services are very intuitive or have free tutorials that explain how to use these technologies. Make use of the educational content that is out there and save yourself time in the future.
Legal technology, software and client demand will change. Do you need to be an IT wizard to accomplish great success as a lawyer? Probably not. But you shouldn’t let yourself fall behind the curve. Be open to continuous learning about technology. Hopefully, more people in the legal profession will start to realize the need for technology education and start reaping the benefits in the future.
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