As we get to the end of fall, it seemed timely to revisit associate and law student training topics discussed at this summer’s AALL Annual Meeting and see if anyone had implemented new associate training initiatives or new approaches to legal research classes this fall. The post about the Attorney Research Skills session is available here.
By Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Library
“In the Wake of the Kia Audit,” a 2015 AALL session, focused on the importance of technology skills and training programs for law students and new lawyers, and on how librarians can be a part of the process.
Michael Blix, Technology Training Manager at Sidley Austin LLM, opened the program by describing common technology skills that new lawyers need, but may not have. Some are more advanced skills, like editing document metadata to remove confidential information. However, new lawyers often lack basic technology skills too. Many do not know how to use styles in Word or how to set up an appointment in Outlook’s calendar. Law schools and law firms are working to develop training programs to address these technology needs.
Many faculty members and partners mistakenly assume students and new lawyers already have strong technology skills, and these students and new lawyers themselves believe their skills are strong. Debbie Ginsberg, Educational Technology Librarian at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, described how one client decided to put lawyer technology skills to the test. Former Kia General Counsel Casey Flaherty did not want to be billed for time spent using technology inefficiently. He asked the firms he was considering to demonstrate their lawyers’ basic technology skills via a skills audit, and each firm could select the lawyer of their choice to take part. Nine law firms took the audit he created. Nine failed. This audit served as a wake-up call to law schools and law firms that more technology training was needed.
Casey later left Kia to create the Suffolk/Flaherty Legal Tech Assessment. Law firms can use this tool to test word processing and spreadsheet skills so they can provide additional training if needed. Other companies, such as Capensys, also offer assessment and training tools that cover MS Office, document management systems, and other common legal applications. For law students, TutorPro has a Legal Tech Audit/Law School Edition. Audit tools can help lawyers and law students gain insight into their own technology skills as well as improve those skills with personalized training plans, but they are just one resource that should be considered for technology training initiatives.
Emily Barney, Technology Development and Training Librarian at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, discussed techniques firms and law schools can use to develop their own technology training plans and programs. Points that should be considered include:
- Planning: What does the audience already know, and what do they think they know? Trainers will need to determine what motivates their audience to attend sessions and what format will work best for that audience (e.g. in person versus online).
- Goals: Trainers should find out what their audience would like to get out of the session and make sure their audiences know what the session goals are.
- Methods: Trainers should consider several options, including interactive workshops, online guides, and one-on-one sessions. What works best for your audience?
- Materials: Consider a range of materials including screenshots, text, slides, videos, and images. But trainers often do not need to develop materials from scratch–others may have already created materials that can be reused.
Patti Schminke, Law Library Director at Hunter Maclean, wrapped up the program by discussing external and internal barriers that can hinder training in law firms and law schools, such as resistance to change and communication issues. She talked about best practices for successful training programs such as ensuring that training is supported by leadership and management. Steps for a successful training program include initial assessment, testing, and setting quarterly training goals (with both positive and negative reinforcement).
Also see Casey Flaherty’s blog posts re technology training and the myth of the digital native on Three Geeks and a Law Blog:
- The Importance of Technology Training in Legal Organizations
- The Myth of the Digital Native: Part 1 and Part 2
Has anyone implemented any new technology training initiatives at your law school or firm? Please keep the conversation going and share your successes or what you have learned in the process.