Listen Up: ILTA’s New Podcast Will Get You Moving

15 May

mobileBy Ginevra Saylor, National Director of Knowledge Management, Dentons Canada LLP

Do you think you know everything you need to know about mobility and the practice of law? If not, you will want to take a few minutes to sit back and listen to the new ILTA podcast, “Going Mobile – Getting Your Practice on the Road.” I had the pleasure of moderating this engaging and highly informative discussion that features three excellent panellists:

  • Dan Hauck is CEO of ThreadKM, a knowledge management platform that helps legal teams work together through integrated chat and file and project management. Before entering the world of technology, Dan practiced law at Bryan Cave LLP, where he focused on complex commercial and antitrust litigation.
  • Fiona Stone is a Systems Analyst at Perkins Coie LLP, where she administers systems and applications for the litigation, e-discovery, and personal planning groups and manages major cloud-based systems that her firm uses. Fiona holds several technical certifications, including Project Management Professional, and is a trained Six Sigma Green Belt and Lean expert.
  • Mark Thorogood is the Director of Application Services at Perkins Coie LLP. He holds several technical certifications, including Project Management Professional and Android Developer. During his tenure in the US Army, Mark earned the Distinguished Leadership Award and US Army Instructor of the Year. An invited member of the International Honor Society for the Computing and Information Disciplines, his passion is enabling others to maximize the value of technology.

Starting with a quick glimpse at the evolution of mobility in the legal industry, the speakers bring their own extensive and diverse experience to bear on a range of topics, including what every lawyer needs today to stay in the game and what additional tricks and tools can give them a real edge on the competition; what IT departments need to consider when developing a mobility strategy for their firm and pushing applications out to lawyers; and where the profession is likely headed with mobility in the next five to ten years. With a mix of practical advice, best practices, lesson learned, speculation, and humour, the three speakers candidly share a wealth of information listeners are bound to find useful and thought provoking.

And, while you are at it, you might want to also listen to “Improving Attorney productivity Through Third Party Applications” if you have not heard it yet.

What the Amazon Echo Taught Me About Knowledge Management

29 Apr

echoBy Patrick DiDimenico, Director of Knowledge Management, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak, and Stewart PC

Have you met Alexa? She is the voice of Amazon Echo, Amazon.com’s new artificially-intelligent device that listens to you and answers your questions. And with the latest software upgrade, it (she?) has entered the home automation arena and can perform some tasks around the house.

If you are still trying to wrap your head around this, think of Echo as Apple’s Siri technology inside a black cylinder about nine inches high and three inches in diameter, with a blue-green LED circle around the top rim. Unlike Siri (designed to be mobile on Apple’s iPhone and iPad), Echo plugs into an electrical outlet, connects to your WiFi network, and sits on a table waiting for you to ask questions or give commands.

Inside, Echo is a load of high-tech goodness, including two speakers and an array of seven noise-cancelling, omni-directional microphones. The microphones use what Amazon calls “on-device keyword spotting” to detect the device’s wake word – Alexa. Saying “Alexa,” followed by a question or command (for instance, “Alexa, tell me the weather.”), activates Echo (indicated by the LED light ring) and transmits your spoken words to the cloud where Amazon’s Web Services technology recognizes and responds to your request.

You can ask Echo all types of general knowledge and current events questions, such as “Who is Abraham Lincoln?”, “Who won the Yankee’s game last night?”, and “How tall is Mt. Everest?” Echo responds instantly in a soothing, human-like voice (that is not at all creepy) with the information you requested.

So what does this cool new device have to do with knowledge management? It cannot store precedent documents, organize institutional knowledge, help onboard new employees, or do any other classic KM functions. The answer is not in what Echo does, but how it does it, and what it does to us. Here is what Echo taught me about KM.

User Experience is Even More Important Than I Thought

I’ve written and spoken about user experience (UX) before, and I have always believed that it is a crucial and fundamental aspect of the support of knowledge management initiatives and efforts. User experience gurus Jakob Nielsen and Donald Norman define UX as “encompass[ing] all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with [a] company, its services, and its products.” UX is often confused with user interface (UI), which refers to “the space where interactions between humans and machines occur” – for most knowledge workers, typically on a computer or mobile device screen. UI is a component of–but not synonymous with–UX.

To get people to accept anything new – in KM or elsewhere – you must break down the barriers to adoption. Even if the new thing is amazing and will ultimately make users’ lives easier, better, and more enjoyable, users must get through the pain of change. Providing a quality UX can lessen that pain, and often, change it to pleasure and delight. This is important for knowledge management because we are constantly trying to get people to do things in better, more efficient ways. The problem is that KM professionals have not always focused on user experience when trying to make these changes.

The lesson from my experience with Amazon Echo is that people will change if the experience is delightful. I have experienced this previously (and repeatedly) with a whole range of Apple products, from my iMac to the iPhone and iPad (and probably soon, the Apple Watch). Think of the iPad, which early critics claimed would flop because the device solved a problem that nobody had. They were wrong. And, what makes the iPad so popular is the experience of using it. It is immersive and intuitive, convenient and connected. It is effortless in many ways. In a word, it is delightful.

The Amazon Echo is similar, and in some ways, represents the next level of that delightful experience. Setting up the Echo is a breeze. It looks elegant and almost luxurious, sounds amazing, and seems to work magically. When you interact with Echo you don’t think about technology or how to use it; you simply do something that comes naturally – you speak. The user interface is your voice.

Because of the delightful user experience, I adopted Echo for several aspects of my daily home life almost instantly. This video of how I now get ready for bed sums it up in about 25 seconds:

The Echo took an already convenient routine and made it more seamless by eliminating unnecessary steps. Years ago, I had to fumble with an alarm clock to ensure I got up on time. When I got an iPhone, I used its built-in alarm clock app and programmed it with a few swipes and taps. When the iPhone 4S came out with Siri, I pressed a button and asked it to set my alarm. Now, with Echo, the button is gone and I simply speak my command (as if talking to another person in the room): “Alexa, set an alarm for six a.m.”.

My lights are another good example of how Echo eliminates the unnecessary. In the old days, I had to get out of bed to flip my lightswitch. About two years ago, when I bought Philips Hue Connected Light Bulbs, I could control my lights with a few swipes and taps on on the Hue iPhone app. But with Echo’s recently added integration with the Hue light system, my hands-free command, “Alexa, turn off the lights” does the trick.

These are just a couple of pretty cool examples of elevated user experience. The more you use a device like Echo, the more uses you find for it (and the more you value the experience). For example, I no longer check the weather forecast on TV, my iPhone, or my iMac. I simply say, “Alexa, weather.” I no longer flip on the radio for my national news fix. I just say, “Alexa, what’s up?” and I get an audio “flash briefing” from NPR. I no longer use my iPhone to play a streaming radio station. I just say, “Alexa, play Tom Petty radio on Pandora” (the audio quality is surprisingly good). I have even stopped squinting my eyes to see the clock, and now simply say, “Alexa time.” The list goes on.

So, how does this apply to KM and what can we as knowledge management professionals do to harness the benefits of good UX? I don’t suspect that we will soon have Echo devices in our offices answering legal questions; but then again, maybe we will. A start-up company called ROSS is using IBM Watson technology to tackle legal research and it even has voice recognition that allows users to speak their queries. Maybe Amazon will partner with ROSS and make that a reality. More importantly, we can learn to acknowledge the importance of designing a superior user experience in our KM efforts. Remove the barriers to adopting KM tools and technologies. Figure out how to eliminate the unnecessary steps to connect our lawyers with the people and collective knowledge they need to do their work and serve their clients. (Can you design an Intranet that makes critical information available in one mouse click rather than three or four?) Design consumer-grade client-facing applications so that clients are delighted, rather than frustrated, when accessing your firm’s content. Develop clear, meaningful, and delightful programs and techniques to communicate KM to your lawyers.

In short, ask yourself: how you can replicate in your KM environment the seamless, delightful experiences that you enjoy with your favorite products and services.

On a related note, if you’re interested in the topic of user experience design in SharePoint, consider attending the ILTA SharePoint Symposium in Baltimore Maryland on June 9-10, 2015, where I will moderate a panel called, “Focus on the User Experience.”

New ILTA Podcast: “Increasing Attorney Productivity Through Third Party Apps”

12 Apr

appsBy Gwyn McAlpine, Director of Knowledge Management Services at Perkins Coie LLP

Are your attorneys asking you how they can get more done through their mobile devices? Are you wondering how to respond to this demand because of concerns about choosing, supporting and training from among thousands of apps on multiple platforms? Well, have we got a podcast for you!

In “Increasing Attorney Productivity Through Third Party Apps,” our panel discussion ranges from general issues in supporting mobility to our favorite apps for specific business cases. You’ll hear from two KM lawyers, a library director and a security specialist, giving a diversity of perspectives and ideas. Our panelists are:

The podcast covers the following topics:

  • Mobile device management and using it to push out firm-sanctioned apps
  • How the mobile app distribution model differs from traditional software distribution
  • Training and support of mobile apps
  • Apps for specific uses cases:
  • Doing legal work, such as accessing work product, editing, notetaking, research and trial support
  • Current awareness
  • Staying organized and connected in your professional life
  • Other ways to use small chunks of time

While we leave discussion of specific apps to the podcast (and please let me know if you need help finding any of the apps we mention), I thought I’d share some links for additional app inspiration (or app-spiration!):

  • iPhoneJD: Put this one in your blog reader app. This blog is authored by attorney and Apple fan, Jeff Richardson. He posts frequently on topics including app, accessory and device reviews, tips and tricks, and news round-ups. There’s a nice index on the site for finding past reviews and lists. This link takes you to a recap of the “60 Apps in 60 Minutes “ presentation at the 2014 ABA Techshow.
  • 40 Essential Apps for Trial Attorneys: Robert Ambrogi, another tech savvy attorney, recently posted on apps for trial attorneys via his LawSites blog.
  • How Legal Apps Rank Part 1 and Part 2: iBrary Guy analyzes legal apps based on downloads and earnings via App Annie. Part 1 addresses WestlawNext and Lexis Advance for legal research, and Part 2 discusses litigation and current awareness apps.

Hopefully, the podcast and the links above will give you ideas on helping your attorneys use their mobile devices for more than Angry Birds. In the spirt of productivity through mobility, download the podcast to your Podcast app and listen to it on your next commute or visit to the gym. It will keep you nicely occupied for about 53 minutes. We’d love to hear your thoughts (and favorite apps!) in the comments below.

P.S. I drafted this blog post on my iPad on a plane using the OneNote app. Yay for apps!

Change, Lawyers and LPM

1 Apr

changeBy Melissa LaFlair, Principal, LaFlair Legal and Project Management Services

Change is a tricky thing for most. It seems to be particularly difficult for those in the legal industry. My theory is that the profession is so steeped in precedent and tradition (always looking back) that lawyers need to fundamentally rewire to look forward and figure out how to thrive in a new environment where the days of “hours worked equals pay received” are quickly fading.

In an effort to address clients’ rapidly growing demands for certainty and value, there is currently a flurry of activity as lawyers in both firms and organizations rush to adopt project management principles. But, what is project management for lawyers really?

At its most basic, legal project management involves understanding what the client needs, looking at the process of how lawyers create and deliver what is needed, and then identifying ways to improve the process to better support providing certainty and value. Certainty should be relatively easy to establish, at least regarding time and cost, once the need and desired scope/product has been determined. Surprisingly, most firms and organizations have the relevant time and cost information squirreled away in various nooks and crannies, but not centralized or in a readily accessible data format. This makes it tricky to determine time and cost parameters for their legal products or needs.

Gathering this data, even on the most general level, is in and of itself a valuable exercise for lawyers in firms and organizations alike. The tools, principles and technology available to support gathering the data are numerous and varied, from the basic to the highly complex. At the end of the day, though, some work is required on the part of the lawyers to group their product types and, ideally, provide a general outline of their process.

Interestingly, whether they realize it or not, all lawyers have some sort of processes to get from the initial client question to their final legal product. Some of these processes are more efficient than others. Sadly many lawyers are unintentionally inefficient as the billable hour neither promotes nor encourages efficiency (such that many have never thought about their practice from an efficiency perspective).

Unlike certainty, value is more subjective. So, madly creating processes and introducing technologies to establish certainty without understanding and identifying what value means to your clients and what your strategy for achieving certainty is, likely will not be the best use of your resources. For example, determining whether your clients value low-cost certainty, outcome certainty, or fixed-cost certainty and whether the answer is product-dependent will directly affect the approach you take to planning, process mapping and implementing appropriate change, as well as developing and introducing associated technologies in your firm or organization.

For firms in particular, making the effort to adjust to really serve your client’s needs often means being willing to take a short term hit in the pocket book (this does not mean the hit will actually materialize; but, you do need to acknowledge and be prepared for the possibility) as you identify and implement meaningful change that will delight your clients in the medium and long term. Surprising as it may sound to those in firm settings, clients want the lawyers they work with to be around for the long term as switching lawyers generally is a pain.

And there is the rub, financially. Firms in particular are not particularly well set up for implementing change that takes longer than a year to absorb financially because, among other reasons:

  • most lawyers include expected bonuses as part of their personal annual budgeting;
  • most firms annually disperse the bulk of the firm’s earnings;
  • most lawyers operate as individual profit centres with little incentive to take actions that benefit their group, department or firm as a whole, in the short or long term; and
  • most successful lawyers have highly portable books of business (surprisingly few clients were adversely affected by recent firm failures).

Yet the change involved with retooling to deliver certainty and value generally takes a number of years to master. In this context, it is no wonder the needed change is so slow and difficult in firm settings. I do not envy managing partners’ roles during these interesting times.

That being said, change is inevitable and client demand is growing exponentially. So lawyers, if you are in a firm setting, support your managing partners and your firms and get thinking about what you personally can do about your process for delivering advice to your clients and what specifically your clients value. Do not be fooled into thinking you can rely on past success – financial pressures are everywhere and jumping ship during these interesting times only delays the inevitable.

If you are a lawyer working in an organization, think not about the immediate budget pressures but about what your organization truly needs and values so that you can work productively with your firms to get legal services that support both you and your organization’s success.

Working together to address the new realities, firms and organizations have everything to gain.

Book Review of “The Sherlock Syndrome: Strategic Success through Big Data and the Darwinian Disruption,” Eric Hunter

4 Mar

bookby David Hobbie, Litigation Knowledge Manager, Goodwin Procter LLP

Eric Hunter is a legal knowledge management colleague and recipient of ILTA’s 2010 Knowledge Management Champion Distinguished Peer and Innovative Member awards. He is Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Technology Strategies at Bradford & Barthel, LLP (a California law firm focused on worker’s compensation) and also Executive Director of the Spherical Models consultancy.

His wide-ranging report (available at Amazon, Ark Publishing or Amazon Kindle) puts business analytics and the insights it offers at the core of wide-ranging potential changes in legal and other industries. Though future-oriented, it spends most of its time on developments whose beginnings are firmly entrenched, such as video search, wearable tech, big data, and data visualization.

Through my own work I have come to believe that legal organizationss – and perhaps organizations in general – can obtain significant competitive advantage by leveraging analytics and technologies and taking better advantage of our increasing connectivity and ability to share inside and outside the organization. Hunter’s report provides more substantiation for those beliefs, and also projects ahead to suggest how to prepare for the increasingly rapid changes that are coming. I appreciate that Hunter is “walking the walk,” talking about increased sharing while doing so himself through this book and his many presentations at Ark and ILTA conferences (referenced throughout the report).

Sherlock Syndrome

The title’s “Sherlock Syndrome” concerns our increasing ability to observe, sense, cross-reference, and analyze information and trends much more comprehensively than before through data analytics and Big Data. The trend is one of massive increases in the ability to recall, analyze, and leverage information. Hunter posits that, at least with respect to personal preferences and search patterns, “everything is becoming predictable (and therefore marketable) through analytics.” Particularly striking to me is the thought that not only are the abundance of data and power of our computers increasing rapidly, but also the sophistication and availability of easy to use analytics tools are making this information actionable in ways that were never before possible.

I have seen this myself in my firm’s exploration of the Tableau data visualization tool. Business use-cases for Sherlockian advanced perceptions include forensic (criminal) investigations, insurance claim investigations, and, of course, targeted consumer advertising.

Darwinian Disruption

Hunter also believes that “Darwinian data disruption” is affecting the entire business world. It is not simply data—though the scope of data is increasing dramatically every year—but also computational and analytical capacity that is growing so dramatically. Hunter’s disruption is Darwinian because leveraging these changes provides a clear competitive advantage and those organizations and business leaders able to adapt to the new environment will survive. Businesses that cannot adapt to and take advantage of these technologies and changes may not survive. It may have been said many times before, but it is true: as Hunter observes with many examples, we are seeing accelerating levels of market disruptions as companies learn to innovate faster.

The (Edward) Snowden Effect

Hunter spends a good deal of time digging into the “Snowden” effect (not David Snowden the KM guru, but Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor). In Hunter’s view, Snowden’s revelations of widespread government capture of vast amounts of personal information in pursuit of national security encapsulate the inevitable tension among privacy, the right to share, and the (security and other) benefits of access to others’ information. Snowden demonstrated that cross-border information sharing is happening and will happen more and more. The NSA, US government agencies, and other governments that capture and share personal information are in his view just taking to an extreme and for different ends what corporations like Facebook and Google already do to target advertising to consumers.

The Predictive Orchestra

A skilled jazz and classical bass player, Hunter hits my sweet spot with an extended metaphor of a “predictive organization” as symphony orchestra, all playing from the same music and not simply following a leader, but also anticipating the melodies and entrances of other sections. (I would promote leaderless orchestras like New York’s Orpheus chamber ensemble http://www.orpheusnyc.com/ as a better fit for his progressive view than the hidebound, intensely hierarchical traditional symphony orchestra. For instance, in a traditional orchestra, the musicians within a section are positioned on the stage by rank according to purported ability!)

Legal Industry Impacts

Hunter does not neglect the implications of these much broader developments for the legal industry. Within law firms, Sherlockian advanced perceptions aid pricing, methods for doing legal work, internal communications, and understanding and addressing client needs. The new technology, analytics, and cross-border flow of information have the potential to greatly enhance law firms’ understanding of their clients and clients’ understanding of legal issues. The technologies increase the capacity for clients and firms to build “targeted relationships” and provide a continually expanding set of opportunities. And, the same data collection and predictive analytics that Facebook and Bing use to identify our consumer interests also identify our business needs. Analytics technologies can be applied directly to some types of legal issues, such as the likely extent of exposure from a given worker’s compensation claim.

Another example is law firms’ new ability to bring transparency to matter work, including data analytics around pricing and profitability, staffing models, and project models. Hunter spells out how the concept of “velocity billing” combines client-specific account managers, predictive analytics driving client- and firm-appropriate fee arrangements, and social collaboration around matter and client work has affected his firm. In combination, these processes and technologies lead to very efficient and client-targeted legal work.

Another instance of these technologies manifesting in law firms is his own firm’s adoption of Google Plus (“G+”). While much-maligned as the place where only Google employees “hang out,” Hunter sees G+ as a great example of a system that is both inward- and outward-facing and combines search with a designed social platform. Creating a G+ circle is the kind of fluid, effective, searcheable content and process management Hunter sees in the future of legal work. For Hunter’s firm, G+ is both an internal- and partially external-facing social network and platform. He notes that social network implementation and internal change management, like the pricing and client management projects he has had so much success with, involve different change management dynamics needing different approaches.

For law firms and the general corporate world, the technologies, techniques, analyses, and insights gained and shared so rapidly can be applied to not just readily quantifiable attributes of work such as hours, effort, and outcomes, but also leadership and change management at the levels of self, team, and organization as a whole. Hunter’s exhortations on leadership are very similar to what you might hear from many an Eastern-philosophy or martial arts- influenced business leadership book; what differs is the tie-in to his Sherlock/Darwin analysis.

Hunter suggests that people, teams, and organizations should be reinventing themselves through these enhanced perceptions and abilities every 18 months.

Complaints, Conclusions, and Inspirations

One concept that could have been more clearly elucidated is Hunter’s “spherical analysis/spherical modeling.” Google search suggests that these terms are not widely used in the business intelligence or data analytics communities—references to spherical analysis or models typically relate to variogram models that address how distance effects correlation between variables or a method of modeling magnetic forces (see the spherical models Wikipedia article.)

Much of the report is fairly abstract; I would not go to this book for an introduction to business analytics or Big Data. Nor was it entirely easy to read, with a fair amount of repetition and some extraneous quotes from Ghandi, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Hunter’s martial arts instructor. Finally, the size of the book’s print is too small (at no more than 10-point font) and somewhat faint. Perhaps the book is easier to read on-line (admittedly an appropriate production strategy given the book’s topic).

Overall, I found Hunter’s report an intriguing and inspiring application of broad industry, technology, analytics, and behavior trends to the ground level of the key interactions between law firms, legal work, and clients. His predictions about predictive analytics and more are in some cases not predictions at all; he shows how these can play out and have an impact on a legal practice area. They should not be ignored. I would not be at all surprised if many of his other predictions are soon borne out more broadly in our industry.

Getting Your Mobility Up to Speed

18 Feb

bedby Dan Hauck, CEO,ThreadKM

Mobility is nothing new to the practice of law. Attorneys have travelled to courts, client meetings, depositions, and countless other places since long before the digital age. As workflows became more electronic, lawyers adapted by doing things like checking emails on a phone and editing documents on laptops.

Those early steps are wearing thin and expectations to work outside of the office are growing. Lawyers today demand a richer, more satisfying experience than what they have grown accustomed to so far. If your IT department is busy clamping down on private Dropbox usage and other “shadow IT” applications, you can bet it is because attorneys on the go are more comfortable using consumer apps than firm-approved options.

Higher Demands

Attorneys face extreme challenges. While “traditional” mobility scenarios like courtrooms and boardrooms still occur as often as ever before, preparing to go to these places can be overwhelming without the right tools. Here’s why:

  • More documents and data. The materials lawyers need to bring along rarely fit into a briefcase any more. Not only would there be too much paper, many items never even make it to paper these days; videos and databases are two good examples. If your firm does not offer simple, searchable mobile access to information, your attorneys could end up walking into critical situations woefully unprepared. 

And, the key here is simple. A huge gulf separates that which is theoretically possible from what a partner will actually do in the real world.
  • Changing client expectations. Gone are the days when clients would overlook an extra associate or two tagging along to shuffle through boxes searching for papers. Indeed, the very idea of carting box after box of expensively prepared binders into meetings can make some clients see red. These clients are comfortable working on the road in a paperless environment; seeing their highly paid counsel unable to do the same is frustrating at best.
  • More specialized knowledge. If your firm is building a knowledge management database, it must be mobile-accessible. No one can be an expert on everything, but many firms have expertise that spans countless subjects. Knowledge management and collaboration tools can deliver vital information directly to attorneys in the field. Pulling up relevant insights from the firm’s knowledge base and getting real-time research updates during client meetings both impress and demonstrate your firm’s expertise.

Changing Workflow

When I started practicing, I heard attorneys talk about endless hours at the office. It was a badge of honor I would also earn. Given that all of our tools were at the office, it was the best place to get work done. But the story has changed. Workloads today are higher than ever, but most attorneys find they can be just as productive elsewhere, even preferring other locations to the office and its many distractions. Face-time is giving way to better indicators of productivity, like responsiveness, output, and hours billed.

So, much of the work is being done at the “home office.” Whether just an hour or so in the morning or several hours at night, lawyers are squeezing significant billable time out of their homes. This is not telecommuting. It is just working. The more time attorneys spend working at home, the better that mobile environment needs to be. If it takes lawyers more than a minute or two to log into a remote desktop, that is a bad sign. Many attorneys will decide to work directly out of email, generating a trail of chatter messages and attachments along the way.

Working across time zones also demands that lawyers be proficient working from home. Everyone understands that they may be inconvenienced at times for the sake of scheduling, but few are eager to go into the office for a 5:00 a.m. conference call. The call will be a bust, however, if an attorney cannot access key documents from home.

Re-Evaluating Mobile Solutions

As we jump into 2015, law firms need to take a hard look at the state of their mobile solutions. Start by asking whether your attorneys are just as capable working at their clients’ offices as they are working on-site. Are negative trade-offs driving attorneys to less secure solutions? Consider the following ideas for improving your mobility and KM strategies:

  • Find apps with flat learning curves that empower users. When thinking about mobility tools, ease-of-use is paramount. If attorneys run into problems outside of the office, they probably will have neither the time nor patience to call deskside support. The app simply must work and be effective or it will be tossed aside.
  • Consider device and screen size. An effective mobile strategy is adaptable to any device. Pulling up a remote desktop on a tablet, for example, can be a bad experience. Applications should be built to accommodate or respond to the size and inputs of the device. Equally important is a solid multi-monitor experience, since many attorneys like to plug their laptops into an external monitor at home. Test out each of these scenarios, and try using the same applications that attorneys use to see where the problems are.
  • Use “shadow IT” to identify areas of improvement. Attorneys often use cloud storage, private email, and personal to-do trackers for client work. You may see it as a problem, but it is also a cry for help. Actions speak louder than words. So, never ignore what your users are doing. What they do is the best feedback you have on what they need.

Getting Lawyers into Tech Training

28 Jan

Training1By Susan G. Manch, Partner, SJLShannon LLC

I recently attended a program at the Professional Development Consortium led by Casey Flaherty, General Counsel of Kia Motors. He did not talk about cars; rather, he continued spreading his message that clients expect their outside counsel to be technically capable. For anyone who has not seen the video that introduces Flaherty’s joint venture with Suffolk University, the Suffolk-Flaherty Tech Audit, you should watch it (and squirm) now at http://www.legaltechaudit.com/#video.

The video really says it all: most associates and partners have woefully inadequate technical skills and outdated understanding of the programs available to make their processes more efficient and their work more accurate with fewer billable hours. Flaherty notes one simple editing task from his audit that anyone with average technical skill could do in an hour, but took typical associates five hours to complete. These were not sophisticated tasks or arcane software uses; they were commonplace tasks like using Styles and Cross Referencing in Word and Sort and Filter in Excel. As a buyer of services billed by the hour, Flaherty takes this personally and describes it as, “Outrageous sums for unnecessary busywork”.

When I was in-house leading the Learning & Development group at Bingham McCutchen (yes they are gone, but many of their innovations will not be forgotten), our resident tech training guru, Norman Aguon, brought the original Kia Motors audit to my attention in January 2013. At that time, had you reviewed our tech training across Bingham on all the usual software programs, you would have likely thought it broad and robust. The problem was that no one attended the training. With a large stable of tech clients, the firm recognized a need to be prepared for a possible tech audit request. So, the Learning & Development and IT Training teams collaborated to create a new approach that would appeal to busy lawyers (and paralegals and assistants) who desperately needed it. Three things were certain; the program had to be:

  • short,
  • focused on one or two related functions, and
  • hands-on and interactive.

In other words, no more hour-long webinars alone at your desk staring at a screen while catching up on Facebook on your iPhone.

Dubbed “Tech Tuesdays,” the program presented 15 to 20 minutes of intensely focused, informal and interactive training. Granted, the real attraction may have the snacks or happy hour that followed each of these quick bursts of pithy, hands-on training.

Delivered monthly, session topics were based on ideas solicited from associates, representing their biggest challenges with Office, Adobe, SharePoint, and other programs. The IT Training and Learning & Development teams met weekly to discuss program feedback, ideas for new sessions, and how to best market the program.

Maybe it was the beer, but lawyers kept coming back. And, they told us they learned. Not only did we see lawyers’ technical confidence increase, we also saw our IT trainers’ understanding of our lawyers’ software needs expand. Our Learning & Development and IT Training teams’ effective collaboration yielded a productive outcome and pushed us all to be more creative in designing tech training that our lawyers would actually attend.

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