By Joanne Humber, Consultant, Technology Skills at Humber Associates
Pressured by their organisations to ‘do more with less’, in-house legal departments are demanding more efficiency from law firms; and given the access to and the use of technology in business today, there really isn’t any excuse for inefficiency.
However, despite the extensive use of technology in law firms, many who are involved in legal IT training like me, know that proficiency with the software and technology tools that lawyers use, is not where it should be. This is impacting on their productivity and efficiency. Take the simple task of ‘searching’ for emails, documents and precedents, an activity that lawyers spend a fair amount of time on – it can take them a lot longer to find what they are looking for in their document management system, because they aren’t adept at using the tools available. This isn’t because they lack opportunities to learn how to use their firm’s systems, but that they see delivering sound legal advice and service to clients as their main focus, not maximising the use of technology.
This is set to change as law firms may now be compelled to change their attitude. For instance, members of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), a non-profit, professional development organisation, are beginning to demand that law firms participating in their Requests for Proposals demonstrate the technological competence of their lawyers. Members of CLOC include the likes of Oracle, Nationwide, Deutsche Bank and Amazon.
Today, firms can provide such evidence by joining the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition (LTC4), which provides the global standard for legal technology proficiency. LTC4 was formed as a not-for-profit organisation by a group of legal training, IT professionals and lawyers in the US and UK. CLOC recognises LTC4 certification. Also, in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) is looking to encourage its members to go for the LTC4 certification.
To create the LTC4 certification, volunteers from over 95 Canadian, US and UK firms have collaborated to develop 10 core competencies or Learning Plans for lawyers and support staff including
- Working with legal documents
- Managing documents and emails
- Time and billing
- Collaborating with others
- Client relationship management
- Mobile working
- Data reports and exhibits (working with spreadsheets)
These core competencies are application agnostic and workflow based. This means that they are not prescriptive, and organisations can utilise them in a way that reflects their way of working. These Learning Plans help lawyers develop a good, basic understanding of the IT systems and workflows they use on a day to day basis – lawyers do not need to acquire advanced skills to achieve certification.
However, to ensure that their skills evolve with technology, lawyers are required to re-certify every two years.
The LTC4 certification isn’t a tick-box exercise. Law firms globally should consider the adoption of LTC4 certification. It is a meaningful and practical way for lawyers and support staff to gain and retain the core IT skills they need to efficiently and productively deliver legal services to their clients. Firms can easily incorporate these 10 Learning Plans into their existing competency and training frameworks. In fact, the LTC4 framework fits in strategically with the new SRA requirements that replace the traditional CPD obligations of lawyers.
In the UK, firms such as Allen & Overy, DLA Piper, Bird & Bird, Berwin Leighton Paisner and many more have adopted the LTC4 approach to IT competency development for lawyers and support staff. The business rationale is simple – efficiency directly translates into happier clients and a healthier bottom line.
About the author
Joanne Humber has been involved in the delivery of legal IT training for more than 20 years, initially through her own company and then as Director of Training for a leading global IT consultancy. Now an independent consultant, she advises law firms, corporates and law schools how to improve user adoption of technology.