Getting Lawyers into Tech Training

By Susan Manch posted 01-28-2015 11:08


I recently attended a program at the Professional Development Institute 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

The video really says it all: most associates and partners have woefully inadequate technical skills and outdated understanding of the programs available to make their processes more efficient and their work more accurate with fewer billable hours.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.