Our ever-evolving world of technology has provided numerous solutions for us in law firms and in our everyday life. However, these conveniences—email, texting, social media, and cloud-based applications—come with risks and dangers that can cost a firm time and money when not used correctly. And when it comes to businesses that keep significant amounts of client data, technology training becomes even more critical.
Aside from the potential negative effects of poor or inefficient use of technology in a law firm, many states now require their attorneys to maintain a degree of tech proficiency. Several years ago, the American Bar Association (ABA) amended its Model Rules of Professional Conduct to state that lawyers have a duty to be competent in technology along with the required conduct in legal practice. Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1 now states that attorneys should keep abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
Currently, 36 states have formally adopted the duty of technology competence. While there may be some biases and challenges, there are several common reasons that support the value of tech training during onboarding and for continuing education programs in a firm.
Thoroughly trained staff and attorneys can greatly reduce the risk of errors and their associated costs. For instance, clicking on an attachment that shows all the signs of a security threat can debilitate a firm. Failing to properly redact digital documents can severely undermine a case.
Educating employees on how to recognize these threats is just one way that a firm can reduce its risk for downtime and avoid undermining cases.
Mistakes in the use of technology can also cost your firm with its clients and the competition in terms of reputation.
Tech training can also help ensure that there is consistency throughout the law firm. This may include naming conventions for files, style guides, and policies for use of certain devices and services.
Consistent use of programs and devices can also help the firm with statistics and analytics to determine how much an application is being used.
Law firms that invest in training for their employees can expect greater loyalty. Roughly 42 million employees will leave their jobs each year, according to a 2018 report by Work Institute. That report also found that a lack of growth and development opportunities as one of the reasons for leaving increased to 21.5% this past year.
When this reason was mentioned by employees, they said they wanted a chance to grow, acquire new skills, or better use skills. Employees don’t want to work in a firm that uses outdated technology. Providing this missing perk can go far for retaining employees, too.
In fact, a recent survey by PwC asked Millennials, “Which of the following characteristics make an organization compelling to work for?” Just below wages and career opportunities were training and development.
It almost goes without saying that trained employees are dramatically more productive than their untrained counterparts. Law firm management will see that technologically adept employees save the organization time and money.
Mistakes due to insufficient understanding of technology can also be a part of poor productivity, which creates additional costs for the law firm. It means potentially re-filing a motion and a loss of billable time.
Plus, those attorneys, paralegals, and staff who don’t know how applications function will either resist using them or won’t be able to leverage all of an application’s features.
A firm’s holistic approach to tech training should also include the back office folks in accounting, marketing, and conflicts. Each of these functions has special software and applications that must be used efficiently. Surprisingly, few firms examine these ancillary departments’ use of technology, and their training needs are frequently overlooked.
It’s not uncommon for managers to assume that their employees are tech-savvy and know all they need to know about the technological solutions in the office…or that these presumed tech whizzes can pick things up in a snap.
Instead, law firm management should require thorough technology training for the entire firm regularly. This will improve efficiency, reduce risk, increase retainment, and enhance the inner workings of your law office.