Like Johnny Cash, I’ve been everywhere! In 2016, I visited law firms in cities across the country and I learned a thing or two from the people I met, including law firm trainers, IT professionals, HR administrators, managers, associates and partners. My travel goals were to spread the word about lean training opportunities (read on for more), to learn more about the industry and the people I serve, and (of course!) to tell people about all the services and products that Savvy brings to the table.
For this article, though, I want to tell you some of the things I learned and then give you my two cents on what each trend means for our industry.
First, check out the amazing list of cities that I visited and the firms that hosted me!
Austin, TX: Lloyd Gosselink
Wilmington, DE: DLA Piper
Minneapolis, MN: Faegre Baker Daniels
Baltimore, MD: no host, just meetings. Want to host me!?
Pittsburgh, PA: Dickie McCamey
Chicago, IL: Schiff Hardin
Charlotte, NC: Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein
Nashville, TN: Bass Barry & Sims
Baton Rouge, LA: Taylor Porter
New Orleans, LA: Chaffe McCall
Seattle, WA: Perkins Coie
Portland, OR: Tonkon Torp
Denver, CO: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
Salt Lake City, UT: Parsons Behle & Latimer
While I was in each city, I made it a point to visit other firms and law firm trainers, as well, and I truly got a snapshot of “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Of course, the firms that hosted my talks are already thinking about technology, their culture and the future. Others that I visited were struggling to keep up.
Here are some of the observations I made…
Where will we be 10 years from now? That seems an impossible question to answer but to give yourself a jolt, ask yourself, “Where were we in 2006?” There was no iPhone. No cloud. It was before the crash of 2008 when our law firm infrastructures were bloated and wasteful. We’ve been through tremendous change!
If we experience that much change in the next 10 years, we are in for a wild ride. Indeed, there are so many technology changes and innovations coming at us all the time that simply being a law firm technology gatekeeper is a full-time job! When your job is to manage IT at a law firm, a good percentage of what you do is analyzing what to embrace and what to skip. What will actually improve your firm’s efficiency? Security? Bottom line? It’s a nonstop gateway to manage.
Then, once the IT guys decide to adopt a new capability or even just to undertake the dreaded upgrade, the trainers (who are increasingly part of the HR department) must get everybody on board and using it efficiently. (See “Era of Lean Training” below!)
If you’re experiencing hiccups between the “technology upgrade” decision and the “technology efficiency” goal, you need to get a good trainer on board. Read this article for more: “Why Your Law Firm Trainer Should be Like a Swiss Army Knife.”
The Good and The Bad
The ability to embrace new technologies and to implement them firm-wide gives a law firm a whopping edge over the competition.
Let me be real here: I visited firms where technology is embraced and firms where it is an after-thought. At the latter firms, it was like visiting Jurassic Park – dinosaurs on their way to extinction. (I literally visited a firm that can’t even begin to adopt technologies like a learning management system because they are so far behind the technology curve.)
By contrast, at the firms where technology is embraced and maximized, there was a vibrant, thriving culture of innovation. Typically, these firms have a CIO with an awesome team helping to achieve the following:
Stay on top of industry trends
Analyze firm strengths and weaknesses and where tech can contribute positively
Adopt new technologies
Manage the on-boarding process
Work with the HR department to create a culture of learning (trainings and achievements are tied to bonuses and raises)
Here’s what I saw at the firms that were falling behind:
Organizational rivalries between HR and IT
No one tasked with studying what’s coming down the technology pike
Management team uninterested in training (taking the short-term view)
The old guard (older partners) unwilling to invest in new technologies
No one tasked with consistent training (or the person who is tasked with it has zero authority and support)
If you want to position your firm for leadership in the next 10 years, you need to embrace technology. It will be your differentiator.
Law Firm Security
Holy cow, is this a hot potato right now. Did you see this article in American Lawyer?
Chicago's Johnson & Bell First US Firm Publicly Named in Data Security Class Action
"In the first public data security class action complaint against a U.S. law firm, Chicago-based Johnson & Bell was named in a lawsuit that says the firm failed to protect confidential client information.
The suit against the 100-plus lawyer trial firm was filed in Chicago's federal court in April but made public on Friday following courtroom fighting over whether or not the firm had patched security holes a former client claimed existed in the firm's time entry system, email system and virtual private network."
This is yet another example of a paradigm shift that was launched in the recession of 2008: clients are in charge; law firms are not. Yes, security problems and cybercriminals are a plague across industries, but in the law firm industry, clients are demanding accountability from their law firms. Today’s firms are being asked to prove their efficiency and security protocols in the RFP stage!
If you are curious about how effective your security systems are, test your law firm security measures like this firm did! Also, you need to train your employees to be vigilant fox-hole fighters. Most cyber security experts agree that your weakest link is your employees, who click on anything that pops up in their mailbox.
Lean Training to Drive Efficiencies
Another theme I came away with this year is that people are maxed out! Yes, many law firms were way too bloated and layered prior to 2008, but today we have people running like hamsters in wheels trying to keep up with all of their tasks!
I know I’m biased, but what I’m saying makes sense: if you have a good training system undergirding the rest of your firm’s continuous advancements, you will move more nimbly, achieve more efficiencies, and stay more secure.
But how to do this in an environment where people already feel maxed out? Here are a few ideas…
Create a culture that supports training: I don’t care if you have 36 trainers in your 50-person firm. If you don’t have a culture that supports learning, your training program will fail. Here are a few ways to build a culture that supports training:
Work with HR and management to tie learning achievements to bonuses and salary increases
Celebrate learning accomplishments on a regular basis
Foster a sharing environment in which those who love trying new technologies and tricks are encouraged to spread what they’ve learned to others
Track it: In order to create the culture above, you need a learning management system (LMS) that will enable your trainer to track achievements, load new trainings, push curricula, and “level-up” the people who are ready. Trying to manage a successful training program without an LMS is like trying to summit Everest without oxygen; you’ll just get worn out by the effort and you’ll never attain your goal.
Blend it: Allow your trainer to offer the types of trainings that your employees like, including in-class, one-on-one, webinar, virtual and flipped. You can’t expect a trainer to hold “lunch and learns” once a month (or even once a week) and achieve much change. Learning is a continuous process and people need to be able to access the content they need at the moment they need it. (Again, this is where the LMS helps tremendously.)
Monetize Your Achievements
Finally, some of the firms that I visited have found ways to capitalize upon their investments in learning! They have joined the LTC4 movement and are using their quantifiable improvements in efficiencies and their technological prowess to differentiate themselves from their competition. Your marketing department would love to share all the ways that your firm is more efficient, more secure and more smart.
It’s nice to know that I won’t be getting on a plane again for a few weeks, settling down for the holidays with my family, but I’m grateful for all I learned during my travels this year. Please contact me if you’d like to discuss any of the trends and ideas I’ve shared above! (Doug@SavvyTraining.com, 303-800-5408)
ABOUT SAVVY TRAINING AND CONSULTING
Savvy Training & Consulting works with leading companies and technologies to deliver the most up-to-date training solutions and curricula to law firms. Savvy recently unveiled an award-winning Learning Management System (LMS) for law firms, SavvyAcademyTM, which delivers scalable training capabilities, reportable data down to the individual user and 24/7 support, all for a fraction of the cost of traditional LMS services.