The more proficient your employees become at using existing and newly acquired software, the more productive and profitable your firm will become.
It is imperative to stay up to date on the latest technology to keep your law firm running smoothly. However, acquiring current technology and software applications is only one piece of the success puzzle. Most end users use approximately 20% of a software application’s features. The more proficient your employees become at using existing and newly acquired software, the more productive and profitable your firm will become. Today’s employees are absorbing more technology than in the past, so fortunately, they have become more accepting of training as well.
Build Training Into New Contracts
Prior to purchasing any new technology, it is wise to consult the people who will be using it. Make sure that all levels of personnel participate in reviewing the various options available. Everyone must be on board or resistance to the upgrade will inevitably occur. People will have to invest time to learn how to use the new systems properly and effectively—time that is otherwise being used to perform their jobs. This training is not one and you’re done. Training has to be offered continuously. It is wise, therefore, to negotiate regular training to occur during the course of the software contract.
Learning New Software and Systems
While it is often assumed, make sure that the trainers understand the software. When working with a trainer outside of the firm, it is best to conduct a trial training session with select employees. It makes sense to ask a representative of each employee group to participate in the trial (administrative assistants, paralegals, administrators, associates, and partners). If the trainer is an employee, be sure this person has received the necessary authorized training. Again, it would make sense for this trainer to work with a select group of employees prior to a firm-wide rollout.
Do not make training optional. Every employee, including all owners, must participate in training. Making training mandatory will emphasize the importance of the investment. Additionally, law firms may be able to obtain CLE (continuing legal education) credits for attorneys to participate.
When implementing a new software application, there are always deadlines to be met. These deadlines are not optional; they are critical contractual dates. Employees must be prepared to meet these deadlines, so it is important to maintain a continual conversation with them regarding their progress in learning the software, and to monitor any work that is required for them to complete a successful transition. If necessary, hire temporary personnel to alleviate some of their routine work during this critical time.
Make sure these deadlines are realistic. For instance, it may not make sense to upgrade a firm’s time and billing system at the end of a fiscal year. Do not be too aggressive. An upgrade may take a bit more time than expected, so make sure that the deadlines are flexible, with alternate dates available, in case something unexpected occurs.
The employees must understand the benefits of embracing new technology. Once learned, the new technology will become comfortable very quickly. Any upgrade should improve the quality of their work product, keep the firm competitive, and improve their overall work-life balance. In addition, every employee should want to stay current, so they remain marketable.
Remember to provide training sessions at convenient times and on more than one occasion. It may be necessary to train administrative personnel differently than attorneys, but it is very important to hold training sessions with everyone. Training sessions should not be more than 1-2 hours, because after an hour, people begin to get distracted and stop absorbing what is taught. If possible, record the sessions, so people can review them at their convenience. Viewing these sessions can also be used for orientation of all new employees. Make sure that all training is interactive and relevant. One way to do so is to use relevant data (i.e., the firm’s data) in all training sessions. All employees should be trained regularly. It would be wise to hold training sessions quarterly at staff, attorney, and management meetings. This will ensure that people are not falling into bad habits.
When reviewing training tactically, it is not uncommon for management to conclude that the amount of time spent on training is too expensive. Yes, there is an investment (not a cost) in training personnel regularly. However, the cost associated with training employees is far less than not training them.
All members of a firm should continually upgrade their skills. They must not fall into the “We’ve always done it this way” trap. In order to stay competitive and attract and retain not only clients but talented employees, a firm’s technological stack has to stay current.
Written by CARET Legal partner, Gail Ruopp. Gail Ruopp has acquired more than 25 years of professional experience in senior law firm management, initiating best practices in administrative operations, including: financials, accounting, lateral recruiting, personnel, day-to-day operations, systems management, and firm marketing.