Tech training helps lawyers meet client expectations
“At the time, I didn’t even have the application installed. I had to go to my oldest child to get myself set up,” he says. “It was one of those moments that brought home the fact that your clients assume a level of technical competence, and it is not going to look good if you cannot deliver.”
Aimed at lawyers like Armstrong, the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition, or LTC4, has created a certification program around lawyers’ use of technology. The organization argues that rapid technological changes, alternative fee models and increasing scrutiny from clients are putting pressure on attorneys to prove their worth.
“If a client is scrutinizing your billable hours, and they know how long it takes to do something like scan, create a PDF ... and send an email, they know it doesn’t take an hour,” says Bonnie Beuth, board chairman for LTC4. “Clients want to know a lawyer is going to get things done quickly, especially when they are billing for their time.”
The organization offers its members learning plans and certification in nine broad, generic areas, including managing documents and emails, and collaborating with others. It also offers more specific learning plans that cover topics such as time and billing, and reports and exhibits.
The organization is currently taking comments on a program to offer certification for e-discovery, which is a somewhat specialized practice area for litigators.
Memberships are based on a law firm’s size, with annual subscription fees ranging from $1,500 for firms of up to 100 (including lawyers and staff) to $5,000 for the largest firms with more than 1,000 users. There also are law school, nonprofit and vendor memberships.
The coalition has developed two certification paths: one for attorneys and another for legal staff. Beuth believes that by delivering a certificate program, law firm staff are more likely to actually finish a given training program.
“We know that firms offer training and classes for their people; but most people, especially attorneys who bill their time, will often skip or walk out of the class,” says Beuth, who is also an information systems trainer with FordHarrison in Atlanta. “The certification means people have to stick around and prove that they have learned the essential skills.”
LTC4 says its core competencies are not specific to any particular products or software packages, but are designed to provide a broad level of technical knowledge.
For Armstrong, LTC4 is something he can point to when talking to potential clients, providing evidence that his firm will deliver efficient service and support.
“It is a selling point, especially if you are trying to win work with tech-heavy clients,” he says. “Clients need things in a hurry, and if you have to say, ‘Wait, let me find someone who knows how to do that,’ they are going to find someone else who will do it, and do it for less.”
This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of the ABA Journal with this headline: “Are You Experienced? Tech training helps lawyers meet client expectations.”