Workforce development: How to upskill your staff with technology

Workforce development: How to upskill your staff with technology

 

Legal technology is expediting change across the legal sector, particularly in the current climate, where we have seen many areas of the industry – the courts, arbitration, team management and even client meetings – radically disrupted by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Recent LexisNexis research on the effect of Covid-19 on law firm operations, has highlighted that there has been a widespread adoption of new tools, with a 45% growth in firms using teleconferencing software. 54% of employees also expressed a desire to work from home on a part-time basis post-crisis, with around half stating they felt their firm would permanently change their HR policy to adopt new remote working practices.

Therefore, change is afoot and firms and legal teams will increasingly need to find new ways of managing contracts, workflows and communication through technology. Those with a dedicated IT team will be able to handle this in-house, but smaller practices will need to decide whether to rely on external consultants or hire in new talent to stay on top of technology enhancements.

 

Workforce development – no one size fits all

 

There are various strategies that firms can adopt when introducing new technology to the business. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

External consultants

The easiest ‘plug and play’ option for obtaining the right skills in a time critical scenario is to bring in a specialist consultant. Although this provides an on-tap resource, it can be the most expensive option in the long-term. Furthermore, time and effort will need to be set aside for properly briefing the consultant and bringing them up to speed.

Hiring professionals

Firms with sufficient budget are hiring dedicated innovation managers to handle the process of integrating new technology products, upskilling employees and liaising with IT managers to ensure a joined-up approach. Law firms that intend to invest heavily in legal tech will benefit from having an in-house specialist who can both advise on purchasing decisions and provide practical assistance in setting up new systems.

Fresh talent and re-training

Even in the smallest firms, normally one of the partners will take the lead on technology - even if this is just overseeing the website. Some lawyers may well be interested in getting more heavily involved and even learning new IT skills so that they can become the firm’s part-time innovation manager. Whilst this may be advantageous in terms of career diversification, allowing a fee earner to spend time managing technology products may not always stack-up in terms of cost benefit.

The most affordable workforce development method is arguably to bring in fresh talent who ‘get it’, who are technology evangelists and are willing to speak up and influence staff members on the benefits of incorporating new workflows and ways of doing things.

For example, experienced lawyers who are passionate about technological change, or technology graduates who are interested in the legal sector, or law graduates who want to hone their tech skills and get a foot in the door. This is a long-term investment – but building a multi-skilled set of employees will help a firm to navigate a future in which the disciplines of technology become increasingly symbiotic.

 

Technology product management – a quick guide

 

Any new IT system which is introduced to a law firm either requires a certain level of training to upskill and enable lawyers to effectively use it - or else it needs product experts who can operate the tech tools themselves. Examples of product management include:

  • Practice management software - an IT trainer may be required to initially train up staff to use the product, and a member of the IT team will need to ensure that updates and patches are applied in a timely fashion.
  • Analytics - anyone responsible for business development in a law firm will find website trends, which can be revealed by analytics software, particularly useful. However, operating analytics tools can be quite complex and may need a specialist to eke out the most pertinent information from the mass of data.
  • Predictive coding - this is a highly complex method of speeding up the process of electronic disclosure which involves the use of artificial intelligence (AI) software. Although lawyers are required to work with this technology, they generally need to be tech-savvy and will need substantial upskilling from product experts.

 

Further reading

 

Artificial intelligence—introduction to technology

Talent management strategy - law firms

Talent management strategy - In-house lawyers

Learning & Development guidance

Information management & security guidance

Practice management or In-house advisor for in-house lawyers

 

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About the author:

Amy is an established writer and researcher, having contributed to publications, such as The Law Society, LPM, City A.M. and Financial IT. Her role at LexisNexis UK involved leading content and thought leadership, as well as writing research reports, including "The Bellwether Report 2020, Covid-19: The next chapter" and "Are medium-sized firms the change-makers in legal?"