Comment: The LTC4 and legal IT competence.
by Ann Hemming*
Using technology effectively is essential for anyone working within the legal profession. If you think about all the tasks that lawyers do; from drafting documents through to research, recording time, billing, due diligence and litigation; technology is at the heart of the working process. IT competency is important to clients and employers to make sure that work is produced as efficiently and risk-free as possible.
The world of legal education is undergoing dramatic changes in the UK. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) is doing away with the traditional CPD requirement (which traditionally benchmarked lawyers training, by requiring a minimum number of hours devoted to education each year). The new focus of both regulation and education is on demonstrating successful outcomes and competencies. It’s not about just attending training; it’s all about proving that the lawyer has the required skills to apply knowledge and skills effectively to do the work. Does this sound familiar? Have a look at what LTC4 is proposing for legal IT training and you will see how well the LTC4 initiative fits in with this change in focus.
What else is influencing Legal IT training? In the US, Casey Flaherty (formerly of Kia Motors) has been hugely influential in raising awareness of the importance of having IT competent lawyers. In-House Counsel are now starting to demand that their lawyers demonstrate their IT competency, so Casey has developed an online test, The Legal Technology Skills Audit which has been designed to spot check IT competencies to that effect.
But is an external audit the right way to demonstrate competency? That is where LTC4 comes in. The LTC4 coalition had already been formed to address this issue. LTC4 welcomed the Flaherty initiative and the renewed emphasis on IT skills, but felt that the audit alone wouldn’t be a true measure of competency. LTC4 brings together Legal IT trainers and training providers from well over 95 firms worldwide (membership is growing rapidly), as well as representatives of the Knowledge Management, Records, and Professional Development, with the aim of establishing a core set of competencies based around realistic workflows, (such as collaborating on documents or mobile working). These detailed competency frameworks identify scenarios, tasks and outcomes in order to assure competence. Add to this an independent certification process provided by LTC4 and you have an impressive standard.
The LTC4 method of certification answers the requirements of clients for tangible measures of competence, but leaves the organisation firmly in control of the way that they deliver their training to suit their own internal resources and procedures. For some firms offering their fee earners/lawyers certification will simply be a way of accrediting and recognising the quality of their existing training programmes, while for others it will provide a powerful business case for ensuring IT training for fee earners is adequately resourced. For everyone involved it also provides a powerful motivator for lawyers to invest in their IT skills.
LTC4 in a nutshell
The LTC4 initiative is an exciting development in Legal IT education. Law Firms from the US, Canada and UK (and now further afield) have come together to develop a competency framework for legal IT skills. This can be used as part of any competency framework within the legal profession. Rather than wait for an external regulator, the LTC4 group have collaborated to develop a framework that is flexible and robust and can be applied as a standard of excellence for legal IT education. They have also developed a sensible pragmatic method of certification, offering individual lawyers the chance to benchmark their skills and demonstrate their competence. The LTC4 initiative fits in nicely with the whole move towards more competency based training and assessment within the legal profession.
The way that we approach legal education is going through one of the most dramatic changes for many years. In line with many initiatives in the education space, it is finally being acknowledged that training cannot be measured in terms of hours spent in a classroom (or online), nor simply by passing examinations and jumping through the many “hoops” involved in qualification. The only way that successful training can be fully ensured is through a demonstrable and measurable increase in the competence of the individual to actually do the work.
Is this new? No, in many ways we are returning to the old Apprentice model for skills training where any new pupils developed their skills through a mix of observation, practical work and instruction. How did experts then build on their skills?-Through the same mix. How were they measured?-By outcomes and observation.
The SRA has now published its plans for Training for Tomorrow which summarises their revised approach which is currently being implemented to replace the old CPD scheme.
What else is happening? The legal education framework for England and Wales is also getting a major shake-up to ensure that there are better, more accessible pathways into the profession. Legal apprenticeships for Paralegal, Chartered Legal Executive and now Solicitors are in the process of being finalised. The competency frameworks underpinning these apprenticeships will enable greater accessibility to the profession and place much more emphasis on competency measurement. Employers are being given more flexibility in the way they recruit and train future staff and more control over the way they engage with providers of training. You can find out more about apprenticeships here https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/apprenticeship-standards#law-standards
So how does this help?
Adopting and using the LTC4 competencies as part of an IT training initiative, ensures that learners have a robust framework that follows the Training for Tomorrow ethos. It and can also provide reassurance to clients that work is being produced efficiently and effectively. Do purchasers of legal services care if their lawyers are IT competent? The answer is increasingly – yes.
Casey Flaherty felt that any lawyer he engaged had to have a standard level of IT competence to ensure that he was getting value for money. Casey was not asking for rocket science, just a solid knowledge of standard IT products such as Word and Excel. He demonstrated how lack of competence in these standard tools could inflate his bills and lead to inefficiencies. He also demonstrated that Counsel expect a level of IT competency in their lawyers as well as the secretarial and support staff. Gone are the days when all these tasks were delegated to the secretarial team, the modern lawyer needs to be IT literate and extremely aware of the opportunities and compliance issues associated with the use of technology. Casey has since developed a legal technology audit which provides a timed test for lawyers so that they can demonstrate they have the skills to do the job.
The LTC4 concept
Before Casey developed his audit, Legal IT trainers and training providers had already started work on standard competencies. Casey’s initiative has been extremely helpful in accelerating interest in their work and the speed of the development of the competencies as more and more firms got involved. Casey’s Audit is all very well, but it is an added expense and it is just a spot check; it is not necessarily a commitment to ongoing training and measurement of competence.
Competence by definition, is an indicator that a person (or group) has sufficiency of knowledge and skills to enable them to act in a wide variety of situations. It is therefore not just about knowledge but about its practical application in relevant situations. LTC4 have worked together to establish a core set of competencies based around realistic workflows, (such as collaborating on documents or mobile working). These detailed competency frameworks identify scenarios, tasks and outcomes to be achieved, in order to assure competence.
The group were determined to meet the needs of the industry and also to anticipate the requirements of staff, clients and regulators for demonstrable evidence of competency.
In order to do this, the group worked to some underlying principles.
• The framework would have a set of core skills that all lawyers(and support staff) should be able to achieve, along with a number of optional modules, (such as eDisclosure/eDiscovery)
• The framework would be as far as possible “Application Agnostic” rather than tied to a particular software solution.
• The competencies should be flexible enough for any law firm or IT training provider to be able to use them as part of their training programs and can be tested in a number of ways
• In response to client demand, achieving a competency should be independently accredited so that both individuals and their organisations can demonstrate that they have met the required standards.
What’s new with LTC4?
LTC4 was established as a not for profit organisation, which has resonated with law firms across the globe. LTC4 has over 95 members, mainly from the US and UK, but with growing membership in Canada, Australia and with many other global firms joining. The competencies are under continual review by collaborative teams who quality assure the content on a regular basis.
To ensure the credibility of the competencies, a robust certification programme has been developed and is now being piloted by member firms. The certification works in a similar way to many other standards and certifications of excellence.; it does not require a specific test or examination of individual candidates, but assesses how the training programmes of the organisation align with the standards and then reviews how the competencies are measured and recorded. It therefore allows member firms to opt for online assessment, classroom reviews and testing and workplace observation (or a mix). The final certification is awarded to the individual lawyer and is therefore “portable” and part of their overall learning portfolio. Certification is of course time-bound, with regular reviews of the learning outcomes for individuals.
This method of certification answers the requirements of clients for objective measures of competence, but leaves the organisation firmly in control of the way that they deliver their training to suit their own internal resources and procedures. Achieving the standard is a great way of endorsing and accrediting their existing training programmes, while for others it will provide a powerful business case for ensuring IT training is adequately resourced and respected. It also provides a powerful motivator for lawyers to invest in their IT skills development.
LTC4 is a vibrant community who share best practice, support each other and organise meetings and round tables. They welcome enquiries from anyone interested promoting Legal IT excellence and you will be able to meet members at many events in the coming year. To find out more visit the website http://ltc4.org/ or the LinkedIn group.
* Ann Hemming is a KM and L&D professional, working as implementation consultant for LexisNexis, Ann is a member of the LTC4 coalition and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org