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Continued Education: Tech Training a Must to Serve Clients

August 31, 2015

Overview

These days attorneys spend roughly 80 percent of their days toggling between different programs on their computers.

More often than not, clients expect law firms to justify the billable time partners and associates spend on issues, or to complete matters within a fixed-fee arrangement. If attorneys are not sufficiently skilled in the technologies that support their workflows, this creates inefficiencies and increased billable hours.

Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition, or LTC4, enhances the technological competence of attorneys. LTC4 is part of the growing field of lean, process improvement initiatives that clients today increasingly demand of law firms. It focuses on improving fundamental technology skills through nine different learning plans — from legal documents to securities for attorneys — that help law firms reduce write-offs, avoid legal tech audits from general counsel, and deliver greater innovation to clients.

LTC4 certification assures clients that attorneys are saving them time and money by productively dealing with legal documents and allowing them to spend more time managing cases.

The LTC4 coalition examined how lawyers work and identified their technology-related goals. The LTC4 method of certification satisfies clients' requirements for tangible measures of competence and clarity. Certification can also enhance a law firm's competitive position in the marketplace.

The American Bar Association has taken steps to ensure attorneys are as proficient as possible when it comes to technology with a reminder that failing to obtain basic technological skills runs contrary to a lawyer's duty of competence. American Bar Association Model Rule 1.1 addresses the client-lawyer relationship and provides that a lawyer owes clients what is commonly referred to as a "duty of competence." Newly amended Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1 states: "To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject."

Connie Brenton, chief legal officer at NetApp and president of the Corporate Legal Officers Consortium (a professional organization made up of chief legal officers and general counsel from about 60 Fortune 500 companies), is relying on LTC4 to set the industry standard and hopes to partner with LTC4 to formalize these standards. Her plan is to create a "Napa Conference" (modeled after the Sedona Conference) that would bring senior operations people from law departments together in a working group weekend to formalize LTC4 standards.

Mark Long is managing shareholder and a practicing attorney at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt. Jodie Carman is the firm's manager of professional development and training. Long was the first attorney worldwide to be LTC4-certified.

As published in the Puget Sound Business Journal, on August 28, 2015. 

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