CLE Sucks (When Training Is Terrible)

training is important
. For a long time, I simply thought it was my
to push lawyers into technology training. And, for just as long, I
thought anyone who resisted the idea of technology training for lawyers was
being myopic. Again, the comic
I repeatedly use to make this point:

I had my simplistic worldview punctured by a friend who, I
hate to admit, has a stellar track record of pointing out deficiencies in my
thinking. He observed that we already mandate training for lawyers. It is
called Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE), and it has a well-deserved
reputation for, too often, being an annoying timesuck. CLE audiences are
notoriously checked out as they wait for the clock to tick down. Presenters
deliver the 101 version of their message because they have no way to gauge their
audiences’ pre-existing knowledge and, even if they did, would still have to
choose between catering to the least or most informed constituencies. It’s
awful, and I hate it as both as a lecturee and lecturer.
When you are dealing with individuals who have a high degree
of variance in their pre-existing knowledge base, traditional training methods
are terrible. Gather everyone in the room
and talk at them for a prescribed period of time
is a recipe for
disengagement. Even if the audience seems engaged, you have no way of knowing
whether they are absorbing the content. Because
it’s easy to measure, we have developed a very unfortunate habit of using time
as a proxy for learning.
The deficiencies of traditional training methods
are even more evident when you are trying to teach skills. But I will address
that in my next post.
Let’s start with a simple knowledge-centric example. With
the State Bar of California finalizing its formal
that insufficient understanding of electronic discovery can violate
the rules of professional conduct, there is a strong impetus for California litigators
to enroll in ediscovery CLE. They will sit in rooms or watch videos in which
bona fide experts tell them what they need to know and provide a compendium of
useful reference material. But what evidence do we have that the audience
listened, let alone learned anything? How do we know they weren’t responding to
client emails or playing Angry Birds?
What if we gave them access to the same experts and compendium
of reference materials but no credit for the time spent with either? What if,
instead, they got the credit for successfully completing a competence-based
assessment of their ediscovery knowledge? Every assessment would be computer generated from a large
corpus of pertinent questions so that gaming the assessment would be far harder
than, say, tuning out while the video plays in the background.

Our fear might
be that they would simply look up the answers to the questions. Fair enough,
and we could probably address this fear by putting a time limit on each
question. But even if we didn’t, think about what they are doing in looking up
the answers. They are analyzing a question, researching an answer, and coming
to a correct conclusion. In short, they are engaging with the subject material
in the precise manner expected of a competent lawyer. And while our confidence
in their knowledge is far from complete, it is a marked improvement over the
status quo.

To the extent we are primarily concerned with time, the new
approach is a problem. Some lawyers will already possess the requisite knowledge
and get through the assessment in short order on the first attempt. Other
lawyers will struggle with the material, requiring considerable study and
multiple attempts to pass the assessment. Both types of lawyers, and those in
between, will earn the same credits. For me, this is a feature, not a bug. The singular
focus on time is misguided. The point of CLE is to ensure that lawyers are
keeping current. Lawyers that keep current as part of their regular practice
should benefit from this fact and not be forced to sit through remedial
lectures just because those lectures may help some of their peers.
We should not use time as a surrogate for knowledge or skill
when we can measure knowledge and skill directly. Validation that training has
been successful is only one of the advantages of competence-based assessments.
My next post will provide more details on why and how competence-based
assessments should augment our traditional approaches to technology skills training.
[Before the trainer community excoriates me for knocking down a straw man, let me concede that I use the term “traditional” to refer to training methods that are familiar, not necessarily ubiquitous. Sit In Room/Be Talked At is my impressionistic sense of what most lawyers think of when I recommend technology training, which I often do. There are superior methods long employed by many trainers in many different settings. But a large contingent of lawyers wouldn’t know because they refuse to go.]
Casey Flaherty is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker. He believes that there is a better way to deliver legal services. Better for the clients. Better for the legal professionals. Better for the bottom line. Casey is creator of the Legal Technology Assessment, an integrated Basic Technology Benchmarking and training platform. Follow Casey on LinkedIn and on Twitter @DCaseyF.

See also:
Strategic Sourcing in Legal: The Service Delivery Review
Deep Supplier Relationships in Legal
Law Firm Realizations
Structured Dialogue in the Law Dept/Firm Relationship
The Role of Nontraditional Stakeholders in Deepening the Law Dept/Firm Relationship

from Blogger


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