I, like most legal professionals, cringe at memories of sitting in a large room and having someone demonstrate the use of a technology tool. Despite my confirmed case of technophilia, I hated re-learning the basics and had a hard time absorbing anything new. Sitting through videos was even worse. The medium trumped the message.
These memories should have stopped me from adopting the simple-minded attitude that it was sufficient for me to bully lawyers into training. But we all have blind spots. Training is important. Training is available. Therefore, lawyers should go to training. I failed to recognize that appreciating the need for training can legitimately coexist with a distaste for how training is traditionally delivered.
I still believe that lawyers need training and that professional trainers should deliver it. But the traditional approach to training is a bit daft. Gather everyone in a room and talk at them for a prescribed period of time. It is a recipe for a disengagement. Some trainees will decide they have better things to do, whether it is email, Twitter, or Candy Crush. Yet, even the trainees intent on learning something are likely to find themselves bored by content that is already familiar or at a loss to grasp content that is too advanced. Monolithic training to a diverse audience with a high variance of skill levels ends up wasting everyone’s time. Time is a poor proxy for learning. The more tailored option of waiting for users to approach the trainer, or login into training resources, with specific questions is just as unappealing. One of the hallmarks of the untrained is that they don’t know what they don’t know. Those who labor under delusions of adequacy are unlikely to ask the right questions, if they ask any questions at all.
My original shortsightedness meant that when I first developed a competence-based assessment on using common desktop software, I only appreciated its role as a validation mechanism. The competence-based assessment’s function was to determine whether or not an individual had the requisite training. This verification remains of critical importance. But the earlier in the process we assess skill level, the better the process serves everyone involved.
Utilizing a competence-based assessment at the front end of training allows trainees to test out of training they do not need. Maybe they test out entirely. Fantastic. They can fly through a 12-minute test rather than endure 4 hours of unnecessary training. Even if they don’t test out of everything, they can still test out of that which they already know. By identifying specific deficiencies, the trainee and trainer can allocate their efforts to the areas where training is actually needed. A competence-based assessment on the backend will verify the new skill acquisition and demonstrate progress against the already-established training deadline.
Competence-based assessments are more than just testing tools. Competence-based assessment can be powerful training tools, especially when paired with synchronous, active learning. More on that in my next post.
[Again, 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.