#007: John Attinger and Janis Richman on “Life After Rollouts – Upskilling Programs” [Podcast]

Craig talks with John Attinger and Janis Richman on why  your firm needs an upskilling program and how to implement one.

Click to Listen




004: Casey Flaherty on “Kia Motors Tests
Law Firms” [Podcast]


ILTA Conference 2013  (Booth # 327)

LinkedIn Profiles:

John Attinger

Janis Richman

Subscribe and Share:




Microsoft Word Transcript

Craig:              This
is Legal Leaders Podcast Episode 7 with Craig Huggart,John Attinger
and Janis
on life after roll outs up scaling programs.

Welcome to
Legal leaders Podcast – The show by and for Legal administrators, IT directors
and other Law Firm leaders, today’s leaders on today’s topics.

Craig:              John
and Janis are with Capensys where John is
the director of training and Janis is the director of consulting services and
I’ve recently done my first project with Capensys and having done that I’m more
convince than ever that they have really unlocked the keys to making training
more effective for law firms. So John how are you doing?

John:               I’m
doing very well. Good morning,thank you Craig.

Craig:              Well
great. And Janis how about you?

Janis:               I’m

Craig:              Outstanding.
Well if you would if you guys would just tell me a little bit more about
yourselves and then will take it from there.

Janis:               All
right Craig. Why don’t I start, John? So this is Janis, and I’ve been working
in law firms I don’t even want to tell you how many years. I started out a
psychotherapist and then I decided that I would do some legal secretarial work
and then I became a technology trainer. I’ve been a director of training in law
firms a number of law firms. I was a help desk manager and then we went into
user interface design and business analyst for about 9 years where I built
systems like Mother Centric Systems and portals and new business intake. Then I
kind of miss training so we went back into training and using the same kind of
techniques that I use for building user interfaces. We created the gold base
design went from gold base design to gold base learning. So that’s my
background in a nutshell.

Craig:              Well
great. I appreciate that and John how about you?

John:               I
started out actually as a high school teacher. Did that for many years and then
jumped over to being a trainer in a law firm. Did that for quite a few years
and then took a lateral move to being a project manager for the creation of
E-learning courses at Trump University that is Donald Trump. Went back into law
firms and became the technology training manager at [02:31] for about 6 years
while it was still around. And in the process manage a number of global
training roll outs and so have had I think about all together 15 years of
experience within the legal community in a number of different positions.

Craig:              Okay,
great. Well I appreciate that. Yeah I’m up too about a dozen years myself. So
and I’m 52 years old so I would probably fit in to the Capensys model of why is
old owls right myself?

Janis:               Smart
elves, Craig. Smart elves.

Craig:              Okay
Smart owls well see I think old is a good term you know I think I like those
cultures where they honor old people and if you tell somebody hey you’re
looking young today that’s a high insults. So I have a different perspective on
that I guess. So before we get into today’s topic, I’m going to encourage
everyone to stick around because after the topic we’ll have 2 short features,
law firm laughs and today’s tech tips. So John and Janis if you guys would tell
me more about up skilling?

John:               Indeed,
thanks Craig. What we are noticing is that as law firms around the country and
around the world wrapping up with or have completed office 2010 and Windows 7
roll outs and all the associated applications. What we’re starting to see now
is a lot of request from firms to look at what we call life after roll out.
Meaning what do they do with all of the applications in the software and the
technology that they have in place. And there is a report that was released by Neochange and they are
specialist in user adaption that says about on average the productivity loss
with software usages around 17% which is the equivalent of basically giving
everybody a Friday off. And I don’t think too many firms would look too highly
upon that. So it’s’ hardly a surprise that after having spent all of these time
and all of this money upgrading the technology firms want to optimize their
investment in all of the technology. So they’re starting to say well okay do
people use this technology properly. Are they taking advantage of what we have
available to them to best serve our clients. And the interesting thing from our
perspective we have seen this before occasionally but what we’re seeing is a
lot more of them and we’re also seeing that it’s not only directed at staff but
it’s also being directed quite strongly at attorney which is an interesting
turn of events. And we’ll get into that in a minute. What we’ve noticed is that
for secretaries we’re starting to hear a lot more about obviously wanting to
increase higher attorney to secretary ratios. Firms are thinking that if we can
get the individual secretaries to use the software more efficiently and more
effectively that they can support more individuals. We’re also hearing from a
lot of firms that are very seriously either looking at or already undertaken to
restructure the way secretaries work with attorneys. Way back when in the glory
and golden days of milk and honey, there was one attorney and one secretary.
And it was very clear what the role was for the secretary and it was basically
to do all of the things that the attorney either couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t
know how to do. That is changing and we’re seeing a lot of firms now looking at
creating pools of secretaries all what they call secretary pods so you’ll have
4 or 5 secretaries that will support up to 40 attorneys that could very well
span whole practice groups or numbers of practice groups so the secretaries
have to be far more skilled. They can’t just know what they need to know for real
estate, they also have to need to know what they need wheels and estates and
litigation and you name it if they’re supporting 40 attorneys there’s likely to
be a whole much broader set of skills that they need to have. A lot of firms
are also reevaluating with the rolls of the secretary of to be. An executive
secretary that handles client activities versus a secretary that focuses on
document production. And we heard a lot of secretarial managers talk about
wanting their secretarial staff to be more flexible so that if there’s a need
to cover, if there’s a need for an assignment if someone’s going out for a
period of time that they can just draw on any secretary and know that this
person can fill in and be very capable and competent as supposed to I haven’t
done this for 6 months a year I don’t know what I’m supposed to do here. So it
all hinges on being able to use the resources that they have effectively and
efficiently. When it comes to attorneys this is the interesting and someone
knew component of whole up skilling project this time. Attorneys firms are
looking at their attorneys and saying can we get a competitive advantage by
having our attorneys better skilled. They’re wanting their attorneys to reached
their billing competence sooner. Meaning it’s well-known within the legal
community that for a period of time attorneys have to work towards they become
more competent and are better able to serve the client. They’re better able to
build their rates, their billing charges are sometimes knocked off because
they’re learning how to do things. Well the sooner they can get this attorneys
to be technically skilled as well as legally skilled the sooner they’re able to
actually rip the benefit of them as fully billable attorneys. So that’s one way
that they’re looking at it. We’ve also heard a lot recently about what you
might called the Kia or the Casey Flaherty technology audit general counsels
within clients are saying okay well we’d like to make sure that our attorneys
are outside counsel are actually billing us favorably, fairly and that they’re
not wasting their money our money on busy times. We’re hearing now from the clients
which are driving a lot of the request in the house by the managing partners,
by the technology committee, by the director of professional development for
the attorneys to start to incorporate legal technology skills in the many areas
beyond also CLE that the attorneys need to be skilled and competent at and it
really all boils down to a couple of things as one law firm stated it very
simply recently it’s all about client service and it’s all about a competitive
advantage. And that’s really what the firms that are looking at incorporating
technology into the attorney umbrella are thinking about. And Janis you also
know there’s a survey that we did recently that you can speak to about the one
of explains that.

Janis:               Yeah.
You know we’ve recently done a survey in collaboration with Neochange that we
will be releasing the results at ILTA this year. And what we have found is that
the grand irony was that we usually hear from the lawyers we cannot go to
training because we just have to make sure that we keep up our billable time.
But what the survey has clearly shown in this was the survey of a 133 CIO’s
from across section of very large law firms to small and medium firms. And what
we saw clearly was that there was more time billed by attorneys with the firms
that had better use of their technology as well as those firms that had more
far reaching strategies for training delivery. In other words those attorneys
that got trained and spend time in training were able to bill much more than
those that did not. So there’s that whole idea of helping associates and
attorneys reaching their billing competencies sooner, so that they can use the
systems the technology in an optimal way and that way they have more time to
bill rather than I can’t go to training because I have to bill. So that is the
grand irony and you’ll be seeing that in the survey results that we’ll be

Craig:              Well
that’s great. Well those are some excellent thoughts, just want to respond to a
couple of those and then I ask for another question. You know you mentioned
Casey Flaherty and I’ll just we’ll put in the show notes the link
to the episode
I did with him. And I think that his article and his
subsequent speeches and campaign if you will maybe a watershed moment in the
training world because it’s really calling attention to both the lack of skills
overall in some attorneys and the clients desire for attorneys to have those
skills. And I think the encouraging thing Janis that you mentioned is that just
the opposite of what you might expect that when attorneys attend training they
bill more. I know as a trainer at times I’ve thought am I hurting billable
hours by teaching attorneys to be more efficient. And I mean that is a
consideration but I talked to an attorney not long ago and he said look the
reality is we know how much we can bill a client for a specific task or at
least we have a gut feeling about that but if we have better technology skills
what that really does is it reduces our stress level so we have the energy to
bill more. So I think that’s an issue. So what do you guys think about that?

John:               I’ve
kind of referred to it as the Henry Ford moment. The trainers and they all
start laughing we could build a car with 10 people on 1 car. Build the car with
10 people working on it in different ways and make it 10 times more efficient.
Trainers and the technology team have been pushing for the better use of the
technology for many years. And to now have it coming from the at the firms from
the client side is I see changes a Henry Ford moment but it is I think a
critical one that will really actually propel firms to not only take it
seriously but to see the value in it.

Janis:               Yes.

Craig:              Yeah
I would definitely agree with that. Janis you wanted to add something?

Janis:               Yes
just that the end of the in-house counsel are really scrutinizing bills now.
And they had been for years but they’re doing it even more and more and one of
the things that Casey Flaherty had said is that when he sees a narrative around
editing a document or doing a particular test that he knows should only take 5
minutes. He writes off that amount of time. So whether or not the attorney is
spending that time futzing what we call futzing rather than billing or whether
they are truly billing that time is going to get written off if the in-house
counsel don’t just do not feel that it is a legitimate amount of time that
should be spend on a particular technology moment.

Craig:              I
think you know there’s always then tension between the clients and the firms.
And I think that’s not going to stop anytime soon and when you have this
greater awareness of how much time possibly is being wasted because they are
futzing. And struggling with the technology I know one of the things he brought
out in his audit was just that one of the task required folks to have some real
basic skills with sorting and filtering in Excel. And if they didn’t have it
they’re going to spend in a normal amount of time you know working through that
process when they should just be able to click a couple of buttons to get the
information they need.

Janis:               That’s

Craig:              So
I’m on a transition here to another question. So we’ve kind of establish some
of the basic facts as to why up skilling is important. What makes a good up
skilling program?

Janis:               Let’s
look a little bit about what’s been a problem in the past is that a lot of the up
skilling program especially the office shelves one like the MOSE exam the
Microsoft office specialist exam. They’re not always legal specific. So we are
asking people to skill up and then be evaluated on things that really they will
never use or that it just not relevant to their job. So what we think is that
application centric and just feature based evaluations of people are not going
to be as efficient as if you look and see what is that core competency that
they need to have and make them workflow based. The time and resources it took
to review and analyze the results was actually took longer than delivering the
test. So another issue was how daunting it was for users that people just freak
out when they hear that they’re going to be evaluated all they do is hear and
see pink slips. So that’s another issue that has been in the past and then
giving a onetime evaluation, it’s a onetime evaluation where people are really
if they’re afraid to take a test they may not do well. If they haven’t had time
to review an up skill they won’t do well. So when it’s a point in time test it
really isn’t a true analysis and evaluation of how people are doing. So what we
think is that in order to have a good program a good up skilling program it
really should be organize and scenario based workflows. So instead of just
features and functions you want to look at how people truly work. And the way
people work is they working different applications and trying to get one
outcome. So they may be taking something out of Outlook and they may be taking
an attachment and bringing it into Word. They maybe styling it and searching
and replacing and then once they’re done they may have to PDF it and then send
it back out using email. So what we recommend is truly looking at core
competencies from a workflow of you rather than just features and functions.
You also want to make sure that you can measure and manage and report back
easily so that it doesn’t take a lot time to administer. And John I think
you’re going to talk a little bit about LMS in a moment. Providing remedial
training we needed or also allowing people to skill up beforehand because what
are we trying to do when we’re looking at an up skilling program is not trying
to test people so that they are feeling discourage. We wanted to make something
that’s empowering so we want to encourage them to skill up to get as much
training as possible before they take an evaluation or a scored exercise. And
if you can provide when doing this type of program CLE attracting courses
that’s even better. One of the things that we know that some of the success
factors would be marketing it positively. So we never use what we called the
A-Word which is assessments. We look at it as certification with just far more
empowering and encouraging and motivating for use and then getting an
assessment. So we look at where we can certify people may be using credits or
points or even levels of like advance intermediate or basic. We also want to
look at getting stake hold of buying. This is extremely important you want to
tied it into appraisals. You want to be able to talk to HR; you want to get the
attorneys on board if it’s a secretarial assessment. So you want to be able to
build it up incrementally as well. So perhaps maybe the first year you allow
people to take the test twice. And then maybe the second year they have to get
a higher score and they can only take it once but you want to give people the
opportunity to succeed and most importantly you want to be able to automate the
process so that it isn’t a huge burden on the trainers and it isn’t a huge
burden to administer. And I think John you can speak to that.

John:               Yes
absolutely. We’re possible there’s a couple of ways that you can automate the
process that will make it easier not only for the people who are taking it but
also for the trainers and the IT department that are going to manage it. The
key way would be to integrate it with an LMS. When you’re going to undertake a
project like this with this many tentacles and this many components where
there’s going to be instructor let training and E-Learning and certificates in
different levels and learning plans it really helps to have a learning
management system. They pretty much automate almost every component of this and
learning management systems have now become very wide spread. The pricing of
such that they range anywhere from very affordable all the way up. So firms
that have been intimated by learning management systems in the past should have
another look at them because there has been a lot of move and in the price of
them overall. So that’s the first step. And the second step I would say Janis
is that if you can allow people to self-educate in a large amount of what needs
to get done whether that’s through e-learning nuggets whether it’s through
recorded training sessions that you take where the trainers sitting in an empty
room allowing people to go back and watch it. If you can allow people to get
say 50, 60% of it by their own way and through what resources you have
available. What you’re then doing is freeing up the trainers to focus on the
more content rich or the complex topics so that the trainers themselves can
focus on those parts of the learning plan that really benefit the most from
having a trainer in the room. Where they like to…

Janis:               Just
to make things easy.

John:               Exactly
where they can exchange, whether it’s a dialogue those topics that people
really would benefit from being in a classroom.

Janis:               Yes,
so making it easy to administer and also making it to deliver the necessary
training so that people can be successful. The idea of a good up skilling
program is that people are empowered and feel that they can master and be

Craig:              Well
those sounds like some excellent ideas and just makes me wish I could go back
in time about 10 years and implement some of those at my previous firm ‘cause
we did have an in-house university and it was somewhat of a nightmare because
people had so much testing ID and it was negatively marketed and I would
encourage the listeners out there to if you’ve been through that kind of
experience or if you’ve never tried to go this direction that you give it
another go because I know the folks at Capensys and other folks have really
seen some success in this area and it becomes a positive rather than a
negative. So you can raise the skills of the firm, reduce the stress in the
firm and of course that leads to greater productivity and greater profits for
the firm. So we want to go ahead in transition now to law firm laughs. So John
I understand that you have a story about an accounting professional and Excel.

John:               Absolutely.
It fits right in with this concept of up skilling within the legal environment.
So early on in my career within the legal community I was called into help with
the accounts payable manager at this office where I was working. And she was
showing me how she kept track of every single payment that was made. Every
check that was cut, all the invoices that came in and then when they’re payable
and do payable and when she wrote the checks and it was all kept in this very
well done, very nice complex Excel Spreadsheet. And so I was working with her
to clean it up a little bit and she had all these check amounts listed in these
columns and what was the amount of the bill and as we’re going through this she
gets all the checks that are due out for the month all lined up. And then she
pulls out a big desktop calculator and starts to add up. All the amounts in the
column for the check amounts. And then after she’s gone to the bottom of the
row after about 20 of them she just simply manually types in the number at the
bottom of this column. And I’m not joking it just actually took place. And one
point I kind of look at her and said would you like for Excel to do that for
you, it can actually do that part of the function of Excel is to calculate
totals. And she looked at me like she was seeing a ghost and said you mean it
can do that automatically? And I said yes it can. And so I showed her the sum
column total and she just about getting a hug and started crying and said my
gosh that’s fantastic. And she became my best friend at that office for the
next couple of years because I showed her how Excel could automate the process
that she’d be doing manually.

Craig:              Wow,
what a story. I mean you can’t make to stuff up people that’s just amazing. And
I’m sure that you trainers out there and other folks who’ve been in law firm
you’ve had those experiences too, it’s just amazing. What some people don’t
know and they always seemed to feel like they’re too busy doing their job to
take a minute for training. So anyway I’m going to go ahead and share the tech
tip for this episode. And since this solely come out either before ILTA or
right around ILTA and everybody’s travelling to Vegas for ILTA. I wanted to
mention to you my absolute favorite travel app and it’s called trip it. And it’s
available for all the platforms out there. So if you have an iPhone, you have
an android phone, you have a windows laptop whatever you’ve got trip it will
work with it. And it’s free of course it’s a premium models so there are some
paid features but essential trip it manages your travel without you doing much
of anything. You give an email address and it monitors that email address for
travel confirmation. So when you get your flight confirmation and you get your
rental car and you get your hotel it pulls all that into the app and builds an
itinerary for you. And it does a bunch of other things but my other favorite
thing that it does is that it gives you airport notification. So it will tell
you a couple of hours before you’re about to head to the airport your flight is
on time. And then like I head through Atlanta almost every time I take a trip I
go through Atlanta and almost every time while I’m in flight to Atlanta from
Birmingham the gate changes. So as soon as I land I turn on my cellphone and it
says you know your gate was B34 and now it’s B22. So trip it is a valuable for
those of you that travel. I don’t know of anything that’s better than that. So
John and Janis if you would want to share how people can get in contact with
you and anything in particular that you have going on that’s coming up.

John:               The
best way to get in touch with us is we’ll be at ILTA.

Janis:               Our
wheels 327.

John:               Go
for it Janis.

Janis:               We’ll
be at 327 and then we have a number of events that we will be holding in our
demo room. Just go to www.capensys.com and go to our events page and you can
see everything that we’re doing for ILTA. And John will be on the panel, I will
be on a panel. John and I will be on a panel together.

John:               It’s
going to be a busy week.

Craig:              Well
outstanding. It sounds like it. Well folks if you enjoyed the show and want to
subscribe go to legalleaderspodcast.com/subscribe or if you
want to share it with your friends out there you can share it on Twitter,
LinkedIn or Facebook. And we’ve made that convenient for you as well just go to
legalleaderspodcast.com/share. So Janis and
John thank you so much for the time and for the interview today.

Janis:               Thanks
for the opportunity Craig.

John:               Thank
you Craig.

Craig:              All
right. Well great. Well that’s a wrap for episode 7.

Thanks for
listening to this episode of Legal Leaders Podcast. For your law firm training
and consulting needs please visit alawfirmtrainer.com


Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required Email Address * First Name Email Format html text

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *