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1993. You were probably installing Windows for the first time, parting with the Wang system you had been using for years. Or, if you were an early user of PCs you may have been upgrading from DOS to Windows 3.11! Either way, your secretaries were going to have a very different way to work. And don’t forget the attorneys. Yes, in 1993 there were a few who had been using computers, although many of those were geeks who wanted to re-wire them. But for most lawyers, having a PC on their desk was something very new, and some partners were saying, “A computer? Not in my office! This computerized typewriter is a secretary’s tool and should not be on any lawyer’s desk, and definitely not mine.” Regardless of these situations, the addition of Windows-based computers required significant retraining. And training was, well, training. Secretaries and attorneys sat in a classroom for four hours at a time, the lawyers usually at night. The trainers stood in front of the class, just like high school, and looked over the students’ shoulders while everyone did practice assignments moving the mouse or typing a document. It wasn’t easy to get everyone in class for that much time, but Windows was new to most and the firm’s management usually mandated attendance in order to capitalize on a firm’s large financial investment. Remember teaching everyone how to use the mouse? E-mail? egad! “Who would want to use that?” Fast forward 10 years. You are now probably using Windows NT/2000 or Windows XP. Your attorneys use their computers everyday and most have computers at home as well. Today’s lawyer is more likely to be heard saying, “Use e-mail? Of course! Create my own documents, why not. But, can you quickly show me how to use WebEx? I’ve got to get online in 15 minutes.” Secretaries and other staff are online too. Using computers to process documents, electronically reserve conference rooms and airline seats, and search the Web. Times have changed! So has training. Today when an attorney or secretary needs to learn a new computer system, it is typically a Windows-based application that looks very similar to what he or she already knows. Sure, there are new things to learn, but it’s not like moving from DOS to Windows and nobody tries to use the mouse as a dictation machine foot peddle anymore. Try to get an attorney in class for a couple of hours to learn PowerPoint? Good luck. While secretaries often look forward to the social aspect of classroom instruction and the opportunity to escape from their desk, most lawyers want to quickly learn what they need to know, when they need to know it. They want it “just in time,” and they want “just enough” instruction to accomplish what they need to do at that moment. Forget the PowerPoint classes of the past when we taught them how to create, edit and run a presentation using all sorts of glitzy backgrounds. Most attorneys today just want to know how to “run the damn thing,” because the PowerPoint is often prepared for them. Just In Time/Just Enough (JIT/JE) instruction is today’s training mantra, and it’s often delivered much differently than the classroom training of a few years ago. More often than not, the training of attorneys in law firms is now a sidebar event, either in the lawyer’s office, in the hall or at a computer in the training room on a one-on-one basis. The discussion between the attorney and the trainer is usually along the lines of, “I want to do this?” Or, “How do I get this to work?” The training of lawyers has evolved into coaching, and our trainers have evolved into JIT/JE advocates. Sure, there are times when classroom training is appropriate, but even in those situations, trainers act more like coaches than a high school teacher. Is there still a need for training? There sure is. Most secretaries and attorneys still have a long way to go before they can say that they are effectively using today’s technology. But, most of this training will not be delivered by corralling people into the classroom, but by using effective coaching techniques — something most law firm trainers are picking up. Taking a coaching approach to training, especially for lawyers, resolves a lot of the issues in dragging attorneys into the classroom. There is a lot of technology on every attorney’s and secretary’s desk and being aware of what technology is available is probably one of today’s top training challenges. Establishing a coaching philosophy and a Just In Time/Just Enough approach will provide some of the tools to build awareness. But marketing technology, via technology open houses and other methods is still as important to effective training today, as it was when PCs first landed on your lawyers’ desks. A lot has changed in law firms since LTN was first published 10 years ago. Training has evolved with our systems and our increasingly savvy computer users. Today, additional systems use the same metaphor and user interface that our users navigate every day — a lot different from the revolution in computer use that took place a decade ago. New associates entering the firm have grown up with computers, another drastic change from the early 1990′s. But one thing has not changed in law firms — the value of time. That’s why embracing a philosophy of coaching, Just In Time/Just Enough training and awareness building should be the mantra for those who’ve read the 10th anniversary issue of Law Technology News. Doug Caddell is a member of the LTN Editorial Advisory Board and the C.I.O. of Foley & Lardner.

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