Being born in 1980, I’ve struggled with a bit of generational identity crisis. Growing up, I longed to be part of the Generation X that represented all of my tall-haired, effortlessly cool celebrity icons of the 80s. Alas, my year of birth fell right on the fence between Generation X’s punk rock cool and the technologically-obsessed, mistaken-as-entitled Millennials.
In the workplace, as Manager of Education and Development for RVM, I still find myself riding that line, at times struggling to reach and influence such a diverse community of clients and coworkers in my training programs. Depending on who you’re talking to, technology is seen as an exciting advantage over past methodologies or an intimidating but necessary evil. Especially in the realm of litigation support. Sometimes, a person’s take on technology is influenced by their generation and habits they’ve developed throughout their lives. However, the unavoidable truth is if you want to stay competent and competitive in litigation support, you’ve got to understand the applicable technology.
Full disclosure, I’ve studied Andragogy, which is the method and practice of teaching adults. What I’ve found to be most applicable to the challenge of training attorneys and litigation support staff in eDiscovery technology is the concept of Self-Directed Learning (SDL). To successfully incorporate SDL, an eDiscovery training program must:
- Meet the trainees where they are, respecting the extensive breadth of knowledge that each trainee brings to the table
- Include sufficient resources and support following training and
- Include an opportunity for trainees to evaluate and provide feedback on the training program.
Lawyers, Paralegals, and legal support staff are generally highly educated, hard-working, and successful individuals who have already established traditional ways of doing things such as legal research from books (gasp!) or paper document review (double gasp!!) which worked well for them in the past. There’s no doubt that technology has changed the legal industry, and continues to do so.
The Plan in Action
One way I gauge the temperature of my training audience is to send an information gathering survey in advance asking what they want to get out of the session, and what they absolutely don’t want to cover. This way, I can customize the content and not waste their valuable time covering topics they don’t need. For support and resources, we at RVM pride ourselves on the skill and responsiveness of our Client Services department, making ourselves available by phone and email to answer follow-up questions or provide troubleshooting on any of the applications we support. This helps minimize the frustration that typically comes with learning a new technology.
Finally, the most humbling component of this process, and arguably the most important is the evaluation process. I seek honest critical feedback on what worked, what didn’t, and what the trainees would like to change for future training programs. This gives my trainees an opportunity to contribute to future training success by sharing their feedback, perspectives, and experiences.
One Last Thing
eDiscovery technology is not going away, and in fact it is becoming more sophisticated. Legal professionals are staying in the workforce longer and as younger generations enter the industry, they strive to become contributing members of the team. Which means it becomes imperative that continuing education and training programs adapt to meet the needs of our varied and diverse adult workforce. In my opinion, there is no magical formula for successful eDiscovery training, but if I can at least convince my training resistant colleagues that it is a challenge worth tackling, I have won half the battle. I’d like to leave you with a quote from the education scholar, Deborah Meier “Teaching is listening. Learning is talking”.