In my last post I recommended studying a software program for professional development as one of 3 Work Resolutions for Litigators and eDiscovery Professionals. But which program? Time is short and the choices are near-endless. These six questions can help you choose the option that makes the most sense for your career.
Question 1: Will greater proficiency make me better at my job?
Most of us have more to learn about the software programs we’re already using. The first question is whether that has any impact on the quality of your day-to-day work. Will greater proficiency make you more effective, efficient, productive? Ask that question for each program you use. The ones where you answer “yes” stay on the list for further consideration.
Question 2: Will it help me win new business or get better assignments?
The second question applies more broadly. Prospective and current clients alike are placing increasing weight on technology proficiency when awarding work. Within an organization, superior tech skills can be the ticket to the most important and interesting assignments. Certifications and industry-recognized courses demonstrate technology proficiency.
Tech proficiency is also important in marketing and business development. Tech savvy law firms and companies use a full toolkit of websites, email, social media and digital marketing software. Many lawyers are behind the curve on digital marketing and should evaluate how they can use technology more effectively to reach and retain clients.
Question 3: Will learning this technology help me achieve my long-term career goals?
After the “will it help me now” questions comes the “will it help me tomorrow” assessment. Review your one- and five-year career goals. Will greater expertise or learning a new program help you get that raise, promotion or new job? If you don’t have a long-term career plan, or at least a short-term plan, now is the opportune time to develop one.
Question 4: Can I afford the training course and materials?
Software courses may be free, employer subsidized or paid for out of pocket. At this point you’ll likely need to do a little research; or example, is the course you’re interested in self-study or instructor led, in-house or offered by the software provider. In addition, complex programs often have multi-level training courses. Put together a ballpark cost estimate for each program on your shortlist and strike any that aren’t in your budget.
Question 5: Does the training plan fit my schedule?
Technology training can require a significant investment of time – “significant” being relative. It is entirely a matter of your schedule. How much time you have available and when. If you can’t commit the time required by your top choice, then it’s better to look further down the list and pick the second, third or even fourth place option. Getting bogged down partway through is counter-productive, not to mention discouraging.
There’s an important caveat to time and cost analysis: You don’t (usually) have to do it all at once. In fact, breaking up the training into modules over a longer period might be the best approach anyway, especially for learning a complex or advanced program.
Question 6: Do I have the interest and aptitude to derive full value from the training?
Last but by no means least, it’s important to select a program that really interests you. With luck you can also find one you have some aptitude for. The training itself will be more rewarding. You’re more likely to persevere when your schedule inevitably fills up with other things. And you’ll probably get more out of it.
Technology’s outsized importance in modern law practice make software training an important decision for litigators and eDiscovery professionals. These six questions will help you evaluate your options systematically and select a program that promises a good return on your investment of time, money and effort.