Offit Kurman’s vision is simple: to continually better serve their clients and increase the firm’s productivity. To this end, they undertook an up-skilling program to improve technology proficiency throughout the firm. By launching Offit Kurman University (OKU), the firm provided legal professionals and support specialists with opportunities to refine their skills and receive recognition.
Offit Kurman is a US law firm with offices located throughout the mid-Atlantic. With over 100 attorneys, the firm offers comprehensive legal services focused on privately held businesses and individuals. Rob Skinner (IT Director) and Tony Gerdes (Software Trainer) spearheaded the project and partnered with Capensys, a full service training company for law firms, to provide online learning, skills evaluation and just-in-time training tools.
The firm set the following goals for their up-skilling program:
- Improve the onboarding process for new hires by decreasing the time in which a new employee achieves proficiency.
- Decrease labor costs through the efficient use of technology and improved IT processes.
- Review internal processes and improve them by training people to be more skilled in a particular area; For example, the firm wanted all legal administrative assistants and office administrative assistants to be able to enter time for any timekeeper.
The objectives were to:
- Achieve a greater user proficiency and increased usage of current firm applications.
- Increase productivity and company profit margins.
- Improve document security and firm security compliance.
- Successfully rollout Office 2013 and Aderant Expert to the firm.
- Reduce training-related Help Desk questions.
- Create a culture that encourages learning and friendly competition to drive employees to reach higher goals.
Office Kurman University
Skinner and Gerdes named the up-skilling program “Offit Kurman University (OKU)” and approached the firm Managing Partner, Practice Group Leaders and HR to get support and buy-in. They obtained approval for the program by formally presenting the value of the proposed training aligned to the standards of LTC4 (the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition). Once they had received the approval, they began to market the program to the firm.
The firm piloted the up-skilling program with administrative staff and legal professionals within a single practice area. As other users saw the success of the certification pilot program, more employees wanted to participate.
The OKU certification program quickly expanded to the entire firm. “After the initial pilot, our scope widened to challenge the firm with new learning goals. This was especially true in the area of Security,” said Gerdes.
Prior to the program being rolled out firm-wide, Gerdes launched a marketing plan to generate excitement and buy-in. The marketing included:
- A mascot competition for OKU to generate a buzz. A small group from representative areas of the firm judged the entries and selected a winner. The winner received a gift card for their idea of the “Flash,” represented by a lightning bolt.
- A weekly email communication, called “Friday Flash Point” (going along with the lightning bolt theme) where they share news about the up-skilling program and promotional videos.
- Advertisements posted in office kitchens.
- In-person demonstrations in each Offit Kurman office so questions could be asked and answered.
- Earbuds branded with the lightning bolt that are distributed to attendees and subsequently to each new hire.
In addition to the marketing, OKU is designed for fun. Tony Gerdes says, “At Offit Kurman, when it’s Summertime, it’s Securitytime.” So his in-person security classes featured a hula hoop activity and an OKU branded beach ball for each participant.
Rolling out the program – A Blended Approach
The training is delivered through a blended approach. Focusing on creating a culture of learning, OKU is the vehicle through which technical and other training is offered. Gerdes explains, “We want to provide the right training at the right time. So, we offer interactive e-learning courses and videos, webinars, in-person classes and floor support. We want OKU to be a one-stop shop for training.”
The firm’s Aderant time and billing training consisted of live classes because it was a new product they were rolling out. The training was supported by online learning videos. The firm requires security training, so these trainings are conducted in-person, online and through live webinars, with online skills evaluations following the completion of training.
In other content areas such as Office 2013 or NetDocuments, Gerdes relied on the courseware from Capensys because they provide a complete program that includes online learning courses, delivery toolsand KnowledgeChecks to evaluate learning. This saved a great deal of time because Gerdes did not have to “re-create the wheel.” Instead, he could focus on developing the larger learning program.
Skills Evaluation and OKU/LTC4 Certifications
The up-skilling initiative is aligned with the Legal Technology Core Competencies Certification Coalition (LTC4) standards and the firm incorporates much of the LTC4 program into their overall training strategy. Gerdes is an active member of LTC4 and particularly liked using the Capensys curriculum because it was developed to support the LTC4 core competencies, which made it easy to implement. For example, Gerdes incorporates the LTC4 Managing Documents and Emails certification into the training of new legal administrative assistants on NetDocuments and Office 2013. “We make sure the training we offer fulfills the LTC4 core competencies, then we evaluate the skills learned using Capensys’ KnowledgeChecks or other assessment tools,” continues Gerdes. ”This makes OKU synonymous with the LTC4 program. When people become OKU certified in Managing Documents and Emails they are also achieving LTC4 Certification.”
As the firm rolled out Aderant, they built their training around LTC4 required skills. The training was so effective and well received that nearly 20% of the administrative group sought to become LTC4 certified without much prompting.
Nearly 100% of the firm’s employees received their certification in Cybersecurity from the Securitytime courses. Offit Kurman was the first firm globally to award this certification.
Certified employees are recognized in the “Friday Flash Point” email. This weekly email also includes tips that came from the certification courses, creating an organic and ongoing marketing campaign.
The firm expects to continue implementing the LTC4 program into their overall training strategy. For example newly hired Legal Administrative Assistants are expected to complete their Managing Documents and Emails certifications within their first 90 days.
“The LTC4 certifications form the core of our training initiatives, but are not the only initiatives we are pursuing. We are also looking at a “paper-light” initiative and soft skills training,” continues Gerdes.
How are we doing? Feedback
Some employees chose to participate in professional learning cohorts. These participants would work on assigned parts of the Managing Documents and Emails certification throughout the week (about 20-30 minutes of online learning/KnowledgeChecks per week). They then had the option of joining a conference call to discuss their insights, concerns, etc. Cohort members were recognized with a small reward (gift card, special breakfast) after completing their certification. This had the added benefit of connecting colleagues who worked in different offices and had never met in person.
The program also received very positive feedback through surveys. “Every survey respondent said they would participate in a second certification program…and many have. This worked so well I intend to offer additional cohorts as we move forward with other certifications,” says Gerdes.
Many of the survey respondents offered testimonials:
“Continuing my legal administrative education is at the forefront of my career. Since I had no knowledge of NetDocuments, the OKU Certification program has helped me with learning this software.”
“Overall, I enjoyed the OKU Certification and think that it is beneficial to both my professional growth and the overall growth of the firm.”
“Spend a little time and you’ll see the return on your investment.”
“You can just pick things you think you need training on and get it immediately.”
“The courses are packed with information […and] allowed me to gain a lot of information quickly.”
How did the firm measure success?
In addition to the positive feedback gathered by the surveys, Gerdes worked to gather pre and post data on improvements. This information was shared with the firm and generated more interest in the second round of OKU
For example: The percentage of new hires who felt proficient with the firm software in the first 1-3 weeks was 68% prior to OKU. Since OKU, that number increased to 85%. Veteran users were also reporting that by learning new features or shortcuts they were able to work more efficiently.
The firm’s LMS usage increased greatly. At the one year anniversary of OKU, users had accessed more than 900 courses and logged more than 100 hours of training.
Sharing this data with the firm led to inquiries from other departments and practice groups to leverage the power of the training platform.
Gerdes says, “We built the relationships first. It is a lot easier asking friends to work with you on a venture than to have to sell someone solely on a promise. We had fun. Contests, prizes, videos that highlighted staff members and most importantly, we learned useful and relevant information that helped participants do their jobs every day”.
Improving the program
The firm plans to continue the program. In the next iteration they will be working to gather more baseline data from those who participate so they can more clearly show the improvement. The firm also plans to incorporate social learning and gamification into the learning program.
In addition to the LTC4 Managing Documents and Emails, Security and Time & Billing certifications, the firm is also going to start offering Working with Legal Documents certification in the fall of 2015 and E-Discovery certification in 2016.