Computer Training in 'Byte-Size' Installments Reinforces Learning

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 Employee training is a widely accepted method of developing skills, enhancing productivity and quality of work. Increasingly, management has also recognized training as a means of improving employee morale and loyalty to the firm. As law firms and other companies recognize the need to assist staff to work more efficiently and be more responsive to clients, they continually implement the latest computer software. Consequently, the most pervasive training topic now revolves around the use of computers and software.

In its October 2001 Industry Report, Training magazine reported that 99% of companies surveyed offered training in "Computer Applications," with 14% of the surveyed firms offering regular weekly training courses. However, the majority offered only "As Needed" or "Annual" training. "As Needed" training typically occurs when new software is acquired and is limited to intensive half- or full-day sessions. While these intensive training sessions are an important starting point, the increasing power of new software makes it virtually impossible to fully train employees in one session.

In these intensive 'boot-camp"-style training sessions, employees retain just enough information to begin using their new software but not enough to master it. Frustration may then set in, causing undue stress and even eroding productivity. To avoid this scenario, follow-up training should be provided shortly after the initial training to give employees the opportunity to ask "real-world" questions based on their actual use of the new software. To encourage attendance at follow-up sessions, offer "byte-size" sessions – meaning short in duration and with a stated purpose. The purpose can either be narrow (e.g. "Creating Tables of Authorities") or more general (e.g. "Ask an Expert" or "Refresher Course").

Because many people feel that they are adept Internet users, it's probably the most overlooked computer applications training topic. However, the ability to check one's stock portfolio, review the latest sports scores or generate a map to opposing counsel's office is a far cry from knowing where to locate free court forms or a free searchable California case law database back to 1934 (or even open an attachment). Professional Internet training can provide attorneys and staff with the inside knowledge on where to find this information and how to create a virtual library that will save the firm time and money in the long run.

When choosing an Internet trainer, select one who can gear the training specifically to the legal professional's needs, such as an Internet-savvy attorney, paralegal or law librarian. To combat the lack of adequate written instructions on most Web sites and the general lack of standardization among the thousands of Web sites, Internet training should include written reference materials to assist users in selecting the best resources and provide search tips for the major sites. Since one of the main goals of professional Internet training is to save firms time and money, a professional Internet trainer should focus the training sessions on how to find free research resources on the Internet.

On the other hand, a professional trainer should also be able to offer advice regarding paying for information when it's the only (or best) route to take - either because the information is only available for a price or it would be quicker and more efficient to use the pay source. As with any computer application, regular Internet training can consist of teaching firm members about new features added to existing sites or introduce attorneys and staff to new sites added since the last training. Additionally, training can include teaching firm members about alternative sites when formerly used sites have disappeared from the Web.

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