In the short life of the Ritter Academy, we have uncovered an unexpected barrier to training that, no matter how powerful and effective our content, we must call out in order to find a way to overcome it. Another title for this post might begin “You can lead a horse to water, but. . . .”
A reality we have learned is that professionals are afraid of technology, and that fear is inhibiting their enthusiasm to learn. One young litigator even confessed to me that he was upset he was required to attend training on e-discovery—“I went to law school to avoid all this computer technology stuff.”
Except for the IT professional, many experienced professionals remain quietly intimidated by technology and its implications for how they do their jobs. But, instead of investing in overcoming those fears, they remain largely in denial, believing that someone else can take the responsibility, “cover” what they do not know, or minimize the depth of learning they must pursue.
But in evaluating what could be the “root cause”, we have identified some other factors that may be more responsible than simple fear.
- First, to take a formal class or attend a conference is, itself, an admission you don’t know what others might expect you to know. That can be tough, particularly as individual gains seniority.
- Second, attending a formal class or conference also means suspending the revenue-oriented activities which the professional is otherwise expected to perform. This is a direct cost that makes it harder, particularly in the current economy, to voluntarily select to attend formal training.
- Third, the legal profession was built on a business model which presumed that research, analysis, and mastering the rules for particular matters were billable activities—in other words, ongoing learning was paid for by the client. That is no longer the case—clients expect their team members to know the answers. They are less and less willing to pay for research, particularly on topics that the client presumes the attorney already has mastered.
- Yet, the legal profession’s requirements for continuing professional education, set by each state for its lawyers, are among the lowest for any profession. State rules vary, but the norm is about 12 hours per year. By contrast, medical doctors generally are required to complete 50 hours per year, and even more in some certified specialties.
- In some respects, the low requirements in the legal profession for continuing education are aligned to the business model for billable research—in other words, the bar association need not establish more demanding requirements since, for every lawyer, ongoing research is presumed to be part of any engagement.
So, we know we have built a learning resource that (a) enables a professional to learn at their own pace, without attending formal events, (b) delivers flexible access and control, allowing a professional to learn when doing so minimally interferes with their ongoing job duties, and (c) by using our visually engaging, interactive RitterMaps, rapidly accelerates the transfer of what one needs to learn, thereby making the overall time investment smaller, and more effective.
But how do we overcome the fear of change? How do we make professionals more comfortable with continual learning as part of how they do their job? How do we get experienced professionals to overcome their pride, and embrace learning as a strategy for remaining competitive and valued, particularly as courts continue to impose sanctions on lawyers who display their incompetence in managing electronic evidence for the truth?
I welcome your thoughts and dialogue about this important issue.