Legal technologists are a hot commodity in this market. How do employers really find and retain the top talent? What can technologists do to posture themselves for continued career development? These are just a few of the questions that were covered by the panel at ILTACON this year.
It was standing room only during this break-out session at a conference with a record-breaking attendance. Careers were definitely on the mind of ILTACON attendees. Here are the three top points made during this panel discussion:
- Titles Can Be Arbitrary
Comparing job titles across organizations can be confusing and tough (if not impossible). This is particularly true in law firms where the non-attorney positions are viewed under an entirely different lens. For example, one organization may call someone a “director” while another might reference someone doing the same job as a “manager” or “analyst.” These variables make it difficult for prospective employers to objectively compare candidates or to obtain the necessary buy-in from senior leadership to expand a department.
So, what does matter? The audience was polled and an overwhelming 94% thought that it was experience that propelled someone’s advancement over college/university name (2%) or certifications (4%).
The panel agreed with the audience on this question. The panel reiterated that it is substance in performance and knowledge over superficial things like titles that matter most when identifying real talent.
This discussion prompted the question- how do people get that experience? This can be difficult to obtain or even harder to communicate to prospective employers. Brownie Davis, of Fish & Richardson, aptly noted during this conversation that this can uniquely be challenging for technologists as they “often do not have the best interpersonal skills.” To help address this, Robert Wickstrom, of Paul Hastings, said that technologists should never stop learning as there are many free opportunities always available
2. JDs Can be Useful
Although experience may be key, there are some certifications that can make a technologist stand-out. Our own Rob Gibbs, Placement Director, observed that there are many software specific certifications that are highly valued by employers in the current market. These certifications include SharePoint, various eDiscovery tools, and Technology Assisted Review (TAR).
The audience was also polled to determine whether they believed that a JD might give a technologist an advantage. The audience leaned toward a benefit with 60 percent saying “yes” and 40 percent saying “no.” The panel agreed that a JD would likely give a legal technologist an edge in doing their job. For better or worse, the degree provides a certain credibility that cannot be duplicated by anything else when dealing with lawyers. This credibility can be the key to getting something done most efficiently.
3. Money Matters
Money can make challenges easier and help recruit the right people to the table. On the candidate side, offering a higher compensation package can go a long way in attracting the right talent. However, the culture of the organization and the fit of the individual is often what makes the talent stay for long-term. Jamar Haywood, Managing Director of Tower Consulting, said that the intangibles, “how and whether you can look at someone when the walls are falling down at 3 a.m.,” is what matters most.
Interestingly, money can also play an important role in overcoming the biggest challenge for technology implementation or team building. Specifically, the audience said that their biggest challenges are:
The panel unanimously agreed with the audience that building senior management buy-in is often the biggest hurdle to technology related challenges. The panel noted that the answer to this politically challenging problem is often to trace money. Attorneys understand money—how much things cost, importance of generating revenue, and cost-cutting pressures from their clients. Start small and carefully illustrate the return on investment for any proposed change. This will most likely make it easier for attorneys to fall in line, even if they may not fully understand the underlying technology.
These are just three of the top thoughts from this engaging panel at ILTACON. A more detailed account of the live tweets during this engaging panel discussion can be found here. Many thanks to those individuals who contributed to the conversation during the live panel and on social media. Tower Legal also sincerely thanks ILTA for being such gracious hosts during this amazing conference. We look forward to a bright future with ILTA, its members, and its sponsors!
ABOUT TOWER AND THE AUTHOR
TOWER LEGAL SOLUTIONS AND TOWER CONSULTING SERVICES HAVE SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE THAT HAS PROVEN TO HELP LAW FIRMS AND CORPORATIONS REDUCE LEGAL SPEND WHILE MEETING CHALLENGING DEADLINES. TOWER HAS A NATIONAL PRESENCE WITH OFFICES IN NEW YORK, WASHINGTON D.C., ATLANTA, CHARLOTTE, DALLAS, MINNEAPOLIS, AND LOS ANGELES. KATHLEEN IS AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE IN MINNESOTA AND KANSAS. SHE IS CURRENTLY THE MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE MINNEAPOLIS OFFICE OF TOWER. FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER @KHARRELLLATHAM.
Learn more about Tower Legal Solutions: www.towerls.com