Training of associates. Everyone agrees it’s critical. But all too often, it’s left to happenstance. As I have discussed before, happenstance training often penalizes women and people of color. Older white partners gravitate toward younger versions of themselves when making assignments that serve as training.

Even beyond that, a “luck of the draw” training approach is pretty dumb, given the tight labor market.

Of course, some firms attempt to create training programs. But all too often, they are run by partners who would rather work on billable matters. And let’s face it, lawyers are trained to be teachers/trainers. Another option is to rely on videos. Also ineffective

Yet another approach is to require associates to go to fancy training programs put on by outside entities. These programs are expensive and time-consuming.

Enter AltaClaro. AltaClaro is an online, hands-on law firm training provider. It combines the need for associates to learn from life-like simulations with feedback from experienced attorneys skilled at training. And it’s all done online.

According to AltaClaro, “AltaClaro is the leading provider of interactive, experiential legal training. Our unique learn-by-doing and feedback model helps learners become practice-ready more quickly. It empowers participants from the world’s top law firms, corporations, and law schools to own their career trajectories while assisting enterprises to drastically reduce training costs.”

I talked recently at some length with the co-founder of AltaClaro, Abdi Shayesteh. Shayesteh is an interesting guy. He founded his first company at 17, selling clothing to fraternities and sororities. He sold the company, went to law school, and founded a fintech company. He sold that and went to work for Big Law.

He quickly realized that law school hadn’t really taught him very much about the practice of law. He also realized that young lawyers would learn best in an apprenticeship and guild system, which is impractical in today’s world. He told me said that the catch-as-catch-can system often used in firms was impractical. As Shayesteh puts it, “Success [in law firms] should not depend on luck.”

The more he thought about it, the more he also came to believe that teaching by lectures or videos was impractical. “You can’t learn to swim by watching videos,” as he put it. And leaving training to the lawyers in the firm was also ineffective. It was expensive (loss of billable hours) and inconsistent (some were better at it than others).

The AltaClaro training approach has three pillars: Learn, do, review

Shayesteh saw all this as an opportunity and put together AltaClaro in the classic ” I see a problem to solve approach.” The AltaClaro training approach has three pillars: Learn, do, review. The trainees first watch a one-hour video that reviews the legal principles involved in a particular substantive area. The trainees are then given a specific client a fact pattern that they must review. They have to mark up and redline documents and execute on what needs to be done with the fact pattern. While there may be gray areas to discuss further with the hypothetical client, but just like real work, the trainees identify those to discuss in the redline. The instructors then review the redlines and give feedback on three things: 1) did the associates spot the issues, 2) did they come up with practical solutions to those issues, and 3) did they use best practices when addressing those issues (e.g., best drafting technique, approach, and/or solution).  These redlines are all reviewed by AltaClaro’s team of experienced instructors who are attorneys skilled in the particular area.

The instructors review the solutions provided by the trainees in a group setting (ten trainees to a session). Input comes not only from the instructors but also from the students themselves. Shayesteh told me the goal is to create a safe place for the associates to ask questions, make mistakes, and learn. All of this is done over Zoom.

While I haven’t gone through the training, by all indications, it’s been a success. Shayesteh told me over 3000 associates have gone through the program, and AltaClaro has contracts with 30% of the AmLaw 200 firms. The program supplies some solid training and helps identify associates needing extra help. Let’s face it: it’s a lot more profitable to identify associate problems and correct them than to have an associate perform poorly and then end up terminating them.

AltaClaro started by offering the training to Amlaw 100 and 200 firms. It plans to expand the entities to which the program is offered in the future. It also plans to expand the subject matter offerings to litigation and ediscovery, as well.

In addition, AltaClaro recently announced a partnership with Mackrell International, an international law firm network. The plan is to offer prompt engineering training to the network members. According to the press release, “Participants will learn the key elements of effective, prompt engineering and how to apply these elements to any assignment using generative AI platform in a manner that is safe, ethical and consistent with professional standards.”

Mackrell network is composed of firms that have 50-300 lawyers. The network consists 90 firms for a total of 4000+ lawyers from those firms. From all indications, it’s a collegial group of firms that have similar cultures. So working together on a training program like that provided by AltaClaro should be a good fit. The training program will follow Alta’s same “learn, do, review” format.

Again, I have not gone through any of AltaClaro’s programs. But conceptually, it gets to a fundamental problem I have discussed before. The training issue is particularly acute since it is what most partners who insist on returning to the office demand focus upon. But many of those firms don’t really have formal training, or if they do, it’s done poorly. Bumping into a partner at the watercolor (do they still have those things?) is not a training program.

The program’s success hinges on the review process taking place in a safe environment where associates don’t feel self-conscious or defensive

I had to wonder, though. The program’s success hinges on the review process taking place in a safe environment where associates don’t feel self-conscious or defensive. I know from experience that this kind of process works well when the participants know and trust one another. I have served on the faculty of a trial technology program where we use a similar learn, do, review process. But most participants in that program know each other to start with, and the faculty members have earned their trust over time.

The AltaClaro program starts in a different place. Associates will naturally compete with one another generally. And since partners can attend the review sessions, it could make for a less than safe place.

I raised all this with Shayesteh. He assured me that AltaClaro recognizes these issues and works hard to ensure participants that the review process is a safe place. For one thing, the instructors are carefully vetted before they are selected. They have to be currently practicing and have practiced for ten years with an AmLaw 100 firm. The instructors themselves are put through a mock training session and must get at least 4.5+ stars on a scale of 5 from the participants to qualify. They are well compensated and are in the program because they like teaching and want to do it.

All in all, the AltaClaro program attempts to get at the thorny issue of associate training in a new and different way. I like the fresh approach and hope it succeeds. I have seen too many associates encounter career setbacks only because their firms didn’t take the time to provide sound training. That’s not fair to the associates and disadvantages the firm.

Thanks, Abdi Shayesteh, for seeing a problem and offering a solution.

I hate it when people talk about dysfunctional families. That suggests there are functional ones, but I sure haven’t seen one yet.

Smokeball, a cloud-based legal practice management software provider, today released its 2024 State of the Law Report. It reveals some pretty scary findings about smaller law firms and their lack of knowledge of fundamental business principles. The Report also shows a certain lack of consistency between what these firms believe is happening in the market and what they are doing about it. The Smokeball study suggests that many legal professionals in smaller firms are not rushing to adopt technologies, like Generative AI that could help them better serve their clients and be more profitable.

Continue Reading Smokeball Report Reveals a Dysfunctional View of Business and Technology by Smaller Law Firms 

Every now and then, I publish guest posts. I’m especially thrilled to offer the following posts for a couple of reasons. First, it is written by the esteemed and well-known plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jeffery Kimmel. His bio is at the end of the post but suffice it to say he’s a talented plaintiffs’ lawyer and author who frequently appears as an expert legal source for national media. The second reason I’m happy to offer this is that the post looks at the use of technology from a plaintiffs’ lawyer perspective. I come from a defense, bill by the hour, perspective so it’s refreshing to see another viewpoint. I hope you find the post as interesting as I do.

Innovative Advancements: How Plaintiff Attorneys Use Technology and Work Processes Differently

The use of technology in the legal industry has become increasingly important. This is especially true for plaintiff attorneys who represent individuals or groups of individuals wronged by another party. In the Bloomberg Law 2022 Legal Ops and Tech Survey, 86% of the survey participants agreed that legal tech significantly impacts their firm’s ability to meet client demands. With continual advancements in technology, this blog post aims to delve into the diverse ways plaintiff attorneys utilize these tools to effectively navigate the intricacies of their legal practice, adapt, and stay ahead.

Leveraging Legal Research Tools

Continue Reading Guest Post: Innovative Advancements: How Plaintiff Attorneys Use Technology and Work Processes Differently

Thomson Reuters announced several new generative artificial intelligence tools and platforms earlier this week. I had the privilege of attending a press briefing hosted by Thomson Reuters in advance of the announcement. Thomson Reuters personnel discussed the new products and offerings and allowed several of us to try them out. The presentations and products were impressive.

Continue Reading Thomson Reuters Unveils Next-Gen AI Tools with a Vision for the Future

A recent Major Lindsay & Africa Survey shows a startling gap between law firm management and law firm associates. Major Lindsay & Africa is a legal search firm that conducted its study at the beginning of 2023.

Here are some results that should cause management to take notice:

  • 60% of the associates surveyed say their firms are doing little to nothing to keep them at their firms.
  • 25% say they do not plan to stay at their firm for over a year.
  • 92% say they have yet to be asked to participate in an interview to give feedback on their experience at the firm.
Continue Reading Law Firm Associate Expectations: What Law Firms Need to Know. And Do

For years, many of us toiling away in law firms thought that life would be so much better as an in-house counsel. You didn’t have to bill time; you didn’t have billable hour quotas. You didn’t have to hustle business. Life would be so much simpler.

But a couple of recent surveys pretty clearly confirm that the grass is seldom greener. A study by Axiom, an alternative legal service provider, for example, has disturbing news for those thinking about jumping ship to in-house. 89% of the in-house lawyers surveyed say they are dissatisfied with their positions. That’s just about every in-house counsel surveyed. 61% say they are very stressed with their current jobs (so much for the simplistic, carefree life we outside lawyers envisioned).

Continue Reading The Harsh Reality of Being In-House Counsel: An Opportunity for Outside Lawyers?

I was recently a guest on a podcast called Discussions at the Round Table. The podcast is put on by the Round Table Group. The Group is a premier expert referral service. It locates, vetts, and engages expert witnesses in complex litigation matters. I was asked to talk about my work as a practicing lawyer with experts over the years.

For most of my career, I was a national mass tort defense lawyer. I had the chance to work with all sorts of experts in all types of cases and jurisdictions. Some of these experts were better, and some were worse. And the fact that the rules concerning what must be disclosed and how detailed expert reports must be sometimes made working with experts complicated.

Continue Reading Unlocking Success in Complex Litigation: 10 Essential Strategies for Lawyers and Experts

In the ever-evolving legal technology landscape, innovation has become synonymous with progress. Clio, a leading provider of cloud-based legal technology, has taken a significant step forward for one market segment by recognizing the specialized needs of personal injury law firms and lawyers. The product is called Case Management Software for Personal Injury Firms. The product is an add-on to Clio’s cloud-based legal practice management software, Clio Manage.

Clio is now offering plaintiffs’ lawyers features that it hopes will maximize settlements, streamline medical record management, and accelerate recovery proceeds and disbursements.

Continue Reading Clio’s Personal Injury Case Management Software: Tailoring Innovation to Meet Legal Needs

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

With all the hype over GenAI, the metaverse, the digital world where people/avatars can mingle, has been largely forgotten. After all, the notion of working in teams of cartoonish avatars seemed unlikely at best. And silly at worst, particularly for any business purposes. No one seemed interested in dealing face to face with an avatar that looked like, say, Donald Duck. So, most of us dismissed the metaverse, putting it in the same class as blockchain. Much ado about nothing. Solutions in search of problems.

But then I happened to come across some groundbreaking work that Meta (formerly known as Facebook) is doing. The program is called Codec Avatars. It focuses on making the avatars closely resemble what we really look like and less abstract. They call these things Codec avatars. The goal is to make the avatars what they call “photo realistic” as opposed to expressive. Ok, you say, big deal, they are still unrealistic avatars with no arms and legs, etc. Why not just keep using Zoom?

Continue Reading The Metaverse and Blockchain for Legal: We’re Back

There’s little doubt that In today’s rapidly evolving legal landscape, the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into legal is poised to change the way lawyers operate. Clio’s unveiling of Clio Duo, a multifaceted AI tool designed to assist legal professionals, raises some interesting questions about the future of the legal profession, what constitutes success and how being a good lawyer is defined.

Clio CEO Jack Newton introduced Clio Duo today at ClioCon. According to the press release, Clio Duo will serve as a coach, intuitive collaborator, and expert consultant to legal professionals. Clio claims that Duo will enable customers to unlock their own data, become more effective business owners, and get better outcomes for clients. The video of the tool unveiled at the keynote showed a person asking Duo about the status of bills and cases, to summarize documents and for help getting ready for client meetings. Like so many vendor introductions in this arena, the Clio GenAI tool is a promise, not a reality today. But that’s perhaps to be expected, given how quickly the area is being developed.

Continue Reading Clio’s New AI Tools: Transforming Legal Practice and Redefining Legal Success?