No mass tort firm, or otherwise, can be successful without the right staff. Staff training in mass tort programs meet multiple professional needs including staying apprised of developing technology, understanding court updates that impact support teams and their workflows, and fulfilling the law firm’s specific business needs.
For example, imagine an intake team who does not understand client database management systems and as a result, signed contracts and medical authorizations are not properly uploaded to the firm’s database; or a paralegal that does not understand the intricacies of plaintiff fact sheets.
Not only is the work sub-par, but it can also seriously affect the law firm’s reputation and outcomes. Consistent and applicable trainings can significantly reduce the rate of common problems like the scenarios listed above.
What is the Difference Between Education and Getting Staff Trained in Mass Tort?
Many law firms assume that because an employee has the requisite education and experience for the position, he or she is coming with much of the knowledge base they need to effectively do their jobs.
Education is defined as the process of gaining knowledge, skill, and development from study or training. Training, on the other hand, is defined as the process of learning the skills one needs to do a particular job or activity.
Training refers to the acquisition of specific and applied knowledge and skills. Training can occur in a variety of settings, including within a classroom, but frequently training takes place “on the job” or “in the field.”
While education and training are absolutely related, they are by no means the same.
The purpose of training is to improve performance and productivity among employees, typically with a focus on one set of skills.
Skills and Competencies of Mass Tort Staff.
Mass tort paraprofessionals are the backbone of the legal team. They manage all the details throughout every phase of the case– from intake to investigations to pleadings and discovery.
Mass tort paraprofessionals works very closely with attorneys, assisting in depositions, witness preparation, and research. For example, a paralegal is typically the one who prepares and handles all exhibits. They will also act as an assistant to the attorney during the court proceedings. Once a trial is over, a legal assistant may be responsible for closing out the case documents and settling with the client.
Some core mass tort paraprofessional skills include:
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
- High attention to detail
- Resourceful research and analytical skills
- Ability to manage and prioritize multiple projects and tasks
- Proficiency in Microsoft Office
Day-to-day duties include:
- Prepare, organize, and file documents and correspondence.
- Conduct legal research.
- Update and maintain internal databases.
- Prepare witness and other materials for case preparation.
- Organize relevant documents for attorney review and case preparation.
- Prepare for, and attend, depositions.
- Prepare and organize exhibits during depositions.
- Prepare and file all court documents.
Challenges of Implementing Mass Tort Training.
For most firms, the challenge is not ramping up an entire training department, though it is a big project with considerable expense. Instead, most firms will go with an outside training company to make better use of the law firm’s budget and time or rely on free or low-cost webinars to fill employee skills gaps.
Even when the firm goes with an outside training organization, they will still meet challenges.
- The quality of training may be poor, consisting of generic online delivery with little quality control.
- Whether firms are providing training in-house or working with a third party, effective and ongoing training can be expensive.
- Training may also involve travel, which can incur additional expenses and longer absences.
Types of Mass Tort Staff Training.
There are three areas of mass tort staff training that are key to ensuring your support staff has the understanding and information they need:
- Specialized Training
- Staff Management Training
- Cross Training
Practice Management for Paraprofessionals is designed to equip current and future workers with the background knowledge necessary to effectively perform their job duties and functions. The program is for legal professionals (e.g., legal assistants, secretaries, and paralegals) who are new to the mass tort practice area or for long-term workers looking for a refresher. Our 9-module training program introduces participants to an overview of job expectations and the skills needed to perform their job efficiently, and how their position melds with the organizational structure of your firm or office.
Continuing Education in Mass Tort Must be Ongoing.
A continuing education program for law firm personnel is just as important as the new hire training. When training a new employee, he/she will retain less than half of the information learned during the initial training session. Therefore, reminding the staff about various procedures and concepts needs to be ongoing, with either a formal or informal training program.
Training can only be effective when it is both an investment and a commitment made by the company. Training is a promise to the employees and the community that your company is doing all that it can to stay safe, up to date, and prepared for any situations that may arise.
Written by Jerise Henson
About the Author
Jerise Henson is the Academy Content Writer at The Mass Tort Institute. She has served in numerous roles in mass tort firms from case manager to paralegal and director of client services. She is passionate and dedicated to improving education and training for allied professionals in the mass tort industry.