People, Learning and Development

One of the law firms I worked at had a department called ‘P.L.D.’ ~ People, Learning and Development. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? But its role was merely to assimilate into the system a number of moribund practices on induction, and, to a lesser extent, ensure that lawyers (not support staff of course) fulfilled their CPD requirements.

But just imagine the towering establishment it could have been if it had done what it said on the tin?

More particularly they had envisioned a world where EVERYONE in the firm was stretched in their learning to be the the very best they could be.

As you know one of the themes of my work is to abet everyone to be the most of anything, a phrase that I originally came across in William Taylor’s book Radically Thrilling.

Love it or loathe it, just think about your own education – not necessarily the formal stuff but that which you have pursued and acquired since qualifying into law. Are you at the top of your game and still growing?

The point is, can you honestly say that by pursuing a CPD regime you have been stretched? Even if you have been fortunate to attend a course that was helpful, how many times have you come back to your desk and put the learning pack in a drawer, never to read it again?

Learning is a lifelong process and although it would be nice to think that firms will provide you with the encouragement, funding and direction in your development, the reality is that as most of them are small businesses very few are willing to do so. Cynical as it may seem, every £ (pound) they spend on you, is a £ that they can’t draw or spend on keeping the buildings together.

Learning is just not taken seriously enough.

A light touch approach would be an understatement.

The truth of the matter is that you have to take personal responsibility for your learning and development. And yes that means having to spend money, possibly serious money.

If I it were me, I would map out the next 10 years – assuming I saw my career in legal practice – and look at the areas where I thought I could benefit most from continuing my education. That doesn’t just mean studying legal subjects.

I would consider:

  1. A computing course – possibly something that establishes you as the Go To person for digital marketing in your firm;
  2. Marketing;
  3. Sales;
  4. Accounting and Finance;
  5. Green technology – perhaps something focused on looking at emerging technologies;
  6. A art course – if it were me I would study fine art;
  7. A philosophy course; and
  8. Wealth management of some sort or another.

Now some of these might not float your boat, but ask yourself where the market is headed (and not just your market).

It isn’t more of the same.

You can expect radical change in the market in the next 10 years and even though you want to be the Go To lawyer in your neck of the woods for your area of expertise, don’t forget that every other lawyer will be or should be focused on exactly the same thing.

No, what you want to do is to stretch. To put yourself out there – in a place where you will be exposed to other areas which fulfil a basic requirement – to keep growing.

When you look back on your life, you won’t remember how much you made each year, or indeed how many things you acquired but you may just remember something you learnt which touched you and changed something about you forever.

Sounds gradiose perhaps but I have never been happier pursuing a path where every day I feel I am growing just a little bit more. Unfortunately that was not something I got from law in the end. No, in the end I felt like I had gone full circle to my days in sales where it was all about billing, billing, billing and not enough to do with client satisfaction, learning and being developed within the firm. Not quite a number but not far off it.

My challenge to you all, don’t wait for others to show you the way – go create your own path. Make an Evil Plan, one that sets you apart from your peer group in an instant.

~ Julian Summerhayes ~

6 responses to “People, Learning and Development”

  1. Cheers. So sad that lawyers think it is all over save for the billing. Shame on them. Partners should lead the charge. I remember saying to my principal when I first started my training contract, wouldn’t it be awesome if all trainees could learn by going through every department in the firm – accounts, finance, KM, PLD and facilities. They thought I was mad. But surely you need to understand how every fibre of the firm supports every other fibre of the business. I love what I do and get inspired each day from learning something new. I certainly never got that from law. Knowing 50 cases is nice, but I could always count on the fact that the systems would find those if I put in the correct search. I wish I could have carried round 50 poems or sonnets in my head.
    J,

  2. Cheers. So sad that lawyers think it is all over save for the billing. Shame on them. Partners should lead the charge. I remember saying to my principal when I first started my training contract, wouldn’t it be awesome if all trainees could learn by going through every department in the firm – accounts, finance, KM, PLD and facilities. They thought I was mad. But surely you need to understand how every fibre of the firm supports every other fibre of the business. I love what I do and get inspired each day from learning something new. I certainly never got that from law. Knowing 50 cases is nice, but I could always count on the fact that the systems would find those if I put in the correct search. I wish I could have carried round 50 poems or sonnets in my head.
    J,

  3. Mike Ricad says:

    A few years ago, I worked as an intranet administrator in the KM team of an international law firm. I can vouch for the two-tier approach to employee organisation. I have also worked at a major London Bank in The City and the Aristocrats/Peasants divide was not nearly as pronounced as in the law firm.

    A significant number of ‘staff’ were lumped under the term ‘Support’, and shuffled off to a dingy building, while all the Legal and ancilliary people were housed in a palatial showcase, with a 5 star restaurant, workout facilities and every amenity possible to make their careers a joyous experience.

    Rather than envious, I was more bemused and saddened by this divide in the way people were treated. If the wealth was shared more equitably among all employees as you suggest in your article, Julian, then the business as a whole benefits immeasurably.

    The good news is that a US legal firm bought a controlling stake in the firm and, I’m certain, brought to bear a more pragmatic and sensible approach to employee organisation.

    With the growing take-up of Social Learning and Social Business, hopefully the silly iniquities of class divides in the workplace will be relegated to history like within the rest of society.

  4. Mike Ricad says:

    A few years ago, I worked as an intranet administrator in the KM team of an international law firm. I can vouch for the two-tier approach to employee organisation. I have also worked at a major London Bank in The City and the Aristocrats/Peasants divide was not nearly as pronounced as in the law firm.

    A significant number of ‘staff’ were lumped under the term ‘Support’, and shuffled off to a dingy building, while all the Legal and ancilliary people were housed in a palatial showcase, with a 5 star restaurant, workout facilities and every amenity possible to make their careers a joyous experience.

    Rather than envious, I was more bemused and saddened by this divide in the way people were treated. If the wealth was shared more equitably among all employees as you suggest in your article, Julian, then the business as a whole benefits immeasurably.

    The good news is that a US legal firm bought a controlling stake in the firm and, I’m certain, brought to bear a more pragmatic and sensible approach to employee organisation.

    With the growing take-up of Social Learning and Social Business, hopefully the silly iniquities of class divides in the workplace will be relegated to history like within the rest of society.

  5. Miriam Said says:

    I would add Excellence in Customer Services and Call Handling Techniques to the list of courses.

    I would also add a psychology course as well as some relaxation techniques.

    And if you’re feeling brave, a typing/word processing course to improve your keyboard/typing skills.

  6. Miriam Said says:

    I would add Excellence in Customer Services and Call Handling Techniques to the list of courses.

    I would also add a psychology course as well as some relaxation techniques.

    And if you’re feeling brave, a typing/word processing course to improve your keyboard/typing skills.

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