Training in Law Firms

Training in law firms is hit and m-i-s-s. No, I think that is (way) too charitable. It is downright poor.

I don’t mean to belittle or denigrate the people who occupy the position of Training Manager but, in my experience, on the ladder of importance with PEP at the top, billing next, WIP next and then a plethora of financials, training probably ranks on the penultimate rung from the bottom. Perhaps the only thing that comes below it is the coffee machine!

It is not just the fault of law firms and their principals: the lawyers have to share a large part of the blame. They show so little interest. Of course this is no surprise because: (a) they don’t get any recognition in their time recording; (b) they don’t see the ROI; and (c) it is usually of no interest to them.

If you mention training to lawyers they immediately jump to the CPD ‘launch pad’. They fuss and obsess about getting 16 hours and quite a few of them struggle to get near that and end up on some crazy course near the year end which has nothing to do with their practice area. What a complete waste of time, energy and money.

Now CPD training is fine as it goes but genuinely what is its purpose? To educate? Well if that is the case then how are on earth are you supposed to learn something in 6 hours unless two things happen:

1. You immediately use it (of course this is impossible if it is on something that has nothing to do with your practice area); and

2. Reinforcement: if you don’t immediately have to deliver the training yourself then it won’t stick or have the same impact/longevity.

I remember an oft quoted saying from Benjamin Franklin:

“If you want to earn more [then] learn more.”

Why don’t lawyers start asking themselves what is it they want out of the firm’s training? Surely all lawyers, given that they are measured on their billing, should be receiving training on time management and efficiency? Now this is not some dreary, limp exercise in telling everyone what a letter is worth (I have been in many a meeting when the debate was had whether this could be recorded as 1 or 2 units – pah!). I mean a black diamond focused exercise on making the most of the time available.

Training doesn’t always have to involve expensive courses or even, in these modern times, a webinar. It might just mean looking at some of the resources on the Web or buying a book. I still remember going to in to one of the law libraries of the firm’s that I worked at and finding a pristine copy of Stephen R Covey’s seminal work, The 7 Habits of Highly effective People. What a complete waste.

I long for the day when the role of Training Manager, next to the Human Resources department, is given centre stage. If firms want to grow then the place to start is to equip everyone with the skills to exploit their complete potential. Not to come to work and only deliver 50% of their capability. In other words to fully unlock all that discretionary effort.

Lawyers must also start to become more accountable for their own development. There is plethora of fantastic resources on the web, and If I were in practice I would start with the following:

  • Make sure you know how to use the RSS button on your browser or better still Google Reader;
  • Set up Google Alerts on your practice area. Search for key words that are relevant;
  • Put together a mind map of those aspects of your role where you feel you need to develop. See which ones might be satisfied from within;
  • Search Google Blogs or Technorati for blogs in your practice area;
  • Look on Slideshare or Scribd.

You should find that there will be no shortage of material. You might want to see if you can get CPD for any of what you are doing. You should certainly be able to get some CPD points if you spend time writing and delivering a seminar. The point is don’t be satisfied with what the firm offers. Make sure that you are driving the agenda.

Of course as someone who is committed to training I strongly believe that if firms took this more seriously that it would revolutionise their firms.

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For more on developing profitable business, innovating in professional practice and implementing social media, subscribe to the RSS Feed of my Blog. Follow me on Twitter at @0neLife, or @Ju_Summerhayes connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your practice, check out my coaching and consulting firm via LinkedIn, email me on juliansummerhayes@gmail.com or call me on 075888 15384. I offer a free consultation and will quickly help you indentify the top 3 things that can make the biggest impact to your practice.

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