Let’s not get into a Laurel and Hardy argument: training is a bottom line issue, and you treat it like every other supplier: spend as little as possible.
I recall my early days in practice. The requirement of CPD was fulfilled via external courses. CLT was the main provider with the local Law Society also playing a role.
But firms quickly worked out ways to avoid the individual cost, and brought more of their training under their own roof.
As for training now?
It is not high priority.
The process for booking a course is enough to put most people off.
There is, however, a more fundamental issue (or two) in play.
I predict that lawyers will have to become better all rounders (in a business sense) if they are going to compete in the market. It won’t be enough to be a specialist in any one activity or area of law. In fact, my view is that some have already gone too far on the specialist front and the ones to prosper in the future will be more generalist.
Another area that will bear on the issue of training is the push towards the business franchise model where systems and a systematised way of working are the order of the day (think McDonalds).
I have previously waxed lyrical about Michael Gerber’s remarkable book The E-Myth Revisited. If you have not read it then I implore you to go buy a copy and make sure that every lawyer in your firm reads it. I shall not reveal the plot line but it is focused around a pie baking business that is transformed by adopting a McDonalds way of working.
I know it sounds low brow but trust me when I say it may be the best thing you ever read, particularly if you put into action the process that Michael Gerber describes.
On the point about education, lawyers have an over-developed sense of their worth but how many of them have run and started a successful business of their own? Not many in my experience. They are happy to dish out advice but I wonder if they would be prepared to follow their own advice?
Yes, you can avoid risk but what about pitching an idea in Dragons Den style?
On the education point, surely it is worth exploring a number of problem areas and building a course around those that imprint the firm’s DNA on its lawyer cohort.
The training contract is just the start. You want to develop your leaders of the future. Or, as I have described many times before, you want to ensure that every person is the most that they can be. Some will have a proclivity towards growing a practice. Others client engagement. And others doing the work.
Of course training is not a substitute for real world experience but you have to start treating it much more seriously if you want to compete in the market place.
So many firms talk about wanting to be the employer of choice. One of the reasons why people join firms is that they think it will be a better place than the one they have just left. Surely, one way to demonstrate this is to have a process of education that sets you apart from the competition.
And then there is mentoring.
And then there is working on secondment.
And then there is firm rotation so that everyone gets to experience what it is like to work in some of the support functions of the practice: Human Resources, Finance and Marketing. I think it just as important that trainees understand how the firm works from the inside as they do providing legal advice.
The point about your people is that they need to feel that you care. And care deeply.
Training if done well can have a meaningful and long-lasting effect on your practice.
Start the process as soon as you can.
One last thought. If you were to build the best law firm in the country then what training would you have to provide to bring that about?
~ Julian Summerhayes ~