The Perfect Match: Finding the Right Training for Your Law Firm

The Need for Training

The legal market is a highly competitive playing field where constantly acquiring and developing skills is essential to stay in the game. Strengthening the selling and communication skills in particular of each lawyer is needed keep the firm productive and competitive, especially with the speed of updates in the industry and market. With each new issue, opportunity, and challenge, there also arise new tools and techniques.

So, whether it’s to upgrade existing skills, to acquire new industry knowledge, or even just to learn a new tool or technique, a law firm must continue to train its lawyers.

The Problem When Choosing Trainings

Being very logical in their approach, most law firms end up making the very common mistake of going for a “one size fits all” approach. The idea is to look for the most successful and sought for solution. So, when selecting training programs, law firms tend to invest into the most popular or standard types of training and expect it to work for everyone in the firm. Attorneys whose situation and existing training needs fit the training program can benefit the most from it; but for everyone else, it can be a huge waste of time, effort, and money.

This is the main reason why some lawyers remain skeptical of training programs geared for their profession: which of them will really be helpful to the firm?

Key Factors in Finding the Right Training Program

Before your firm even starts to make a list of the training programs it needs its lawyers to undergo, it has to assess and group each member by certain factors. Profiling and grouping the firms’ lawyers according to their skills and situation is a more accurate and efficient approach in training program selection.

The following are the key factors and categories that should help your firm determine which type and level of training is required for each group:

  1. Skills and Opportunities

    Enlisting entry-level professional in an advanced-level training program poses the risk of them not being able to fully appreciate or even understand (much less apply) the concepts being taught to them. On the other hand, signing up an industry veteran to do a training that tackles the basics would be a huge waste of resources for something that simply serves as a “refresher” for them and could be taken up as a self-study or optional course.

    That said, this is why conducting a training needs analysis (TNA) is important to evaluate and organize a law firm’s lawyers by their skills, expertise, and even opportunities. When we speak of “opportunities” this can refer to possibilities tied to their position and influence, based on their network and personal and work relationships.

    To have a better understanding of these concepts, here’s an example of how to categorize law firm lawyers for marketing and sales skills training, and which type of training works best for each:

    Category I: Significant Selling Skills and External Opportunities

      1. Rainmakers. These are the successful sellers that constantly bring in a lot of business to the firm. Their training should be geared towards planning rather than additional skill-building. The firm can also organize short mentorship sessions, similar to the popular “brown bag” sessions common in IT firms, to allow these individuals to share their magic to selected less-experienced associates.
      2. Pitchers. These are law firm partners whose networks include senior executives and engage in selling but have low closing percentages. Pitchers can benefit on coaching-based training that improves selectivity, eliminate product-driven pitches, and control the selling situation. Similar to the rainmakers, newer and younger lawyers will benefit from in-house training in pitching, which is a very useful skill to learn and master.
      3. VIPs. These are distinguished and high-profile individuals in the industry that hold leadership positions in notable organizations but generate little to no business. They would benefit the most from full corporate selling skills programs that emphasize on planning and coaching, and would help them make the most out of their “visibility” in the market. The firm may also explore how to leverage further the influence of these individuals by documenting their success stories and making these available to every member for study.

    Category II: Limited Selling Skills and External Opportunities

      1. No Market. These are law firm lawyers that have no defined target market and select clients randomly. A “market focus” training together with corporate selling skills development would be best. This is usually the case with those still building up their practice; even short “how-to” presentations, much like a TED Talk will be helpful for them once in a while.
      2. Mature Market. These refer to lawyers with good reputation but are in mature service or practice areas that see a lot of requests for proposals (RFPs) that they feel obligated to respond to. These types sometime get stuck in a comfort zone without realizing that there are more profitable clients outside of their niche. A “market focus” training will help them identify potentially more lucrative clients and transition towards this new market.
      3. Experts. These are legal professionals who are known for to be experts in a particular legal area/discipline but generate no business. This is because they might be seen as too expensive or too busy and often, they have also become too picky when it comes to client selection. They become more like resource or inspirational speakers, invited to conference to deliver keynote addresses and such. Those in this category will require training that will help them turn their expertise into fresh demand for their services, focusing on the added value of their track record and knowledge.

    Category III: No Selling Skills and External Opportunities

      1. Service Partner. These lawyers simply work for their law firm partners’ clients and cases, and haven’t distinguished themselves in the market. They are often intimidated at the thought of marketing or selling because for some reason or another they had gradually assigned or seen this task as someone else’s expertise. It would be beneficial for them (and the firm) to undergo comprehensive training on basic marketing and selling, with emphasis on coaching/mentoring until they’re able to get comfortable with marketing.
  1. Time and Schedule

    Time is a valuable and scarce resource in a busy law firm. Every second you invest in training your firm’s lawyers is a second away from them finding or handling clients. This is where training must consider each lawyer’s schedules to maximize their prior or existing commitments. But how much time can each lawyer in the firm really afford to spend in training? How do we schedule the latter and ensure that their workload don’t get affected?

    A simple survey among the firm’s members to get the answers to these questions would help you find the best mode of training: whether you need to choose a self-paced training program with no time limit, or one with a fixed schedule that individuals may be asked to participate in.

  1. Learning Style and Delivery

    As in any organization or learning institution, each individual possesses a learning style. Factors that contribute to each unique learning style include inherent personality traits, educational training and academic rigor practiced at law school or quite simply just personal circumstances that hinder or facilitate learning outcomes.

    Thus, training styles vary from program to program: heavily lecture-based, hands-on, guided, independent learning, modular, or a mix of these styles. It’s important to know which ones work best for each lawyer. You may have lawyers in the firm who find it more tedious than enriching to sit and watch a day’s worth of training videos. These would rather do readings and activities. Others may prefer to be self-paced and independent on trainings with a modular approach. Still others might prefer some form of guided mentorship by those they perceive to know more or those they aspire to become.

    There are many mediums to choose now, with the pandemic restrictions, perhaps a webinar with activities would suffice or a coach doing regular but short learning conversations would be a better fit.

Is This Worth Doing?

If you even start to doubt if it’s even worth the time and effort to go through all the trouble of assessing and categorizing the lawyers of the firm for training, DON’T.

It may be well to remember that spending thousands of dollars and valuable hours on a training that may or may not work for everyone will cost you even more in the long run. With this efficient approach, you can conversely ensure that your firm’s lawyers benefit from every second of that training that you invest on, as they ensure your firm’s future credibility and competitiveness.

Realistically, there is no “perfect” match in terms of training programs, but categorizing can go a long way to help your firm pick the “closest fit”. With luck, you may even identify issues and other organizational needs of the firm in the process.