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.
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?
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.