Shattering the training myth

Date: 
26 January 2018

Melissa Hardee explains why training shouldn’t just be for trainers & trainees

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A commonly held myth in law firms is that selecting, arranging and delivering training is the exclusive province of those in learning and development (L&D) or human resources (HR), and that it is not something that management or the fee earning population need to worry about.

The reality is somewhat different. Training involves a range of people in a firm: supervising someone’s work and giving feedback is ‘training’; fee earners who give a talk on a new legal development are delivering training. Practice areas may decide the legal technical training that should be undertaken in their group, in addition to deciding how to keep their lawyers up-to-date with legal developments.

The problem is that lawyers, although highly skilled and knowledgeable about the law, are rarely skilled and knowledgeable about training—although they may assume they are. With this in mind I set out to write The Legal Training Handbook and, later, its companion publication The Legal Training Toolkit (both available from the Law Society bookshop) which cover the essential areas for training and development that anyone dealing with training in a firm or in-house legal department needs to know. Key areas are outlined below.

Strategic planning

Strategic planning is of benefit to managing partners, chief executive officers, chief operational officers, as well as finance directors—anyone involved in the management of the business. The training a firm invests in is just that: an investment, and should provide the required return—ROI (return on investment)—based on the firm’s business plan and business objectives. This means having the appropriately skilled human resources to achieve the business objectives. If there are skills or knowledge gaps in the people the firm has employed, then training may be an effective way of addressing the gaps. However, the first step is to identify whether there are skills or knowledge gaps, and the Toolkit explains how to do a training needs analysis based on the firm’s business strategy.

The Toolkit also covers how to develop a training policy which reflects the approach a firm intends to take in using training to underpin its business, and then how to put together a training programme consistent with the policy. As with all investments in a firm, however, training should be underpinned by a training budget so that cost efficiency and cost effectiveness of the investment in training can be measured. The Toolkit explains how to put together a training budget, and the metrics than can be used to measure the ROI.

“The change to the continuing competence regime is fraught with requirements”

Trainees & the period of recognised training

The firm as a training provider needs to be satisfied that a trainee has received appropriate training, and has achieved the required skills before it can certify at the end of the period of recognised training that the trainee has completed training in accordance with Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) training regulations. Although training in this area is of particular relevance for a firm’s training principal and its trainee supervisors, it is also relevant to those involved in the pastoral care of trainees, and those responsible for regulatory matters.

Designing & delivering training sessions

Guidance on delivering training sessions helps lawyers in the firm who may be required to design and/or deliver training sessions. Training is not just carried out by those in L&D or ‘training’ roles: legal technical training in particular will often be delivered by the firm’s lawyers—fee earning or professional support lawyers (PSLs)—who have the specialist technical knowledge and expertise.

Continuing competence

Continuing competence is just as relevant to a firm’s compliance officer and management, as it is to the firm’s solicitors. For many solicitors, the change to the continuing competence regime is fraught with the requirements for identifying learning and development needs and addressing those needs. The Toolkit provides guidance on the approach a firm should take, and how to use and adapt existing procedures and practices, at the same time providing the necessary evidence base for the SRA. What is new for firms under the continuing competence regime, however, is the requirement to comply with the SRA Competence Statement, and the Toolkit explains how the SRA Competence Statement should be adapted and customised, depending on what a firm already has in place, and also where the responsibilities lie in a firm for continuing competence compliance.

Melissa Hardee is a solicitor & was training partner at CMS Cameron McKenna & then Director of the Legal Practice Course at City University’s Inns of Court School of Law, before setting up international consultancy, Hardee Consulting, in 2008.

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