Is Skills Training only for Junior Lawyers?

There’s a bit of a myth out there that skills training is only something that’s necessary for junior lawyers.

Unfortunately, it’s such a prevalent myth that this article probably goes contrary to the experiences of many.

However, today I want to suggest to you that having a skills training program for law firms requires investment and commitment to skill building at all levels, not just as something “we do for the junior staff”.

What’s the Point of Skills Training?

Ultimately the purpose behind any form of skills training is to make your staff more valuable to the marketplace.

That applies across all levels.  As a whole firms are always looking to improve the value they offer the market, and so why shouldn’t the individual lawyers from top to bottom be doing likewise?

Ultimately the value a firm offers to the market is only as good as what the lawyers can actually implement in day to day practice, so training them is going to be the catalyst for overall improvement.

Don’t Senior Lawyers Know it all Already?

No.

In fact senior lawyers who think they know it all are the ones who have become cruisers.  They might still be offering some value to their firms as operatives within their current skill set, but until they start committing to improvement they are simply going to get left behind.

It’s a Question of What, not If

Really I would like to think that the benefit of skills training of senior staff is self-evident.  However, experience tells me that many firms simply don’t live up to this expectation, focusing their training efforts on juniors only.

Once you get over the hurdle of actually deciding to do it, however, the question becomes what to train senior staff in?

This is where delegation and leverage become important issues.

For firms to be functioning profitably, they need an effective system of delegation.  Senior lawyers need to be delegating work to junior lawyers where at all possible.

How is that relevant to skills training?  Well it achieves two main things:

  • It gives the senior lawyer an opportunity to do “on the job” training with a junior lawyer, by frequently allowing the junior lawyer to become more practiced at any number of skills required to perform the task being delegated;
  • It frees up the senior lawyer to do higher value work.

It’s the higher value work that needs to be the subject of skills training for senior staff.

You see, the junior professionals are frequently learning new skills every day through on the job training.  Every new question, new task, and new assignment is giving them opportunities to learn.

The senior staff need to be learning how to actively pursue asset-building work.  They need to be learning how to invest their non-billable time effectively and appropriately, how to market to clients and prospects alike, how to bring in work and service clients well, and how to ultimately increase the value of the firm through offering greater value to their market.

So What do you Have?

Does your firm have an effective system for training both senior and junior staff?  What about the partners – what’s the system for them learning skills to bring value in the door?  How does that differ from junior lawyers?  Let me know what you think works or doesn’t in the comments.

To me it’s a “horses for courses” issue – we can’t lump all training under the one umbrella, but rather we need to look at things from a more individualized perspective to see how each of our staff can be improving.

Is that time consuming and difficult?  Yes.  Is it worth the investment if you do it right?  You bet.

Happy lawyering!

>