Associate training is SO crucial. It is SO essential. It is SO important. I will start with a popular quote from McKinsey here. When asked how fast his company would grow, the then-managing partner of McKinsey answered, “We will grow as fast as we can train our talent.”
Some companies totally recognize this, and some put it to the side. I am not going to enter into the factors it is very important. However I will say that it is my guess (without investigating) that firms that don’t believe in associate training and do not make it an absolutely crucial effort are more likely to be companies that churn partners out the door gradually and think of them as “fungible billing systems.” On the other hand, companies that truly believe in developing their skill are ones that wish to produce super-lawyers who will be with the company for the long-term and become a deep part of the culture, to the advantage of both the lawyer and the company. However that is not exactly what I am writing about here. In this article I am discussing “how” I think a firm “must” train associates.
I believe training ought to be broken into the following classifications:
Training on the culture and desires of the company: Individuals are not widgets and companies are not things. A terrific law firm is more than a collection of billing units in a rewarding device. It is– hopefully– a collection of legal representatives that are knitted together with a typical function and, almost certainly, that function did not progress over night. In some cases a culture is created through many years or through extremely bumpy rides or other permutations. The first thing a brand-new attorney should be taught is the company’s history– where the company came from and its reason for existing. It is then easy to teach the values and culture, because almost certainly the firm’s values and culture progressed through the firm’s history and reason for being. I believe this is incredibly crucial since people who join a brand-new business want to be part of something and the first step is letting them understand exactly what they belong of. If the firm is one that inspires people to accomplish great things, go the extra mile for clients, and things like that, this is the possibility to let the new attorneys understand of these desires.
Training on ways to do legal work: In fact this is the most convenient to teach, since it is exactly what the brand-new legal representatives expect to learn and what all else anticipates to instruct. Also, there are a lot of methods to teach it, consisting of courses provided by partners, CLE, PLI, learning on the job, mentor/mentee, apprentice program, and a bunch more options. At our firm, after some trial and error, we concluded that different things work much better for various people, so we offer variances of all of these training ideas. The objective for all these is of course instructing the new legal representative the best ways to become a terrific legal representative.
As an aside, I strongly believe in exactly what we call “inconvenient training,” by which I mean preventing pigeonholing new legal representatives into a specialty area prematurely. Pigeonholing “feels good” to the associate (who develops proficiency really swiftly)– to the partner (who gets to dump the work on a trained associate)– and to the customer (who profits of lower expense); nevertheless, this can be disastrous for the associate for 2 factors. The very first, obvious factor is that at some time the location where the partner has actually been trained may end up being undesirable or unnecessary and the partner will end up being successfully pointless. This is a dreadful thing when it occurs. However the 2nd factor is even worse, and more subtle, and this is the result that early pigeonholing has on the associate’s brain. Individuals who do the same thing over and over don’t realize it however their brains become not able to handle brand-new and tough tasks. This is due to the fact that the associate has been in a warm comfort zone where she knows exactly what to do in a slim location. There is little reason to think outside the box. The “troublesome training,” which requires the partner to try her hand at just about everything that is available in the door, is really rough on everyone (especially the associate, who feels constantly underwater, besieged, inadequate, terrified and other unpleasant feelings). However, exactly what takes place after about a year approximately is that the partner’s brain ends up being battle-hardened and forged into exactly what all of us want; namely, an attorney who, when presented with something new and various, reacts something like: “Never seen it before but, no concerns, I’ll figure it out.” I call this being intellectually fearless.
Training on the best ways to WOW customers: There are some lawyers who do a completely great job and the client is completely pleased. And afterwards there are some legal representatives who simply leave the customer in a state of WOW. These latter attorneys are the ones who set the legal world on fire. They are the ones the clients keep coming back for, the ones who develop the relationships, the ones that the clients, and the firms at which they work, merely can’t do without. This skill needs to absolutely be instructed. I confess I do not really have a magic formula for the best ways to teach it except to state that the 1st step is to acknowledge the vital significance of the WOW aspect; the 2nd step is to identify those who have it; the 3rd step is for those who have it to find out exactly what it is, since it is frequently so subtle in nature; and the 4th step is for those who have this skill to instruct it to the new associates.
Training on Advertising and Relationship Building: I don’t consider marketing to be something associates avoid of and only partners do. I believe it is an essential part of any attorney’s job, so I highly promote beginning to train associates on marketing and relationship building from the day they show up. It appears the height of folly to not train an associate on these vital principles and afterwards when the associate becomes a partner tell her, “Okay, now go and generate some customers.” At that point, she will not know the first thing about ways to do it. At our firm, as soon as associates arrive we begin instructing them advertising abilities, including the best ways to source customer relationships, the best ways to build the relationships, how to get ready for a pitch, the best ways to deal with oneself at a pitch and, of greatest importance, the best ways to build their careers so that they have something beneficial to provide for a client in the first place. We have discovered that recently minted attorneys, particularly the ones in law school, find this of huge value. Numerous of them understand how vital “getting clients” will be to their careers, and they see no need to wait 8 or 9 or ten years to obtain these abilities. By the way, I teach this personally at my company, and I am regularly astonished at how quickly the brand-new attorneys get these abilities and how reliable they are with customers with just a modicum of training.
So there you have it. That is what I think is necessary. I will respond to another question here, which is the question as to who should teach? The answer is everyone– no exceptions. This “especially” includes senior partners– and handling partners– who must be leading by example. There are no 2 methods about this. Your law firm either is actually dedicated to training its talent or it is not. If it is, then this can not just be delegated to the least useful attorney or lawyers who are out to pasture. It needs to be clear that the most senior attorneys in the firm support this one hundred percent. If not, everybody will certainly really fast recognize that it is ruled out a concern and so training will be typically neglected by everybody, and the company and its lawyers will certainly both suffer and miss out on fantastic opportunities.
By the way, we have actually formalized these procedures at my company into DSU (Duval & Stachenfeld University). We made use of to be quite poor at training and afterwards about five years ago understood how much we were screwing up. Now it is part of our core objective: “to draw in, train and retain skill.” We have about 50 courses annually, we have two of our partners as deans, and about 20 partners, including yours truly, teach the courses. As I grow older, I suggest more senior, this will certainly be among the last things I will quit.