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Training… something we do every year for incoming Fall Associates, yet somehow most of us walk away feeling like we really didn’t help integrate the newbie lawyers into the firm the way we’d really like. Of course, many of the Associates are too concerned with the billable matter that was assigned to them right before the training began, to worry about little things like learning how we bill back to the client for our online resources, or file items in the DMS, or reserve meeting rooms. So, we asked if we could start over, and create the training the way we really wanted, how would you do it?
There were some themes that ran through the answers. Two specifically.
- Real Simulations (bring your work to class)
- Make Training Mandatory (no billable work assigned until training is completed
There were a couple of other items that stood out to me. First, one of the answers expanded our Fall Associate idea to all lateral hires. We tend to think that Fall Associates have certain technology skills (which they don’t), but even worse, we assume that Lateral hires understand all of the basic principles of how a law firm works (which they don’t.)
The other item that stood out to me was about the format of training. It doesn’t have to be classroom style, and it doesn’t have to be a set time for everyone. Why not have parts of the training set up as on-demand style and let the Associates take the training at their own pace (of course, they still have to actually do the on-demand training.)
Lots of good stuff. If you didn’t get a chance to submit your own answer, there’s still the option of putting it in the comments.
(1) Adam Ziegler
- “Real” simulations, with immediate, direct, high impact feedback from supervising lawyers. For litigators, this might include drafting a small-bore motion (like a protective order motion), a discovery meet-and-confer, taking a minor deposition, a substantive legal brief, a client meeting. Impose time limits. Reward for out-performance.
- Basic, practical tech training, both “how to” and “best practices.” Excel, Word [e.g. redlining], Dropbox/Box, PPT, Outlook. Reward for out-performance.
- Business development, marketing and networking. Off-line and online activities. Set specific goals, measure and report, and reward for out-performance.
- Creative, collaborative problem-solving. Give small teams of associates a tiny budget and very short window of time, and require them to identify a discrete problem relevant to practice area, build a prototype solution and pitch it to the entire group. Reward for and implementation of best work.
I have one word that would help more than any other: “Mandatory”
Actually, now that I think about it, two words, “Mandatory” and “Graded” (applied to both the Associate, and the Partner responsible for that Associate.)
The biggest pitfall of training is the dreaded “I can’t go because Partner X has given me an assignment.” If there is no reprecussions from skipping training, or forcing Associates to pick between training and actually working on something that counts as billable time, then training will always come in second. By putting some accountability on both the Associate and the Partner, the firm shows that training is important and that everyone is expected to do whatever is needed to make sure that the newbies learn the ropes of the way work is performed at the firm.
- Make training mandatory.
- Remind partners/mentors/supervisoring attorneys that training is for the benefit of the new associate and is mandatory.
- Have real life scenarios in training sessions.
- Implement quizzes during training (especially for library & IT.)
I would do two things:
- Provide a 45-60 minute individual training orientation to the new associate on the print and electronic resources that are of general applicability, and also specific to their practice. Give them an opportunity to ask questions about the resources. I would also use this time to provide helpful knowledge and insight as to how the firm is organized and operates.
- Provide a once-yearly, 1.5 hour universal session to all new associates to showcase and optimize the firm resources available to them. The session would demonstrate why the resources are relevant to their law practice, and provide instruction as to how to access and search them. The underlying theme of the session would be to transition the associates from law school theory to real world practice.
I can’t wait to see what others say! I just wanted to drop a line and suggest that training (at least at big law) should also include laterals. I was a five-year government lawyer went I went to big law. I was given a day of training on the office computer system. I had no idea how to use a copier that required a user ID and matter number. (I was told to have someone else make the copies). I also had no idea how to bill or even how to drum up assignments. (Certainly those were necessary skills). Not that any of it really mattered. I didn’t have a performance review until year 5. But then again, big law hired me as a staff attorney or third-class citizen.
Our concept of the ideal fall associate training program, including library orientation, would start with a multi-disciplinary group (MDG) composed of representatives from various departments responsible for providing information to new hires. This group, working with the departments, would select and centralize resources (handouts, handbooks, recordings, etc.) and make them available to the fall associates in an online environment (e.g., SharePoint). SharePoint would also provide a place where the MDG could share information with each other (e.g., associate names, practice groups, start dates).
A timeline and deadlines (e.g., calendared appointment reminders) would keep associates on track in reviewing resources, tests would be incorporated into the process and some review would be mandatory. The MDG would schedule live sessions or in-person meetings. Fall associates could review resources as needed after completing orientation.
In the library, brief audio and/or video presentations providing just-in-time information would be accessible via a mobile platform for ease of access. We would link appropriate resource use to associate evaluations.
Attendance and successful test completion would be automatically tracked online and metrics would be compared against benchmarks (in the case of the library, use and cost benchmarks) to determine success.