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Your Firm’s Professional Development Program

It is important to create a strong professional development program that benefits the attorney, the client, and, ultimately, the firm.

Corporate clients expect attorneys working on their cases to be well versed in law, business, finance, and other substantive issues in today’s legal environment. On the flip side of the matter, millennials and new associates place a high value on training and professional development and want assurances that their career will progress successfully. Training and professional development have become an important issue for firms of all sizes. Some large firms have the resources to create training universities, mock trial boot camps or comprehensive programs that include a wide range of organized activities and courses. Smaller firms that offer little more than informal mentoring or an email reminder about mandatory CLE requirements. Here are some practical areas of professional development that benefit the attorney, the client, and, ultimately, the firm:
  • Mentoring Programs – Most law firms tout a mentoring program, often pairing up new attorneys with a partner on their first day with promises of career guidance, training and networking connections. Many of these relationships are abandoned within months and are unproductive for both parties despite good intentions.  A successful mentoring program must have clearly outlined objectives and accountability. Many firms have successfully introduced group or team mentoring programs instead of the traditional one-on-one system.
  • Career Coaching – Millennials are keen to have a roadmap that outlines their path to success. Career coaching can assist in identifying short and long-term ambitions and goals, strategize the necessary steps to achieve those goals and create a framework for success.  It is important to periodically revisit the career plan and fine-tune the details as needed whether the career coach is a partner at the firm or an outside consultant.
  • Sales & Marketing – New associates will eventually be expected to procure business for the firm and must be proficient in a myriad of marketing activities including network building, pitching, RFPs, gathering business intelligence, delivering excellent client service, managing client relations, and cross-selling. Even seasoned attorneys may benefit from a refresher class on marketing their skills and closing business.
  • MBA Knowledge for Lawyers – Corporate clients expect their legal team to know how their business operates and the challenges of their industry. New lawyers need to quickly learn the language of business and finance to communicate effectively with clients. Some law firms have turned to training programs and give their associates crash courses in business or a mini-MBA.

Your firm’s professional development program must be strongly supported and initiated by the leadership of the firm to be an effective tool. Management must commit funds, time and other resources to allow partners, associates and support personnel to actively participate in training programs.