Law Firm Training: Your Questions Answered
Now more than ever, law firms are seeking to provide e-learning programs for their attorneys and staff. 2020 proved to all of us that it is no longer ok to rest on your technology laurels and keep doing things the old way. Even long-complacent attorneys, who resisted learning new tricks, have embraced technology training for attorneys because they are working from home and don’t know how to do many simple tasks on their own.
The question is: how does a law firm launch, host and manage a successful training program? The answer is to subscribe to the best learning management system for law firms. Without a learning management system (LMS), you will be forced to hand-feed courses, links and learning paths to attorneys and staff using Excel spreadsheets and one-off emails every time a request hits your in-box. No one has time for that!
The best learning management system for law firms should include the following:
- Cloud-based so that you host nothing on premises. The cloud assures that your users have secure access to training materials no matter where they want to log on.
- Robust tracking and reporting features, enabling administrators to follow individual users’ progress or chart firm-wide trends.
- Loaded with training content that is custom-crafted for the legal industry.
- Gamification tools mean administrators can create positive competition and buzz among learners, fostering a culture of learning.
- Priced by the seat, meaning you pay only for what you use.
- Complete customization powers of the portal’s look and feel, including the ability to brand it with the firm’s logo.
If you are looking for the best learning management system for law firms, we recommend that you take a free demo of the SavvyAcademy Learning Management System.
There are many, many companies that provide training for law firms. However, very few of those companies solely train law firms, attorneys and staff. The legal industry is unique, so we recommend that you seek a training partner that lives and breathes the legal landscape.
Additionally, in order to find a good company that provides training for law firms, you should look for a training partner with a track record of success. For example, Savvy Training & Consulting has been serving the legal industry for over 20 years and we have a long list of satisfied clients who come from firms of every size and location. Ask for references from your prospective training partner’s past and current clients.
Finally, especially after all we’ve learned from COVID, you should seek a law firm training partner who can deliver any training you need remotely and do it well. Even after things get back to normal (fingers crossed), many firms will never again opt to put a large group of people in one room filled with laptops. Instead, remote training enables you to deliver new skills to your team no matter where they live or work.
With budgets very tight at many law firms, it’s understandable that you would be looking for a free learning management system. However, if you actually find a free LMS, it likely won’t be a true LMS. It will probably lack many of the reporting and tracking features that make an LMS truly necessary. Also, buyer beware: some LMS companies will advertise that their LMS is free when only the first month is free.
But truly, an LMS doesn’t have to break your law firm’s budget! (However, if you build your own custom LMS, that might break the bank.) Yes, there are some LMS companies that charge for absolutely everyone in your firm, even if many of those people will never use the system. You should seek a company that only charges based on the number of users.
Also, you should really look for a quality product. It may cost you a couple more bucks per user, but you will reap so many more benefits. For example, the SavvyAcademy LMS is built on the LearnUpon platform, which is an award-winning learning management system backed by hundreds of engineers and developers. Additionally, you literally cannot get better customer service than Savvy’s, which is a huge benefit for law firm trainers who like a little extra help on their to-do list.
So, you may find a so-called free LMS, but that probably means it’s either junk, or not actually free.
Honestly, the best way to provide ANY professional development – no matter who your learners are – is to make the content relevant and the delivery painless. Attorneys are extremely busy people and their time is literally money. Therefore, if you want them to participate in your law firm training program, you’d better make sure that you are providing something they want and need, and that you’re doing it efficiently.
Here are several training modalities that may work for your attorney professional development program:
- Group training, in-person or online: When you have to teach a large number of attorneys the same thing, you can offer group training in-person or online. Group trainings enable you to “hit a lot of balls with one bat,” so to speak. However, since you don’t want to waste attorneys’ time, you need to make sure that ALL of the content you’re covering is new (they don’t already know it) and that you deliver it efficiently.
- Firm-wide learning via an LMS: Rather than gathering everyone together as a group (in-person or virtually), using an LMS you could instead assign the learning to attorneys to complete on their own time. If your LMS is cloud-based (as it should be), the attorneys can tackle their assignments any time from anywhere.
- Individualized learning via an LMS: In order to accommodate different learners’ abilities, you can require baseline assessments on an LMS and then assign learning paths based on those findings. This way, you customize learning for each user, assuring that you’re not wasting their time with redundant information.
- One-on-one: This is the Cadillac of all training programs, because it gives the attorney the trainer’s full attention, whether in-person or on a Teams/Zoom call. This kind of training can easily shift and flex to accommodate what the attorney already knows, enabling the trainer to escalate the value and impact of new learning with the attorney.
If you’re in charge of technology training for lawyers, you know that a lot of the content out there doesn’t completely fit the legal industry. Too often, lawyers Google a trick that they need to do in Word, for example, and end up doing something that goes against all legal structures, not to mention your firm’s norms and standards. (Even something as routine as a Table of Contents can cause some attorneys hours of work… and they may get it wrong if their source is Google!)
Luckily, there is one law firm training content developer that focuses solely on the legal industry. Savvy Training & Consulting is laser-focused on serving law firms and has been for over 20 years. Our content is developed by people who have actually worked as paralegals, assistants, managers and (in one case) an attorney-turned-judge! We know the legal industry, and our training content is developed to serve its unique needs.
The best law firm training programs are the ones that precisely fit your firm’s needs, right? Likely, to fit that bill, you will have to provide several types of law firm training, depending on your goals. These training programs may include:
- Ongoing technology training for the platforms that your firm uses the most: For example, most law firms need ongoing training for Microsoft’s popular tools, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This training content can generally be purchased in a training library, but you should make sure that it specifically addresses the ways that law firms use these tools (as mentioned above).
- Training for upgrades or rollouts at your law firm: When your firm upgrades a system or rolls out a new tool, such as a document management system, you will probably need to provide short-term training to get your team productive as quickly as possible. If you are seeking a training company for upgrades or rollouts at your law firm, make sure the company has experienced trainers who know your new systems well.
- CLE trainings for attorneys: In order to maximize their attorneys’ time, many law firms are seeking to acquire and deliver CLE trainings for attorneys. If you seek such in-depth, certified content, you will probably need a training partner who does this on a regular basis.
Here are the key elements of a law firm associate development plan, law firm training plan or a law firm onboarding plan:
- Training content: You may choose to develop your own content, but you will likely have to purchase training content to cover all your bases. Training content development takes a long time, not to mention all the myriad updates that come out on a regular basis (I’m looking at you, Teams). It’s best to partner with a company that develops and maintains ongoing training content for law firms, supplementing with the firm-specific materials that you need.
- Learning paths: Paralegals need different training materials than secretaries, and secretaries need different training than attorneys. Further, your new hires need all of the orientation training plus technology training that indoctrinates them in the “firm way of doing things.” Using the content you have (and adding any HR materials you need), develop learning paths that are appropriate for your different audiences.
- Delivery method: The easiest way to deliver consistent training across your firm’s various audiences is with a learning management system. We’ve seen law firm trainers try to manage their training programs with Excel spreadsheets and on-premises servers. We’ve also seen those trainers lose their minds quite often. For example, there is no way for trainers using such “systems” to track whether people have actually completed their assigned work without asking them (over and over and over). You need an automated delivery, tracking and reporting system.
- Management buy-in: The hardest part of developing a successful law firm training plan, law firm associate development plan or new hire onboarding plan is getting upper management to support you in meaningful ways. But if you can’t get management to support you, your law firm training program is likely doomed.
We did a case study on one of our client’s that rolled out and maintains to this day an incredibly successful law firm training program. Check it out here.