Systematic Training for Law Firms (aka: Treat the Injury, Not the Pain)

I have a broken foot. I’m 100% positive that it’s broken but initial X-rays showed nothing. So, I am booting for a couple of weeks until I can get another X-ray, which will surely show a stress fracture that was indiscernible in the early days of the injury. So, now I’m taking pain meds to get me through to the real diagnosis. Why am I telling you this? Because it reminds me of how some law firms approach training. Namely: There’s a pain point! Let’s train it away! But they need to figure out the structural/systems problems first. Otherwise, training is like ibuprofen – it will mask the pain, but it won’t make the real issues disappear. They need systematic training for law firms.

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article by Sue Bingham titled, “More Training Won’t Solve Your Company’s Problems.” At first, the title alarmed me. I work for a training company and we solve a lot of problems for law firms! But as I read, I understood that Sue’s real thesis matches something we at Savvy have known all along: you can’t train problems away if you don’t understand the structural/systemic issues you’re trying to address. 

Bingham suggests that you ask three important questions before crafting your training program:

  1. What is the gap you think training will bridge? “Typically, training occurs due to a difference between a desired and actual performance or behavior. You’ll want to define that gap before searching for solutions. For example, if the gap has been caused by new processes, upgraded equipment, or revised policies, formal training could solve the issue.”
  2. What is causing the gap? “Not all gaps are performance issues. Consider the case of overcomplicated workflows, which is a big concern among remote and hybrid workers. As this Harvard Business Review article explains, employees who telecommute often lack the resources, infrastructure, and information enjoyed by their in-office colleagues. You can throw all the training you want at that problem, but you won’t fill the gap because it has nothing to do with worker knowledge.”
  3. Is training necessary to fix the gap? “Our team members advised a general manager who wanted training to tackle pervasive bullying, favoritism, and a lack of teamwork. After diving deeper, the general manager realized the obstacle wasn’t that supervisors didn’t understand how to lead; the obstacle was that the right people weren’t in the right seats. Rearranging duties stopped the brunt of the dysfunction. Further training could add a bit of polish, but it was no longer essential. Before you jump on what you think is the right solution, break down the problem. It’s always best to address the core issue.”

You would think that a training company might balk at these points, but we wholeheartedly agree with them. Savvy would much rather be part of a law firm training program that tackles root knowledge gaps to deliver bottom-line results. We continuously strive to deliver systematic training for law firms.

Training Cannot Occur in a Vacuum

Another important point made in the HBR article (and Savvy has been saying this for a long time) is that transformative training can only occur in a culture where management believes in its transformative power.

Bingham writes: “Even if providing an employee development process through training is a good step, it will not result in major implementation unless senior leaders clearly and repeatedly express it as a priority. You must always encourage managers to schedule follow-up meetings with team members who’ve attended the training. Have them ask questions to prompt reflection and implementation, such as “What have you learned?” and “How would you apply what you’ve learned?” When it comes to training for professional development, these conversations must revolve around career progression.”

Last year, the Savvy Survey revealed significant cultural barriers to training program success. Law firm trainers reported that they could train on just about any platform and deliver meaningful efficiencies, but if their firm’s management didn’t value a learning culture, it was all for naught. 

Treat the Injury, Not the Pain Point

If you are seeking to deliver transformative change and bottom-line results to your law firm through training, start by diagnosing the knowledge gaps and cultural barriers that are holding you back. Then, create a training program and a learning culture that deliver the transformative change you need. Savvy Training & Consulting has decades of experience doing exactly this. Contact us today.


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