Sunday, August 21, 2011
From The National Law Journal:
[M]ost law firms provide cursory, if any, training for new lawyers. With some exceptions, comprehensive, jurisdiction-specific practical skills training programs for new lawyers almost universally do not exist. Any training law firms do provide is typically disjointed and spread out over months or years. In short, law firm training often falls far short of preparing new lawyers to actually practice law in a law firm. (On-the-job training for new lawyers also falls short. Senior attorneys — in large firms, in particular — expect new lawyers to pick up practical skills on the job but are hesitant to give new lawyers the substantive legal work that would help develop these skills. And some clients prohibit new lawyers from working on their files entirely.)
Law firms are not to blame. Developing a comprehensive in-house training program for new lawyers is a cumbersome and costly undertaking. Developing such a program is certainly counter to a firm's immediate and pressing concerns of servicing clients and watching the bottom line. Small and midsize firms do not have the resources to devote to such a program. Likewise, with the increased pressure to bill hours at both the partner and associate level, attorneys in big law firms cannot afford to spend the nonbillable time necessary to develop an effective training program. For every hour a firm associate or partner spends developing and presenting a new lawyer training program, the firm loses hundreds of dollars and delays important client work. (Also, just as not all law school professors make the best lawyers, not all law firm practitioners make the best teachers.)
With this said, there is significant value in training new lawyers in practical skills. Well-trained new lawyers will contribute meaningfully to their law firms from day one. When new lawyers can independently handle basic practitioner tasks, senior attorneys will no longer have to spend otherwise-billable hours answering rudimentary questions or coaching new lawyers through such tasks (saving the firm literally thousands of dollars in both the senior attorneys' and new lawyers' time). Finally, when new lawyers undergo intensive training before starting at law firms, fewer costly, embarrassing mistakes will be made.
The subject of new lawyer training and development and the difficulties with implementing this training is increasingly a topic of conversation in the legal community. One palpable solution is for law firms to outsource new lawyer training. This ensures that all incoming new lawyers are, at a minimum, trained in fundamental practical skills before they even set foot in a law firm. It also ensures that new lawyers are exposed to fundamental skills in a uniform, comprehensive manner by professionals who have experience in both law and teaching. From a business standpoint, outsourcing new lawyer training (to the proper company) is a prudent investment with a tangible return on any money spent up front. The expense of the present model, whereby new lawyers are often paid a six-figure salary but are unfamiliar with, and unable to perform, the most basic tasks, is far greater. Likewise, the expense of developing a comparable program in-house easily surpasses any outsourcing costs. (This proposed outsourcing model is not new. Fortune 500 companies routinely outsource performance training, from sales employee to management personnel training.)
You can read the full story here.