When developing a learning program focused on professional business skills in the legal industry, it is essential to tailor the content to address the unique needs and challenges faced by law firm employees.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to curate an effective learning program:
Identify Core Business Skills
Begin by identifying the key business skills that are vital for success in the legal industry and within your firm. This may include areas such as communication and interpersonal skills, business development and marketing, financial management, project management, leadership and management skills, legal technology and innovation, and client relationship management. These skills will serve as the foundation of your learning program.
Review the Top 10 Skills for the Future article too.
Assess Skill Gaps
Design then conduct a comprehensive assessment of the skill gaps within your firm, noting some roles may have an emphasis on different skills at certain levels and some skills might be in preparation for the future. This can be done through surveys, interviews, or performance evaluations. Identifying the specific areas where individuals or teams require development will help you customize the learning program to meet those needs effectively.
Set Learning Objectives
Clearly define the learning objectives for each skill area. What specific outcomes do you want participants to achieve? For example, the learning objective for an Associate might include communication skills to enhance persuasive writing and oral presentation abilities or a networking objective. Setting clear objectives will guide the design and delivery of the program.
Determine Learning Methods
Select appropriate learning methods based on the objectives and the preferences of the participants. Consider a blend of different approaches, including workshops, seminars, webinars, e-learning modules, case studies, group discussions, role-playing exercises, and on-the-job training. Incorporating a variety of formats ensures engagement and accommodates diverse learning styles.
Curate Relevant Content
Find and review content available through industry body resources (such as ALPMA, other not-for-profits, state law societies, CPD providers or other bodies outside of legal) or develop bespoke, inhouse content that aligns with the identified skill areas and learning objectives.
Whilst bespoke is often more targeted, it is considerably more labour intensive than the former options. Likely your skills gaps will not be unique to your firm, so leaning on organisations focused on learning and development in your space will enable your team to fast-track their learnings from material fit-for-purpose.
Engage Subject Matter Experts
To fill in any shortfalls or to mix up the delivery method of knowledge sharing, collaborate with subject matter experts from within the legal industry to provide insights, expertise and real-world examples. Engaging legal practitioners, industry consultants, or business professionals who have experience working with law firms adds credibility and practical relevance to the learning program. (ALPMA is a great way to meet and be exposed to these subject matter experts and introductions can always be fostered to assist.)
Create Learning Pathways
Structure the learning program into distinct modules or courses that participants can progress through systematically. Develop a logical progression of topics, allowing participants to build upon their skills and knowledge as they advance through the program. Provide opportunities for assessments or quizzes to track progress and reinforce learning. (For an example see ALPMA’s Learning Bundles.)
Incorporate Interactive Elements
To enhance engagement and retention, incorporate interactive elements such as group exercises, simulations, and practical assignments. Encourage participants to apply their newly acquired skills in real-life scenarios, fostering experiential learning and skill transfer.
Provide Ongoing Support and Resources
Offer ongoing support and resources to participants beyond the formal learning program. This can include access to online communities, mentorship programs, resource libraries, and continuous professional development opportunities. Encourage participants to continue their learning journey and reinforce their skills over time.
Evaluate and Refine
Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the learning program through participant feedback, assessments, and performance indicators. Use this feedback to refine and improve the program, ensuring that it remains relevant, impactful, and aligned with the evolving needs of the legal industry. Make this program part of your firms’ continuous conversations with your team. Review it regularly and ensure it is fit-for-purpose.
Embed a culture of continuous learning
Normalise within your firm not only a culture of learning, knowledge sharing and upskilling but also one of curiosity and enquiry. Providing a psychologically safe environment for your team to show up as their authentic selves, will breakdown barriers and allow new ideas and ways of working to be explored.
Finally, if you’re a small team, with limited resources, start slow and build momentum. It’s more important to start with something, than not at all.