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All law firms know that to succeed, they must think about the professional development of their lawyers. Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham recognizes that education is critical to the future of the firm. But Kirkpatrick also knows that professional development requires a larger vision. As the firm’s reach began to expand into new markets and its ranks of lawyers grew, the leadership of the firm realized that it needed to develop a firm-wide cohesive, strategic, and integrated training and development program. That’s why, over the past two years, the firm has established a 140-course legal education program in eight subject areas covering substantive law and skill development for all its lawyers. The eight areas are corporate, litigation, regulatory, legal writing and research, practice management, client development and relationship management skills, lawyering skills, and professionalism and ethics. The curricula are part of the K&LNG Legal Practice Institute, our in-house continuing legal education program. The Legal Practice Institute was designed to integrate the overall needs of the firm with the particular needs of individual offices. The institute, described in our recently published 77-page catalog, featuring 140 courses, ensures that all of our lawyers benefit from the experiences and values of our most seasoned legal and business colleagues. In publishing our Legal Practice Institute Catalog, we have committed to delivering specific programs targeted to our lawyers at all experience levels, with the flexibility to augment with other programs as needed. To the best of our knowledge, no other law firm has a comprehensive catalog of its in-house professional development offerings. A key feature of the program is that we created it with the firm’s principle of intergenerational excellence in mind. We want younger lawyers to benefit from their senior counterparts’ insights and experiences, to be committed to ethical probity and excellence in client service, and, although diverse in background, to be united by the firm’s commitment to these pursuits. Our approach to creating our curricula involved several phases. For example, we first needed to identify the kinds of programs our lawyers needed. We had to evaluate our existing programming, determine the knowledge and skill development that lawyers should have at each stage of their careers (for example, a third-year litigation associate should have practiced basic deposition skills, and a junior corporate associate should have an understanding of how to finance a transaction), and assess associates’ individual developmental needs to identify areas for enhancement. In collaboration with partners, associates, and our chief officer for recruitment and development, we established programming suited to each stage of our lawyers’ development. Our first-year program, for example, includes programs in each of our eight curricula. All first-years are required to attend most of these programs. Mandatory courses for all first-year associates include “Anatomy of a Lawsuit,” “Anatomy of a Deal,” “How Regulations are Initiated and Structured,” “Effective Legal Writing Skills Workshop,” and “Forging Your Team: Working With Your Secretary and Paralegals.” For more senior associates, courses are designated “core” (recommended and repeated annually) or “elective” (repeated on a rotation). Other than those for the first-years, no courses are mandatory, as we believe our lawyers should chart the course for their careers. A sample of more advanced courses include transactional drafting workshops (for junior corporate associates), “E-Discovery: Tips, Tactics, and Techniques” (for midlevel litigation associates), and “Health Care Fraud, Qui Tam Lawsuits and Regulation of Health Care Companies” (for partners and of counsel in our regulatory practice areas). We also designed courses that address more specific training needs. For example, many partners noted that associates require specific training in areas such as financial statement analysis or advanced contract drafting. To make the program truly comprehensive, we collaborated with other departments within the firm as we created the program. For example, recognizing the need to continually further our lawyers’ business development skills, we offer a client development and relationship management curriculum in cooperation with our marketing department. Our newest associates begin with sessions on building contacts. Our more experienced lawyers learn client development skills, improving their ability to uncover and identify new client needs and to look for opportunities to cross-sell the firm’s services to existing clients. Our marketing team and outside consultants present programs such as “Marketing and Development: A Contact Sport” (for junior associates), “Building Your Referral Network and Deepening Business Relationships Inside K&LNG” (for midlevel and senior associates), and “Crisis Management and Media Communications” (for partners and of counsel.) In consultation with the firm’s recruitment department, we designed programs to cultivate the key attributes we seek when hiring lawyers and on which we later evaluate them. Two key attributes are working as a team player and possessing strong oral and written communication skills — both of which have been integrated into the learning objectives of our programs. For example, our legal writing and research curriculum includes basic, intermediate, and advanced programs on transactional drafting and persuasive writing, while our client development and relationship management curriculum contains programs on understanding other communication styles. EVERY LAWYER, EVERY PRACTICE The institute draws upon the depth and breadth of our lawyers’ knowledge and experience to offer programs on specific legal and business skills and on evolving current topics. The majority of our programs feature our lawyers as faculty, many of whom are recognized authorities in their fields. For example, in May, one of our senior lawyers presented a program titled “Technological Controls on Spam and Other Malware and Their Legal Implications.” Last October, we offered a two-day interactive negotiation skills workshop using the “learning by doing” model employed by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. The workshop simulated the process of an actual deal, including last-minute issues (potential deal-breakers) and extremely difficult clients. We used the services of an external consultant and based the workshop on an actual deal our firm had negotiated. Associates learned how to negotiate an asset purchase agreement, develop negotiation skills, and gain experience with last-minute client needs and the difficult situations that arise in the course of deal-making. For other programs, such as oral presentation, writing, trial techniques, financial analysis, client development, and others that require intensive or individualized training, we use renowned outside consultants, including the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, Norm Rubenstein of the Zeugheuser Group, and Tina Stark of Stark Legal Education Inc. LEGAL CURRICULA Similar to a college catalog, ours includes complete descriptions of every course by curriculum, as well as separate listings of programs by level of experience and curriculum. In addition, the various curricula are structured to allow lawyers to create personalized training plans. A third-year litigator, for example, might attend a program from the regulatory curriculum to develop expertise related to a litigation matter or to learn more about the firm’s practice area for cross-marketing. Once the institute was fully developed, the firm’s professional development team turned its attention to the fact that the firm’s lawyers needed to have easy access to and an overview of the courses offered. Hence, the firm’s Legal Practice Institute Course Catalog. Our catalog is a planning tool for all of the firm’s lawyers. It can guide those fulfilling continuing legal education requirements or those seeking to refine their skills or to develop new areas of expertise. The catalog also serves as a resource for our associate review partners, who may wish to follow up on performance appraisals with recommendations drawn from our curricula. Further, it is a reference for mentors to use with associates in their discussions on career development (e.g., to recommend particular courses that might be suitable). During a review, for example, a partner might recommend “Advanced Persuasive Writing for Litigators” to an associate who has mastered basic writing skills but needs to strengthen his or her persuasive writing. LESSONS LEARNED This journey, from curriculum development to the publication of the catalog, has taught us many lessons, including: • Make sure that key partners, associates, and professional staff participate. Multidimensional input is critical to creating optimal programming and integrating the common objectives of multiple departments within a firm. • Align the learning objectives of courses with key competencies or attributes. Firms that have developed key associate competencies can use a course catalog to ensure that educational programs enhance and aid the development of those competencies. In addition, firms can integrate their hiring attributes into their program objectives to foster the development of those attributes. We also recommend using a catalog in the associate review process and in creating associates’ individual development plans. • Don’t do too much at once. Assess the realities of implementing a large number of courses. Think early on about the calendar and the dates for specific programs, whether to offer courses yearly or on a two- or three-year rotation, and whether particular associates have too many programs to attend in a one-month or one-week period. • Anticipate the unexpected. As we progressed, many issues arose — both mundane and complex — that we had not previously considered. For example, should we have an equivalent number of courses in our three substantive practice areas? Do we have the right mix of core programs and electives? Do we offer enough challenging programs for our more experienced lawyers? • Evaluate your programming in the context of the big picture. After creating eight curricula, populating them with programs and designing the catalog, we took a step back to evaluate the interplay of the programming. This perspective brought to the surface oversights. For example, we realized there were more courses designated for midlevel associates in the corporate curriculum than in the litigation curriculum. As a result, we made adjustments. As we continue to evaluate the implementation of our curricula over time, we anticipate a positive correlation between participation in the courses and increased retention of highly skilled lawyers. Viewed from this perspective, our in-house legal education program should deliver benefits for everyone — our law firm, our lawyers, and the clients we serve. The firm remains committed to the effort because we know that the more we invest in our lawyers, the more our lawyers, in turn, will invest in the firm and our clients.
Susan V. Fried is Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham’s chief officer of recruitment and development, and Magda Hageman-Apol is the firm’s director of professional development.

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