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The drive to retain experienced staff in a robust job market has prompted an increasing number of law firms to create training programs run by in-house professionals for nonlawyer staff. This month, White & Case is hiring its first full-time administrative staff trainer to expand the firm’s nonlawyer training. Jill Connors, the firm’s New York-based director of human resources, said people need to feel like they’re advancing in their careers and enhancing their skills. “I truly believe it helps [with retention],” Connors said. Within the past two years, several other firms have hired professional trainers to step up nonlawyer training offerings, including Heller Ehrman and Boston firms Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo and Ropes & Gray. McGuireWoods of Richmond, Va., revived a vacant staff training position during the same time period. Veteran corporate trainer Kevin McKeon, the senior manager of Mintz Levin’s professional development and nonlegal professional development, said the lack of professional-development opportunities is a common reason for job departures. “We want to maintain our good people, so we have to give them opportunities to grow,” McKeon said. Mintz Levin offers 39 different courses, including management training for nonlawyer managers, business writing, telephone skills, time management and negotiation skills. Other firms mentioned similar programs along with classes on e-mail and telephone etiquette, technology training and project management. Ropes ramped up its staff training in January 2006 by hiring Lisa Crawford as director of organizational development. Investing in the staff will pay for itself through improved staff performance, and “keeping the right people here,” Crawford said. “Here in a people business, in a professional services firm, the capital you have to play with is human capital,” Crawford said. Firms with long-standing and extensive staff-training programs say that training keeps workers productive and improves the support system for the firm’s lawyers. Firms with a full-time employee running nonlawyer training include Holland & Knight; Hunton & Williams of Richmond, Va.; King & Spalding of Atlanta; McDermott, Will & Emery; Nixon Peabody; Seyfarth Shaw of Chicago; and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Improved retention is a goal of McDermott Will’s achieving a community of excellence (ACE) training program for nonlawyer staff, said Amy Nigrelli, the firm’s director of practice development. “When people perform better, they tend to be more successful in their positions and tend to enjoy their positions better in the long run,” Nigrelli said. Nixon Peabody credits its long-standing training program, which includes such diverse offerings as presentation skills, management training and secretarial team building, with helping to secure its slot on Fortune‘s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list for the past two years, said the firm’s Rochester, N.Y.-based director of human resources, Bill Simpson.

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