Lawyers and firms value the importance of continued training to develop expertise, but more emphasis needs to be put on skills-based training, which would be of particular help to the in-house sector, writes Paul Gilbert
About 500,000 years ago men and women would gather in small groups and observe. They would observe each other making tools, hunting and preparing food. They would observe each other looking after their children, and learn how to clothe and protect each other. They would observe the rituals that surrounded life and death.These were the training sessions, seminars, workshops and conferences of the day, even if they did not have the trappings of delegate badges, stuffy rooms, and PowerPoint presentations. Training was vital to our well-being and our very existence 500,000 years ago. Training might not have the same life or death quality today, but in a world like ours where the winner can take all, corporate and economic well-being (and, in some cases, survival) can depend on the quality of the staff and therefore, in part, on the quality of their training.We are all familiar with the training rituals of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours have resulted in sackloads of leaflets and advertising copy landing on the desks of lawyers in every office in every town. Each has its merits, each promises a ‘must see’ event, but for most of us, we go; and if we go it is because we have to. There is no real structure or strategy as to why we go, other than a passing interest in the subject and the looming sense as the months roll by that we need more CPD hours.Occasionally an event really does catch the eye and when it does, we notice a total change in our attitude towards it. While this is obviously a good thing, it also points to the majority of occasions when our attitude is anything but positive, as we resent the travelling, the expense and the time away from the more important things in our working lives. For many, training is a chore: something that has to be done, like emptying the rubbish and washing the dishes. We measure the result by noting that we have clocked up five or six hours towards our CPD target and if we are lucky, a few points made during the day were actually quite interesting. It should be better than this because we all know how important it is to be on top of our subject, to know the trends of our industry and to measure ourselves against the competition.Each of us needs to reassess what we want from the training providers and start lobbying to get it. Training is not about accumulating CPD hours; it is about gaining economic and competitive advantage. It is about adding value and delivering a better service. If your training is not doing that you need to think again.Training is one of the most important elements of a successful legal function. It is too important to be left as an add-on to general management responsibilities and it must figure prominently in the way departments are organised and how their strategies are formulated.
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