Management Training for Lawyers
The key business drivers for the programme were to contribute to improving profitability of the firm going forward and to ensure that the leadership and management of the business continued to improve and drive better business performance and overall growth.
Kevin Chard Blake Morgan’s Training Manager, explained, “We needed a programme that would engage people early in their legal career. We wanted to ensure that when our lawyers became managers and leaders they would already have key management tools and behaviours in place. The alternative is to train people later on, after they had picked up bad habits. Experience told me that this is difficult to do and would cost much more in the long run.”
Blake Morgan was also very aware that its continued success relied upon attracting and retaining high quality people. Kevin Chard again, “Retention of staff is always an issue in a competitive market and research tells us that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers – improve the effectiveness of your managers and retention will undoubtedly improve.”
While legal professionals are used to learning – it takes several years to qualify, followed by time dedicated to continual professional development – the format of much of that learning is theoretical and lecture-based.
Kevin Chard recognised that whilst such a format may work for technical training the business needed an entirely different approach for the programme he wanted to introduce to develop management skills and behaviours of lawyers in the firm.
The firm appointed True North to develop and deliver a programme aimed at the lawyers who would be the managers of the future. The 3½-day programme, delivered over a 2-month period, covered topics including: coaching, feedback, motivation, communications skills, appraisal skills, team dynamics and facilitation skills. Everyone on the course also received an Insights personality report, which provides a valuable basis for exploring personal styles.
Lawyers have a reputation for being both demanding and challenging of trainers, particular trainers who are not themselves legally trained. However True North trainers were all able to establish quickly a rapport with the different groups.
“People on the course always get on well with and speak highly of the True North trainers and felt they got a lot out of the programme whoever the tutor was for their particular programme,” agreed Kevin Chard
Kevin went on to describe his own personal experience of the True North approach. “I attended one of the courses and I have never spent as much time on any previous training course actively doing and thinking about the subjects covered. …with most workshops the practical and consciously thinking bit tends only to be 50% to 60% but the True North workshops really do engage people fully and actively …working on real issues.”
Cathy Tuttle, a member of the Blake Morgan training team added, “What I liked was people coming out of the day’s session enthusiastic about work and each other – they really seemed to have been revitalised.”
The big change that the business has seen is in attitude. People attending the programme develop a much better understanding of people management as a skill to be learned. For example, the programme introduced the topic of coaching and how to do it. In particular the programme looked at the need to adopt different styles in different situations and recognise that others need different approaches. What the programme has also enabled the firm to do is to respond to the changes in the legal services sector by developing approaches that might differ from those used by lawyers who have been with the firm for a number of years.
The programme, which has been running since 2004, has consistently attracted excellent feedback from those attending. Senior management see it as an important element in the development of the firm’s capability and it is an established bi-annual programme.
Cathy Tuttle believes that the programme does provide the firm with a competitive advantage as it accelerates the development of lawyers’ people skills, making them, and the people they work with, more productive.
Cathy has also seen how the success of the programme has helped the training team at Blake Morgan gain support from the business for other training initiatives.
Mark Watkins, who manages True North’s relationship with Blake Morgan and who has delivered the programme in past years, is pleased at how the consistency of the programme has been maintained despite being delivered by different True North trainers since 2004. “I’m delighted that the programme continues to make a real and valued contribution to Blake Morgan. We do appreciate that the programme is a significant investment both by the firm and the individual attendees and every time we deliver the programme we are committed to ensuring it delivers as much value as possible.”
Providing services to many FTSE 250 companies as well as private individuals, Blake Morgan is one of the leading law firms in the UK with around 650 staff and partners, offering a full range of integrated legal services.
“Participants go through a real transformation in how they manage and relate to other people, their staff, colleagues and clients. It really is amazing to see.”
“…every time we have used True North, we come back for more and that has to be the biggest recommendation you can give to any organisation.”
Kevin Chard, Training Manager