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April 06, 2022

Mind the Training Gap: Why Good Law Firms Fail (And Associates Leave)

When it comes to training associates, there are many options for law firms to choose from. From mentorships and classes to coaching and conferences, the slew of options may make it seem as if any training is better than no training. But that’s simply not the case. Firms typically spend $400k over four years on recruiting and training, only for associates to leave or be asked to leave.

So, why is this system broken? And, more importantly, how can law firms select the right training program in order to see a return on their investment and empower their associates to hit the ground running?


The Training Gap

Just because there are many associate training options out there doesn’t mean that effective ones are easy to create or implement. We commonly see three main issues when it comes to creating high-quality training:

1: Relying on passive learning

Passive learning is a form of learning or instruction in which students receive information from an instructor and internalize it. The responsibility for understanding typically falls on the student as there is little to no feedback from the instructor. As a result, there is no way for the learner or instructor to truly assess if the learner is learning or applying the information in an effective way. You’ve likely encountered passive learning before in the forms of instructional videos or lectures, and these may have been infrequently or inconsistently administered. 

For these reasons, passive learning is not a training approach that we recommend. In fact, the National Training Laboratories states that long sessions of passive learning—such as sitting through a two-hour lecture—average less than 30% retention overall. More specifically, we retain 10% of what we learn from reading, 30-50% from watching lecture/explainer videos, 70% from participating in small interactive workshops, and 90% from doing either real or simulated assignments. 

2: Lawyers are good at law…

…but not the best at teaching. Being an effective instructor requires much more than understanding information and being able to apply it. Teaching is a skill in itself that requires empathy so instructors can meet students where they’re at, creativity to engage students, and a solid pedagogical approach in order to effectively explain concepts—just to name a few crucial elements. 

Some will argue that in the legal profession, learning on the job is the best way to train an attorney. Although real-world learning application is important, learning on the job is often stressful for both the senior and junior lawyer, not to mention expensive for the firm. It’s a tricky balance between adequately communicating the learning material and efficiently completing the work needed. Chances are, senior lawyers don’t have the time to walk associates through every step of the process. But on the other hand, letting new associates complete work unsupervised often results in negative billables. Senior lawyers will often forgo their own billable hours to correct mistakes and mentor junior associates, but of course, it would be unethical to charge clients for all of those hours. 

3: A new generation of professionals

In just the past couple of years, the legal industry has seen numerous changes that have been driven by the pandemic, advances in technology, multinational businesses, globalism, and more. On top of that, millennials have become the crux of the workplace, making up 35% of the US workforce as the largest working generation and predicted to represent 75% of the global workforce by 2025. 

With these changes, the traditional methods of legal training simply aren’t sufficient any more. In the apprenticeship model of new attorneys learning from mentors at their law firms, partners these days are under far more pressure to bill more hours, making mentorship opportunities more scarce. And the training tools from legacy vendors have been slow to adapt to advances in education theory and technology, such as incorporating micro-learning as well as more interactive or experiential features. 

So what do these younger generations of professionals want when it comes to their training? First, they want to apply their legal knowledge to real-world scenarios in a safe and low-risk environment. Secondly, they want up-to-date technology and resources. The brightest and best associates simply won’t be drawn to firms that have outdated technologies or resources. A recent survey by Microsoft and SurveyMonkey found that 93% of millennials polled stated that modern and up-to-date technology was one of the most important aspects of a workplace. Furthermore, just like they want with their overall work options, associates want flexible training options. That means no strict training schedules that require attending lengthy in-person lectures or conferences.


Fill Training Gaps with AltaClaro

Firms such as K&L Gates, Holland & Knight, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Barnes & Thornburg, Taft Stettinius & Hollister, and Husch Blackwell turn to AltaClaro for the most effective training programs on the market.

In contrast to passive learning, AltaClaro uses micro-learning, a training approach that delivers information in digestible, bite-sized chunks and has an average learning retention of up to 90%. These smaller bursts of training can provide your associates with the flexibility and accessibility they need to learn without disrupting the flow of their work.

So what does that look like? 

AltaClaro’s online boot camps are structured in a hybrid format of mock transactions and live feedback sessions with seasoned practitioners. Associates leverage technology while jumping into real-world scenarios and receiving feedback on mock work products. Our format will help your associates feel more empowered and engaged in their work, imbuing them with the confidence and skills to succeed in their day-to-day work.

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From Fundamentals of M&A Transactions and Corporate Transactions to Capital Markets, AltaClaro’s course catalog spans beginner to intermediate level classes. AltaClaro’s state-of-the-art learning technology platform also helps you measure and track training engagement and performance so you can see exactly how your training is driving better results for your employees as well as your ROI.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our experts and learn how you hire and retain top talent through more effective training engagement.


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About the author

Abdi Shayesteh

Founder & CEO of AltaClaro, an experiential learning platform that delivers researched-backed practical skills training solutions for lawyers. Serial entrepreneur, founded and successfully sold two startups prior to age 30. Over 15 years of experience as a corporate and banking attorney in diverse settings.