Most firms (and certainly the larger law firms) invest heavily in learning and development programmes. These programmes are often to help meet the firm’s strategic objectives as well as to help ensure any continual professional development needs are met. BD training is often an area that law firms look towards to help develop a client centric culture and create a pool of lawyers who are able to bring new work into the firm.
However, how do you ensure that any BD training initiative or course actually results in behaviour change or produces tangible results? After all, in many cases, as soon as the training finishes, attendees go straight back to their desks and day-to-day work.
Yet, a well-run and considered BD training programme or course with the right framework and support can produce outstanding results in a variety of ways. So, how do you ensure that your BD training course provides tangible results, for the time and money you invest in them?
7 important factors to ensure your BD training is successful
1) Pick the right attendees
It can be tempting to send all lawyers of a certain level to the same BD training course. This is understandable, but may not be the best option. By engaging with the individuals and their responsible Partner (or if they are a Partner, the Managing Director and CEO), you can determine if this training is useful or needed in their proposed career development plan.
If someone never intends to become a Partner or work winner, training them to be a rainmaker and expecting them to engage in this training will be fruitless.
2) Pick the right course(s)
Most training providers have a huge range of topics they can deliver (like ours here), and the ability to tailor these even further to meet individual firm requirements. It is important that the topics are engaging and focused on the needs of the attendees. If it meets the requirements, then people are much more likely to utilise the skills they’ve learnt. This means the training will actually make a difference.
3) Keep the sessions short and focused
From experience, full day or longer programmes simply aren’t appropriate. In most cases, it is highly stressful for lawyers to take that much time out of their day, which means the temptation or need to check their phones, or sneak out to make calls is too great.
Many lawyers are also learning these BD or sales skills for the first time, and they are a new way of thinking. Which means, a shorter session with less new and challenging skills is a far better way of them adopting something new.
Shorter sessions also allow for a few new key skills to be learned and practiced, which means post session the attendees are far more likely to put those skills into place.
4) Make the BD training interactive
The trainer should adopt the role of more of a facilitator with plenty of group exercises built in. Most people learn through guidance and being introduced to a new topic or skill and then practicing it in a safe environment. This is a key way that a new skill is understood and embedded.
Crucially, it also allows for lawyers to trip up and make mistakes in an environment where it doesn’t matter. This is key as we all know that we will not reach perfection in the early stages. But without doing this in a controlled way, most lawyers who understandably err on the side of being perfectionists, won’t try something new or will fear failure in front of clients.
5) Make the BD training frequent and fun
If you’re building a BD training programme, it is vital that you space the shorter sessions out so that there is around 1 per month. This allows time for attendees to try out the new skill before learning the next one.
If you are running a BD programme of 4-6 courses, most importantly it needs to be fun! That way it will keep attendance and engagement high.
6) Meaningful feedback compared to tick sheets
There is no harm in having course evaluation forms. However, paper means that people have to stay longer at the end of class, and rush to complete them so they can leave as soon as possible. Online forms rely on busy lawyers doing it post-course, and the completion rate is patchy.
Whilst feedback surveys are still worth doing, it’s also advisable to get individual and group feedback in a call or conversation. This allows the BD facilitator/trainer to take feedback on board and tweak the future delivery – making for a better experience for all.
7) Post-course support
To make any training truly effective, it needs to have key organisational and key stakeholder support. If you’re upskilling Associates or Senior Associates, then the Partners need to support them and give them opportunities to test these new skills.
Extra BD coaching is also a great idea. You can look at engaging external consultants for this, or utilise your internal resources.
Can BD training for lawyers be truly effective?
Absolutely. In fact, a well-run BD training programme can show dramatic results. It can build the confidence of individuals, and this ultimately leads to them having more frequent and meaningful client interactions.
It also creates a learning cohort of lawyers, who have gone through the programme together and can continue to support each other throughout their careers. The key, of course, is making sure the BD training programme is well thought out, and the right people are in attendance.