The great training debate: Do you prefer formal or informal?

Nearly seven-in-ten law firms have formal training processes in place and actively monitor staff development.

New research by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has discovered the majority of law firms take the issue of training very seriously, with nearly all of the firms interviewed maintaining in-depth records on the nature and amount of time spent on training.

Ongoing professional development has become an established part of the legal profession, as lawyers seek to identify ways and means of enhancing their future career prospects.

Legal firms' training systems

While the majority of organisations are taking a structured approach to establishing the competence of staff and their learning needs - two-fifths of entities have formal written competence frameworks in place - the value of less formal training has also been recognised.

This can come in a variety of guises, including work shadowing, mentoring or case-file discussions, and gives lawyers vital on-the-job experience that cannot be replicated in the conference room.

"This report confirms that education and training practices are well embedded across the profession," said Julie Brannan, SRA director of education and training. "It demonstrates the value of less formal approaches to learning and supports our new approach to continuing competence."

What legal training is still needed?

Ironically, many lawyers are calling for a re-examination of the term training itself, as they feel the current definition is not broad enough, meaning certain activities do not get included in a formal network.
They also want to see clearer guidelines on competency, guidance on how training plans should be implemented and what processes can be put in place to ensure the quality and effectiveness of a firm's training provision.