In today’s ultra-competitive legal market, continually developing your skills as a lawyer is key to success. As this year has shown us, the industry can change quickly—and lawyers that aren’t able to keep up with the latest tools and trends may be left behind. Training for lawyers is also essential for furthering your professional development. Aside from required CLE credits, this means looking for opportunities to develop your skills through more formal lawyer training, informal learning, or a combination of both.
In the following post, we’ll discuss the types of lawyer training opportunities available—from mentorship to coaching to conferences and beyond. We’ll also offer tips for selecting the right mix of lawyer training programs for you. Remember: the goal is to leverage ongoing lawyer training to help you succeed, stand out, and stay competitive in today’s legal landscape.
What are the available types of training for lawyers?
When it comes to lawyer training, there are plenty of routes to success. From informal strategies to structured programs, you can effectively integrate lawyer training into your work life—depending on your available time, budget, and learning style (more on that later).
To start, let’s look at seven types of training for lawyers:
No matter where you are in your legal career, you can always learn from those who have more experience than you. Having a mentor—i.e. developing a professional relationship with a more senior lawyer who’s willing to pass down their knowledge—lets you get guidance, one-on-one, from someone who’s been where you are. Mentorship also fosters professional relationships organically, which can be valuable for both you and your mentor in the future.
Successful mentorships rely on finding a good fit between mentor and mentee. Check if your law firm or legal associations offer structured mentorship programs, or consider asking a more experienced lawyer in your network if they’re open to being a mentor.
Legal conferences and conventions
Legal conferences and conventions pack a lot of lawyer training and learning into a short time.
Traditionally, legal conferences involve physically gathering together—letting you get away from the office to spend time focused and immersed on lawyer training.
Increasingly, there are more opportunities for virtual or online conferences. Aside from the physical distancing benefits of a virtual platform, virtual conferences offer a unique opportunity to participate in these large-scale events without any prohibitive travel time or costs.
Whether virtual now or in-person in the future, conferences allow you to:
- Network. Meet and connect with like-minded professionals.
- Upgrade your skills. Participate in training opportunities and educational workshops.
- Get in the know. From expert keynotes to discussions, stay informed on current industry issues and opportunities. Attending a legal conference tailored to a specific area of law (such as the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s annual conference on immigration law) can be useful for lawyer training customized to your practice area.
- Discover the latest tools. Learn about the most current technology and tools to help enhance your practice.
- Earn CLE credits. You need to earn CLE credits, and some conferences offer opportunities to get credits while also participating in other learning opportunities.
- Reignite your passion for your career. It’s natural to get burnt out from the day-to-day hard work of being a lawyer—attending a conference can help refresh your passion and excitement for the law.
Here are a few key virtual legal conferences to consider:
- Clio Cloud Conference: The world’s best and biggest legal conference, the Clio Cloud Conference offers a mix of inspiring speakers, networking opportunities, and training for lawyers.
Note: Although the 2020 Clio Cloud Conference is now over, you can read all about the conference highlights and stay tuned for more information about the 2021 Clio Cloud Conference.
- ABA Techshow: Focused on the latest technology for legal professionals, this annual conference brings together lawyers and legal tech vendors.
- Legal Marketing Association Annual Conference: Designed for legal marketing professionals, this conference offers speakers and learnings on topics like marketing management and leadership, business development, and technology management.
Webinars and virtual meetups
Similar in purpose to conferences—but on a smaller scale—webinars and virtual meetups let you learn about key legal industry topics online. With a smaller (or no) monetary investment and less time commitment, webinars and virtual meetups offer:
- Insights on current topics of interest to legal professionals
- Tips and practical tools to help your legal career
- Expert opinions and discussions
Also, some webinars are CLE-eligible as well. Many of Clio’s free webinars can be attended for CLE credits (in certain states).
When thinking about training for lawyers, don’t forget about courses that may not be directly legal-related, like programming. For example, David Colarusso’s Coding the Law teaches lawyers programming language. In this programming course for lawyers, you can learn how to think about technologies in the law by building your own. Even if you don’t have a programming background, the class explores the technical, legal, and ethical dimensions behind the use of computer algorithms by legal practitioners and the justice system.
Another example of a great course for lawyers is Atlanta-based trademark and business strategy attorney Kimberly Bennett’s Watch Us Lead. This resource inspires business leaders to build bold, impactful, and sustainable businesses to fund their impact.
Free online resources
Not all lawyer training programs have to be structured—or even programs at all. Useful online legal training resources include:
- Blogs. Legal blogs offer quick summaries and discussion of the latest topics of interest for lawyers. Clio’s blog is a great place to start.
- Online guides. You can also find more in-depth guides and online resources like reports and whitepapers for more detailed material. Clio’s annual Legal Trends Report, for example, compiles key data to help lawyers make better business decisions—and it’s available to download for free.
- E-books. Downloadable legal-specific e-books provide longer and more in-depth thought and discussion on a topic or idea. Mike Whelan, Jr.’s new e-book, Designing Your Law Firm’s New Normal, for example, shows you how to test new ideas at your law firm before you invest in them.
- Podcasts: There are numerous podcasts on topics ranging from business to legal matters (like Clio’s Daily Matters podcast). The bonus? You can listen to podcasts to work on your career development in a low-pressure way while you’re driving, cleaning the house, or walking around the block.
Keep in mind that free online resources alone may not be the be-all and end-all for your lawyer training. While you can peruse blogs or online guides at your own pace, it can also be easier to put them at the end of your to-do list and forget about them when you’re busy. While they may be free, they do require you to spend time looking for the best content for you—while a more-structured program or conference offers more personalized content.
Coaching and training programs
There’s a reason why athletes have coaches. Coaches can:
- See your effort from an outside perspective
- Use their experience to formulate effective strategies and training plans
- Hold you accountable
- Help you reach your goals and full potential—faster
While your legal career isn’t a sport, professional one-on-one coaching or paid training programs can take your legal game to the next level—for increased professional success, and even personal, happiness.
Coaches may offer lawyer training in areas like:
- Business development
- Goal setting
- Creating work-life balance and keeping lawyer burnout at bay
- Communication and team-building
As this article from the American Bar Association discusses, coaching can help lawyers to elevate their career performance—especially when mentorship opportunities aren’t available. Professional coaching is also a good option for attorneys who want to invest in a more personalized lawyer training program.
Law firm consulting
Lawyers deal with much more than just the law, so being able to call on law firm consultants is a smart way to develop in a particular area (like marketing or business development) where you have room to grow. For example, if your law firm is struggling with marketing, hiring a marketing consultant can help you achieve those goals faster.
Not sure where to find law firm consultants? Make your search easier by using Clio’s global directory of Clio Certified Consultants to find local consultants in pertinent fields including accounting, law firms, marketing, and more.
How to select a lawyer training program
If you want to integrate a lawyer training program into your future to improve as a legal professional and/or business owner, the following tips will help narrow your search:
1. Understand your learning style
Before jumping into any kind of lawyer training program, think about your learning style—after all, what works well for your colleague might leave you feeling overwhelmed, bored, or uninspired.
Think about what types of learning make you feel most engaged, and what’s worked for you in the past. Ask yourself:
- Are you a talker or a listener?
- Are you a reader or a watcher?
- Do you learn best with personal guidance—or when independent and self-directed?
Use the answers to choose programs that will work best for you. For example, if you learn best by watching and listening, you might get a lot out of watching webinars. If you need engagement and to talk things out, hiring a coach might be a better fit.
2. Determine your training goals
Some questions to help you determine your training goals:
- Are you looking to help your business succeed?
- Would you like to find better work-life balance?
- Would you prefer to have a formal lawyer training program planned for you?
To get the most from any lawyer training, first, determine what exactly you want to achieve by setting specific goals. This will help you select the best programs for you right now, and will help you better measure your progress in the future.
Part of this process can mean taking an honest look at yourself—the good, the bad, and the in-between. If you can assess your strengths and weaknesses, you can identify areas for improvement—and choose lawyer training in those areas.
Also consider which areas of the legal industry you need the most help on. Law firm business development? Law firm marketing? Legal tech? Focus your goal-setting efforts there.
3. Consider your budget
While you may want to try all the available types of training at once, you still need to set a budget.
Things like legal conferences, professional coaches, and consultants are incredibly valuable, but they aren’t free. Cheaper or free training resources like CLE courses, webinars, and online materials are more budget-friendly, but they may not be as in-depth.
The solution? Plan for a combination of free and paid training that best suits your needs (and your budget).
4. Consider the value of each type of training
When choosing lawyer training options, consider the tangible and intangible value of each. Lawyer training is an investment of your valuable time, effort, and money—but the potential payoffs (like becoming more efficient, productive, and happier in your career) can mean an even higher return on that investment.
If a type of training can significantly increase the number of clients you work with, your profits, your leads, or your confidence, it should be prioritized.
In today’s rapidly evolving legal market, training for lawyers—whether that means increasing your knowledge base, learning the latest legal tech and trends, or working on your business skills—can lead to greater success as an attorney.
There are plenty of lawyer training options available to you. Whether you want to find a mentor, hire a coach, attend more industry conferences, or learn from free online resources, the key is to create a plan and select the training programs that work best for your learning style, goals, and budget. By actively pursuing training for lawyers, you can set yourself apart, be more competitive, and make your work-life more satisfying.
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