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Nicola Laver

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Lawyers too busy to undertake essential training

Lawyers too busy to undertake essential training


Nearly three quarters of legal professionals are too bogged down with their normal workload to complete essential training, according to a new report

Nearly three quarters of legal professionals are too bogged down with their normal workload to complete essential training, according to a new report.

Access Legal polled lawyers from 137 UK law firms of all sizes and found that 74 per cent lacked enough time to undertake training and learning, while almost half (48 per cent) struggled to complete their training.

The report also said a quarter of legal professionals have no time during the week set apart for learning, while only 13 per cent have one hour or more for training per week. 

The findings indicate many lawyers have to complete training in their own time or are not doing it at all.

Responding to the report Claire McNamara, head of knowledge management at Farrer & Co, said: “It is always a challenge to ensure the amount of training is balanced with the demands on fee-earner time.”

But the problem can be tackled with a range of measures. McNamara said Farrer’s measures include ensuring lunchtime training “still allows lawyers to take a break over that period, short video training that is available on demand on core topics, having defined structured programmes so everyone knows how much training they need to do and when”.

The research findings also showed a shift to digital working against the pandemic backdrop. It found 73 per cent of survey respondents said their digital learning use increased in the past 12 months and 64 per cent said they had moved their learning and training provision entirely online. 

McNamara commented: “During remote working we have found that attendance at virtual training sessions has been excellent and, in fact, much better than pre pandemic attendance at face-to-face sessions.”

But she said even where lawyers attend virtually, attendance suffers if training requirements are too onerous. 

“We tend to find that making training compulsory is not always welcome”, she added. “People want to sign up voluntarily, which doesn’t always sit well with compliance training or ensuring that changes in the law are effectively disseminated across whole teams.”

According to the report, the vast majority (96 per cent) of firms prefer firm specific training, with risk and compliance topping the list of the most important topics of importance, closely followed by practice-specific learning. 

“With mandatory compliance related training, the feedback is that it really does need to be highly relevant and tailored to us as a firm”, said McNamara.

“Firmwide anti-money laundering (AML) training, for example, has to happen but if we want it to be effective, we need it to have a Farrers stamp and we are looking to see if we can make this sort of training as bespoke as possible so that it resonates and the learning sticks.” 

“It’s evident that time constraints are proving a real issue for law firms,” said Sarah Mian, Access Legal’s learning product owner and the report author.

“It’s well documented that those working in the legal sector have extremely heavy workloads… What our study really highlights is just how much a lack of time is impacting on essential learning and training.”

Mian added: “The problem is a lack of provision and law firms having a fairly fragmented experience of technology up until this point. Faced with those challenges, it’s easy to see why many firms have opted for in-person learning and training instead. However, the pandemic means that needs and expectations have changed, which is why we are seeing the shift to digital. 

“Our findings really do highlight the need for firms to invest in their people and explore ways to free them up to learn and ultimately focus on delivering exceptional service for their clients.”