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Why Every Law Firm Needs an Employee Development Plan

  • June 20, 2019

What Is An Employee Development Plan?

An Employee Development Plan (EDP) differs from a personal development plan. While the latter usually focuses on life goals and is owned by the individual, an EDP focuses on work-related skill development and its owned by both the employee and the line manager.

A continuing process that is consistently and regularly reviewed and updated, an EDP should aim to ensure ongoing employability through improving the individual’s workplace soft and hard skills, and legal knowledge. A good plan will strive to create a series of actions designed to help the individual develop and grow within the context of their legal career. It will motivate them to acquire new knowledge and skills and help them grow personally, while developing their workplace capability and meeting the needs of the employer.

Why Is An Employee Development Plan Important?

In the present climate, legal skills are in short supply. It’s therefore vital that you are doing everything in your power to retain good staff. As an employer, your firm needs to demonstrate strong leadership skills. By investing in people you will show your commitment to your team and, in return, you gain commitment from them. A win-win situation.

Staff development will ensure they are up to speed with the latest legal changes in their areas of practice as well as continuing to build their competencies with soft skills. Your employees invest in the legal organisation they work for, working hard and moving their practice forward. Respecting them by facilitating their ongoing development will motivate them and create a thriving workplace environment. It will also make staff feel secure and supported, and happy staff are less likely to look elsewhere for employment. In turn, it will ensure your firm isn’t hit by the legal skills shortage. It will also reduce the cost of recruitment, onboarding and training up of new staff.

As I said, a win-win situation.

So, you’re on board with the idea of creating individual employee development plans. Now you just need some tips on the how.

How To Create a Great Employee Development Plan

There are 7 key points to consider when planning an individual employee development plan:

What needs to happen?

Start with an audit of the current skills and knowledge of the individual, and see how their existing skill set aligns to their current job. Consider the future development of the role. What additional skills may be required?

Knowing where the employee needs to be in terms of training to ensure they remain employable in a progressive legal practice will enable you to gauge the next step forward, and measure success rates.

What training and development is required?

Leading on from the initial audit of how the employee fits into your firm’s vision, understanding an employee’s thoughts on their competencies, capabilities and career goals is useful. Employee buy-in is crucial for this.

  • What do they believe they need in the way of skills to do their job?
  • How do they think they are currently performing?
  • What would help them perform better and what changes would they benefit from?
  • What are their own ultimate goals?

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

How can development be achieved through specific training?

Ascertain exactly what training courses, qualifications or knowledge the employee will need. Remember the 70/20/10 rule – 70% of learning comes from experience on-the-job, 20% from other colleagues and 10% from training and courses. You may wish to consider in-house upskilling or external training provision. There’s a wide range of training available to meet most companies needs with Central Law Training being a go-to place for many firms.

Whichever you choose, creating a culture of learning within your legal practice will demonstrate partners commitment, and encourage a strengthening of relationships between colleagues. Individuals who have open meetings, training sessions and forums are more likely to interact, enabling them to share knowledge and even train others. The additional benefit to this is that having skilled staff who can train others will save you time and money.

Why does it need to be done?

Transparency and communication of long-term goals will instil a sense of belonging and ownership in the employee. Making the employee aware of how their learning and development will benefit not only their own career but the aspirations of your legal firm, and will provide them with clear guidelines and focus on their job and how they can contribute. It will also give them a sense of place – how they fit into the firm as a whole – and create a sense of pride in their work.

When is it needed?

I would suggest that achievement milestones are put into place, agreed between employee and manager. These can reflect the overall aims of your legal firm where appropriate. Monitor progress regularly to encourage and provide direction to the individual, and to show support on their journey.

How can progress be measured?

Methods for measuring training and development can be in the form of formal appraisals, informal meetings and open discussions. The method chosen may depend on the goal/s set and the timelines.

For short-term training it may be appropriate to have a 1:1 with the employee at an agreed time (for example, after completion of a training course). For more long-term goals, or where several employees require the same upgrading of knowledge, it might be more beneficial to have an open discussion on progress.

Staying ahead.

Reviewing the latest legal, procedural and practice development will ensure you stay ahead of your training needs. As part of the employee development journey, establish regular reviews, recording progress and addressing any identified areas of development needed.

Don’t be afraid to change training needs as the requirements of your legal practice develop and expand. Encourage your employee to suggest development needs and aspirations, to give them a sense of investment in their legal career. Give employees the chance to reflect and discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what changes could be made going forward, to ensure smooth and successful progression.

In short, an EDP can be viewed as a training opportunity that takes place as part of an individual’s daily job. It is a working document that charts progress, addresses needs and moves in line with individual and practice progression. The long-term benefits include employee satisfaction and sense of involvement, and employer commitment and satisfaction in having a skilled, up to date workforce, who are committed to your legal firm and are future-proofed.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our guide here.

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