Continuing Legal Education, or CLE, ensures that lawyers admitted to any state bar maintain certain standards of professional and ethical conduct. In the same way lawyers must practice due diligence for a case, so attorneys should be held accountable for their competency and behavior over time. But CLEs are not enough to ensure new associates are fully prepared for the practice of law. The following list contains three trainings that firms should require for first hires.
The Supreme Court verdict for the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case will certainly change future sex discrimination litigation. But for now, policies on discrimination at the workplace should be made clear to firm employees. However your HR chooses to conduct this training—manuals, videos, podcasts, or in-person—all employees should participate. In the end, the training will either help spare your firm from sex discrimination class-action suits, or, in the least, help inspire your associates in their defense of similar suits for your clients.
2. Electronic Discovery Software
Electronic discovery is no longer a novel tool for law firms. It’s a necessary one. Some of the best vendors include Attenex, Clearwell, FTI, Guidance, LexisNexis, and Oracle, but law school students would likely not recognize these names. Law firms do not teach this software, which should generally be chosen by firms according to their practice area and specific needs. Typically, e-discovery software is used by paralegals and legal assistants (other than doc review). However, there’s nothing more inefficient than a partner who is incapable of making a single photocopy (or his own word processing edits). In the same way, all associates should understand the interworkings of case management and e-discovery software so that at trial, in the last hour, there are no surprises.
It’s easy to let equity partners handle all communication with the client. However, associates and of-counsel are essentially partners in-training. As such, they should be comfortable managing client relationships. This means practicing proper email and phone etiquette, providing frequent status updates to the client, and tracking all communication. If a client does not trust every member of their trial team, it’s unlikely they will solicit future services from the firm. Client relationship management should be formalized into a training given by a partner or older associate to further emphasize its importance. Training takes thirty minutes to an hour, but a satisfied client stays (and pays) for life.