How to Create Equitable Training Programs for Remote, In-person, and Hybrid Law Firm Staff

Published on June 22, 2023
7 minute read
<a href=''>Jan Hill</a>
Written by Jan Hill

Law firms have been forced to adapt to the remote work environment brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. One area that has been impacted is training programs for law firm staff. Remote, in-person, and hybrid work arrangements require different approaches to training. Ensuring all staff members are given equal opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to excel in their roles is crucial when creating equitable training programs.

This blog post will provide practical tips and strategies for creating equitable training programs for remote, in-person, and hybrid law firm staff. It highlights the importance of understanding the unique needs of each work arrangement, identifying the most effective training methods, and ensuring accessibility for all staff members. By following these tips and strategies, law firms can create training programs that equally prepare all staff for their respective roles and foster a culture of continuous learning and development.

Training programs for in-person staff

Most employees do not want to return to the law office of 2019. Instead, they want the freedom they had when COVID-19 sent everyone home, including the ability to work from anywhere and set their own work schedule and work hours. They remember the positives of remote work: time flexibility, better integration of work into their personal life, and an opportunity to focus on what truly matters. However, they tend to forget the negatives: burnout, loneliness, and the inability to set work boundaries.

To fully address these concerns, law firm leaders and managers must create training and development opportunities for everyone in the firm. Online training programs can and should supplement in-person opportunities to reflect the dramatic cultural change. When programs connect with individual employees, they tend to feel more invested, making them look more positively upon their work and their firm.

Here are some training strategies to help in-person employees navigate today’s modern work environment:

  • Audit your onboarding process. A smooth and successful onboarding process helps new employees feel welcome, valued, and equipped to perform their best work. You should include the “5 C’s” in your onboarding process: compliance, clarification, confidence, connection, and culture.
  • Promote mentorship. To foster an even more collaborative and employee-oriented culture, you can implement a mentorship system in your firm by pairing each new hire with a peer-level mentor who will support them as they learn their role. Having a mentor to show new staff the ropes helps them feel more focused and excited about their work.
  • Provide workplace coaching. Unlike mentors, who offer support to new hires over an extended period of time, workplace coaches help motivate new and established employees by focusing on specific values, strategies, and goals during a shorter period, such as throughout the completion of a particular project.
  • Include professional peers. Involving peer groups in training can help all staff members feel connected, learn from each other, and develop more profound and meaningful relationships. Peer groups help keep new team members accountable because they continually benefit from their colleagues’ advanced skill sets, and your entire team will appreciate your willingness to invest in their success.
  • Boost engagement. Increase employee buy-in with “job crafting” to demonstrate the firm’s willingness to invest in employees. Job crafting enables firms to shape job descriptions to better align with employees’ skills, values, and goals. It demonstrates a willingness to listen to their input to increase their motivation to succeed.
  • Be flexible. Rather than stick with how things have always been done, be open to discussing new ideas with those most impacted and try to incorporate employee feedback, if possible. Training is meaningless if it does not meet the expectations of those on the receiving end.
  • Make retention a firm priority. Emphasize the firm’s commitment to attracting and retaining talent, redefine productivity to include ongoing learning, and identify advancement opportunities for every employee. Ask them to evaluate their current skills, consider areas where they could improve, pinpoint the proficiencies they’ll need for advancement, and discuss how they can reach their goals.
  • Focus on the long term. Sit down with each team member at least once a year to complete a professional development advancement plan. Encourage employees to take advantage of further training opportunities through the firm, the community, and online. Identify which ones they will complete and develop a timeframe for completion.
  • Create a follow-up plan. After employees complete the initial training and any additional professional development programs, check in to see what they learned and look for ways they can share their knowledge with the rest of the team.
  • Invest in leadership training. Training is not just for employees. Law firms should also create a leadership training program to mobilize team members around common goals to achieve tangible outcomes. An effective firm leader understands other people’s motivations and can merge individual needs and interests with the firm’s mission.

The days of command and control management are gone - employees seek more control than ever before. When training new employees, firms should practice intentional listening to discover what they need and want to be happy and successful. Gen Z and millennial employees want to work for firms whose values align with theirs. Firms must foster a more collaborative and employee-oriented culture to retain talent long-term.

Training programs for remote staff

Many law firms remain intent on returning their staff to the office, even though remote work has happened relatively seamlessly for several years. One possible reason: training legal staff in person is perceived much easier than doing so through virtual means.

According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), approximately five percent of the workforce were already working from home before the pandemic occurred. When they were required to work remotely, many more people had their first experience of an extended period of working from home and experienced the advantages and challenges of working remotely. Research indicates that approximately 30 percent plan to work remotely at least one day per week for the next few years, accelerating an existing trend for more flexible work arrangements and likely to lead to a permanent increase in working remotely and via a hybrid approach.

Training someone to work from home typically involves:

  • The logistics of setting up a remote workspace
  • Advising staff on the advantages and challenges to expect when working remotely
  • Taking steps to help workers connect to their WFH community to help prevent social isolation
  • Coaching regarding how to balance productivity with resilience to make working from home sustainable
  • Providing guidance on managing work and home routines and obligations
  • Instructing them on how to apply the principles and practices of effective remote collaboration
  • Managing virtual meetings and other means of online engagement
  • Maintaining a high level of security
  • Staying visible when working remotely
  • Achieving and maintaining the proper balance of teamwork and independent tasks

Training associate attorneys remotely is not necessarily easy to do. Although speaking with other staff members remotely is relatively straightforward, it is not always easy for partners and associates to remotely review documents, annotate materials, and perform other activities typically involved in the training process. In addition, people may be less likely to focus when training processes are conducted remotely since they often have other issues and distractions to contend with while working from home.

One solution is to designate a mentor to review a brief, discuss a case, or dissect how research and writing might be improved. The mentor/mentee connection is vital at many firms since it links associates to the firm and ensures that mentees will recall the guidance they received when it comes time for them to train the next generation of lawyers.

When attorneys work virtually on a regular basis, law firms must consider how training processes are impacted. Although exchanges between mentor and mentee can occur remotely via Zoom calls and tracked changes, it is generally easier to review work product and stay focused during in-person training sessions. Since communication between mentor and mentee is essential at many firms, this could be a critical consideration for law firms deciding when to relocate lawyers and staff back to the office.

Training programs for hybrid staff

The past several years have been challenging for both employees and employers, and challenges ensured throughout the pandemic have introduced new ways of working, including a shift to hybrid work environments. According to the recent Littler Annual Employer Survey Report, more than 70 percent of U.S. employers are now embracing hybrid work models, reinforcing the concept that flexible work arrangements are more than just a temporary fad.

Many employees quit or move on when they reach a point of mental exhaustion in a position or firm, and burnout is frequent among those who stay without accommodation or clear expectations. Today’s employees look for exciting employment opportunities that provide both financial stability and emotional well-being. This shift requires leaders to reassess established workplace practices and closely monitor workforce trends to develop new strategies to strengthen and retain modern-day teams.

An employee-centric approach, or an approach that places the needs of personnel above operations, has become critical to retention. Hybrid work arrangements provide the work-life balance necessary to ensure employees are productive and emotionally fulfilled at work. Hybrid teams include team members based part-time in the office, part from home, and perhaps part from a third place such as a coworking space or coffee shop, or a combination of all of these.

Hybrid teams are nothing new. For example, many virtual teams feature a dominant location where several people are based, and other people are part of the team but rarely see each other face to face. However, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically increased the number and complexity of these teams. Some common challenges related to training, leading, and working in hybrid teams include:

  • Defining what flexible work means in the legal sector
  • Clearly identifying the norms of how the team will work together
  • Understanding and managing the advantages and disadvantages of the different work settings
  • Clarifying what work is best done where and by whom
  • Effectively running meetings where some people attend in person and others join virtually
  • Explaining how law firm technology fits into the hybrid model
  • Improving work-from-home productivity and sustainability
  • Organizing hybrid collaboration and communication to ensure uniformity of contribution and access
  • Overcoming differential treatment and managing proximity bias
  • Creating opportunities for informal communication and learning
  • Fostering engagement within the hybrid work model
  • Balancing control and trust
  • Building collective celebration and recognition
  • Implementing the best approach for training a hybrid team

One of the main benefits of training individuals to work in a hybrid model is increased productivity and performance. When employees are adequately trained to navigate a hybrid work environment, they are better equipped to manage their time and tasks effectively, leading increased productivity, superior performance, and improved results for the firm. Here are several things firms should consider when creating an effective hybrid workplace training program:

  • Focus on soft skills. In a traditional work setting, training typically focuses mostly on workplace requirements. Still, as more companies adapt to hybrid work arrangements, more emphasis must be placed on soft skills like teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and empathy.
  • Utilize digital tools. In-person training can be time-consuming and challenging to organize, especially with a hybrid workforce. Instead of daily sessions of in-person instruction, consider pairing short, virtual sessions with on-demand access to training content.
  • Base training on the role. Training topics and format must be customized according to the position. For example, those who spend more time interacting with clients may require shorter training sessions that don’t take them away from core duties, while those learning new skills or a new software program might benefit more from longer sessions spread over days or weeks.
  • Encourage self-directed learning. Hybrid workplace training allows firms to provide learners with all the necessary resources to succeed at self-directed learning, including digital courses that cover a wide range of topics and live sessions where learners may ask questions and participate in discussions with other participants.

Whether staff members work remotely, in person, or a combination of the two, the failure to properly train employees and invest in them may prompt the best employees to leave. However, even if no one leaves, unless you invest in your employees through ongoing training and staff development programs, their attitude and work may suffer, ultimately damaging your firm’s bottom line.

Jan Hill

Jan is a paralegal and freelance copywriter who spends most of her working hours in the law and legal tech space. When she’s not writing, Jan can be found playing with (and cleaning up after) her three dogs and one cat and enjoying the Southern California sun.
Back to Blog Home
Contact us if you have any questions
(800) 883-1105