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Law firms spend a lot of money on words about marketing and selling—words from consultants they hire to speak at retreats, planning sessions, seminars, etc. For the sake of argument, let’s accept that all these words are 100% accurate and relevant, and that they’ve been presented in an engaging enough way that your firm’s lawyers actually listened and received them as intended.

So, what have you accomplished?  

At the positive end of the scale, you’ve probably raised awareness. At the negative end, you’ve taken up a bunch of time telling your lawyers things that, in retrospect, may seem somewhat obvious to some of them. (All of them will realize that they could have gotten those same words less expensively, more conveniently, in less time.)  

But, what will your lawyers do as a result of hearing these words? Anything?

Market researchers use the expression, “necessary but not sufficient.” Awareness change is a necessary precursor to behavior change, but alone it’s not sufficient. To accomplish behavior change, you must:

  • Identify specific behaviors you wish to modify. (The “what.”)

  • Define negative consequences borne by those who engage those behaviors. (The “why.”) Unless the cost of not changing is clearly unacceptable, there will be no change. People don’t change behavior for intellectual reasons. If they did, no one would smoke cigarettes, drive fast, drink too much, etc.

  • Identify barriers to change. (The “why not.”) These might include influential senior partners accustomed to trapping more junior partners in service fiefdoms.

  • Identify specific beneficial behaviors to replace the undesirable ones. (More "what.")

  • Provide training and coaching to assist and support the behavior change. (The “how.”)

This last bullet (self-serving as it is for us) is crucial. People are more confident of success and more willing to make the attempt when they have help, when it’s clear that the firm is as committed to change as they expect the individuals to be.

The role of e-learning

E-learning allows firms to start their lawyers on a training path at minimal cost, at times convenient to the lawyer, in digestible chunks, while measuring progress -- or the lack of it. This capability can inform remedial training or coaching if the lawyer is using the training but struggling to apply it successfully, or disinvestment if that lawyer demonstrates insufficient interest and wastes the training opportunity.

As you plan your training investments, don’t stop with marketing and sales words. Think through the behavior change that will bring success, and invest in making sure those occur.

Mike O'Horo

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