Tackling the challenges of training junior lawyers remotely

In recent Crafty Counsel community meet-ups we discussed a memo sent to law firms by Eric Grossman, the Chief Legal Officer (CLO) of Morgan Stanley, about remote working and why the investment bank would prefer its clients to work from the office.

The majority of our community members disagreed with this stance and many called it “archaic thinking” and said it just wasn’t a realistic request (read our article with thoughts from our community here).

Part of the CLO’s memo relates to his view that junior lawyers are not trained to the same standard when they work remotely and that they ought to be in the office to ensure the quality of their apprenticeship.

On that point many in our community agreed that it is challenging to train junior lawyers remotely, but it is not an insurmountable obstacle. Here we share some of their tips on how to bring junior colleagues into the fold, when everyone is working remotely, and how to offer them ongoing support.

Here are some of the ideas that our Community shared:

Structural tweak

  • At an organisational level, recognise and reward the time that seniors put into developing junior talent - whether in the legal team or elsewhere. You get what you measure.

Tailoring what you do

  • Have a good conversation with your junior colleague, to understand their learning style and best hopes in their career. Consider this as you plan how to support both them and the organisation you are serving together. Perhaps your learning-partner is a visual learner, likes regular conversations, prefers spreadsheets over text… You can mix the right learning cocktail by agreeing the recipe up front, and tweaking as you go.
  • Zak Daliri, Global Legal Director, had a well received tip around supporting new junior joiners. Rather than giving the junior lawyer (or in fact any new joiner) a list of people to arrange calls with - join the intro calls, introduce your junior, “big them up”, and then dial out: this will help your junior receive trust and confidence from their new colleagues, and support them in their learning journey (e.g. to be entrusted with work, and seen as a reliable source of advice).

Daily life hacks

  • Have a virtual office day. Lucy Beaumont, General Counsel for Unilever used Microsoft Teams and invited her team and members of her extended team to join the call. She highly recommends: “The feedback I had from the first session was overwhelmingly positive: it really did almost feel like we were back in the office! “
  • Have a regular 1:1 to check in on learning needs
  • Have regular 360 feedback sessions (you as a trainer, them as a learner)
  • Cc junior on emails, so they can learn by reading. Have a footer explaining to recipients why the junior is included
  • Invite the junior to join any call that is not marked “private” in your calendar (same invitation to the calendar of two or three other stakeholders)

Tech hacks

  • Scale your training: You can use tools such as Loom, which is an app that enables you to record yourself giving a presentation. This would allow you to present important information to a junior lawyer and they can access the video anytime.
  • One of our community members shared how they use Mmhmm to make their video presentations more interactive and fun. The app’s tagline is “Clear, compelling communication for everyone”. That sounds like something we can all use in a remote and hybrid working environment.
  • Give a bit of life to hybrid team work with a piece of hardware like the Owl: https://owllabs.com/ Looks like a bluetooth speaker: lets a remote person see and hear all the people who are physically together.

We would love to hear your recommendations for tackling the challenges of remote training and how you support junior lawyers in a remote work setting.

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