Associates just need a good example
When a senior lawyer assigns a new task to an associate, they understand that a portion of the work that associate will perform will be directly related to learning how the firm does this task. Junior lawyers seek out prior work product and firm precedent to ensure their output meets established criteria. Alongside templates, precedent documents and prior deals, these associates need an accessible human resource for guidance. But senior lawyers, partners and practice area heads are busy and instead resort to the “folkloric” transfer of knowledge. Getting junior lawyers up to speed and meeting firm standards more quickly offers a host of benefits. In addition to improved efficiency and reduced write-offs, firms can also develop and retain budding standouts more effectively.
As firms search for the best way to capture and deploy their accumulated knowledge to associates, it is critical that their solutions provide three primary benefits:
1. The last time the firm performed this task and who did it
A real-world example of the task gives the associate something concrete to work from. Even an outline of the steps taken often enables young lawyers to “get it.” Creating a place to start from can also spark questions that the junior associate may not have thought to ask otherwise. And when that lawyer has questions, mass emails asking if anyone has relevant experience are both inefficient and bothersome. A direct path to the best human resource in the firm can improve both the quality and quantity of work the associate delivers.
2. Firm best practices
In an ideal world, a senior lawyer would deliver every task with precise guidance on how the firm wants it completed. But this is simply not possible in today’s busy firms. Junior lawyers need on-demand access to firm-vetted process documents and corresponding templates and precedent documents. Collecting and managing these assets in a single location can enable much easier updating and more consistent versioning. As law and practice evolves, the firm can ensure that best practices are consistent and up-to-date across the firm.
3. Practical guidance
It is crucial to connect collected firm knowledge with practical resources to support the completion of the work. At the outset, firms should be able to prompt lawyers with guiding documents. This could take the form of a task checklist or a list of questions to consider. While pre-emptively avoiding known roadblocks gives the associate an advantage, it’s impossible to predict every possible issue or change in the matter. A truly intelligent solution should enable lawyers to leverage the facts (or changes to the facts) of the matter to query the firm’s collected knowledge and standard legal guidance.
Help young lawyers become good lawyers
It can be easy to forget that even the most junior lawyer is an intelligent, resourceful person. Given the right resources and support, they can contribute meaningfully to the firm’s work. Young lawyers need years of experience to become truly proficient at their craft. But those years don’t need to be burdened by uncertainty and confusion. With the right tools, both law firms and lawyers can make the learning process easier and more productive. Though it isn’t the only thing an associate needs, a good example is a great place to start.
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