Comment: Training is important to remain one step ahead

Legal firms are no exception in wishing to attract and retain top-quality staff. Picture: Getty
Legal firms are no exception in wishing to attract and retain top-quality staff. Picture: Getty
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AND it’s about much more than just qualifications, writes Lynda Linden

The legal profession has undergone many changes in recent times and so have staff expectations about what employers should provide.

There is a growing recognition that it is not just about having the qualifications and technical ability that makes someone a good lawyer. It is much wider, including having good people skills to interact with clients and colleagues, together with the opportunity to grow and develop in all areas of business life.

Legal firms are no exception in wishing to attract and retain top-quality staff. At Gillespie Macandrew, we compete to employ top talent, so we need to be different and not afraid to be bold in our thinking.

None of our employees should ever just be a number or pigeon-holed in their career path. We are a growing business with vibrant Edinburgh and Perth practices and are building our Glasgow teams.

A recruitment and training strategy has been introduced, which provides the right building blocks to ensure that we also have our progression and succession needs covered.

One of the fundamentals is to understand what we can offer that others cannot. From engaging with staff and learning more about what they are looking for, it has become obvious the opportunity for responsibility builds confidence, and much of this is provided by a wider exposure to different areas of work.

We have started our own training and development academy using a mix of internal and external providers.The course is focused on four main areas to grow all-round ability across people management, financial management, business development and client relationships.

It provides the type of skills needed for future partners, including building business acumen, evaluation of business options and management of client relationships in an ever-changing business environment.

We believe it gives Gillespie Macandrew staff the flexibility and opportunity to achieve their aspirations and goals through the development of skills. We are not afraid to assist people to retrain if they want to and where we recognise there is a business requirement.

The training modules also help people identify their own styles and how to build their skills to interact with colleagues and clients. One recent session using the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator provided the Associates with personality and perception insights to themselves and colleagues.

Margaret Day (Associate), said after the session: “We started with our own predictions of our personality types and characteristics and then following the tests, we got the results. It was interesting to see how these related to our own perceptions.”

Amy McDowell, another Associate, said: “The course is really helpful in building up background understanding across all areas of the business. The recent session on personality was useful to realise how I and others organise ourselves, aided us identify strengths and weaknesses and how to communicate more effectively and efficiently.”

Broad training is important in a modern firm which ­interacts with individuals, start-ups, SMEs and large ­corporates. We are training our lawyers to be all round business people who understand and can work with any business in all environments.

Our plan is to conduct one-to-one meetings with each member of staff over the coming months. These will take place away from the performance review setting to better understand individual aspirations.

We know that goals and preferences change at different stages in life and career. We are looking to do what we can to support this. Our job is to develop our business and get and keep good people.

We can only do that by listening, being flexible and balancing the needs of the firm with those of the individual.

• Lynda Linden is HR Manager at Gillespie Macandrew