Making it easier to grow your law firm

Search

This section covers succession, specialisation, mergers, selling a law firm, becoming a partner, and business structure

How to set up your firm’s systems to provide the information that enables you to improve profitability and cashflow

How to avoid professional negligence claims, with examples of common problems and suggested solutions. Plus FAQs on PII

This is a new section and only covers SRA Accounts Rules and GDPR at the moment. More articles will follow

How to protect your law firm from cyber attacks. What steps to take if your systems are hacked

How to recruit and retain a team that is both happy and highly effective, dealing with the HR issues along the way

In marketing, like anything, you need to get the basics right. Otherwise the time and money you invest in marketing will be wasted

How to win new clients, make the most of existing relationships, encourage referrals and generate new leads

How to approach creating a law firm website that works, from agreeing your objectives to making sure you get the results you want

Why lawyers need to know about social media, how to make the most of the opportunities and how to avoid potential pitfalls

How to use PR to build your firm’s reputation; and how to create cost-effective advertising – traditional and online – that delivers results

Using personal development plans - checklist

Nicola Jones

Setting clear objectives and supporting learning in the workplace is an essential activity in any business. Using personal development plans effectively helps to involve people in creating their own action plans, writes Nicola Jones, director of Athena Professional. (2 January 2020)

The SRA continuing competence toolkit offers guidance on how to reflect on the quality of your practice and plan your development. This checklist will help you to set up a plan for developing both lawyers and other firm employees.

  • Each individual should be responsible for their own personal development plan (PDP), which they should review and develop routinely with their line manager.
  • Engage in creating a learning culture which encourages everyone to value professional development. Consider using external coaching for partners and senior managers and in-house mentoring for the wider team.
  • Make sure employees understand the firm’s objectives and how they contribute to these.
  • Develop a standard set of questions to use as the basis for discussion about the employee's objectives, strengths and development needs.
  • Address all the areas in which they can develop – not just legal or functional expertise, but also people skills, leadership and contributions towards different areas of practice management.
  • Encourage individuals to identify personal development objectives – even if these are not directly related to the job.
  • Assess how employees' objectives match the firm’s requirements. Line managers should be prepared to negotiate a mix of objectives to suit both the employee and the firm.
  • Consider whether challenging, long-term objectives or more immediate needs suit the employee best.
  • Discuss preferred learning methods and how new ways of working will be transferred into the workplace.
  • Agree up to three specific, realistic and measurable key objectives and deadlines. Identify priorities and any interim objectives.
  • Identify how learning in the workplace can contribute: for example, providing new tasks and responsibilities, together with on-the-job guidance.
  • Identify any role for formal training, particularly if several employees will be able to benefit or if special expertise is needed.
  • Identify opportunities for self-directed development, together with support and encouragement from senior lawyers or managers.
  • Ask the employee to assess progress against the objectives, and discuss problems, typically every three months; provide positive feedback.
  • Keep records of development plans and activities. Use the SRA templates or your own versions.
  • Agree revised objectives and new development opportunities.
  • Review data generated by performance management to ensure that learning strategy is on course and contributing effectively to achieving the firm’s goals.

"Lawyers tend to think about their skills and knowledge purely in terms of legal expertise. They should be encouraged to think also about the non-legal and soft skills they will need for their career progression"
Catherine Gasparini, consultant

"Learning on the job, along with mentoring or coaching, is often the lion’s share of workplace learning. Make sure partners and managers are committed to playing their part"
Martyn Best, Document Direct

See also:

Stay up-to-date with business advice and news

Sign up to this lively and colourful newsletter for new and more established small businesses.