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Law Firm Professional Development Continues to Fall Short

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on January 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

There is a disconnect when it comes to law firm professional development. Managers are increasingly turning to electronic forms of training, while associates prefer more in-person mentoring, a study shows.

The study, by West LegalEdcenter and the NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education, asked 1,700 associates and law firm administrators about professional development at their firms.

Here are some of the study's key findings that could help your firm:

  • Law firms expect a 50% rise in the use of online and web-based professional development programs over the next 24 months.
  • Law firms' professional development managers say they expect mentoring programs to be less of a priority over the same period.
  • Law firms cited client relations and business development training as their highest priorities for the future.
  • Most law firm associates -- 95% -- ranked mentoring and on-the-job training as the most important professional development activities.
  • More than one-third of associates -- 38% -- felt their law firms' professional development programs fell below their expectations.
  • Nearly half of associates -- 48% -- say their firms do not offer any law-practice management programs at all.

The study's findings should help law firm managers match career training modules with their employees' preferences, said Lee Ann Enquist, vice president of professional development at Thomson Reuters. (FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters business.)

For example, since associates seem to be clamoring for in-person mentoring, perhaps law firms can consider adding more mentoring programs. This could even include "reverse mentoring" -- pairing older executives with younger associates so they can teach new tech-savvy tricks, as reported in The Wall Street Journal.

Reverse mentoring also gives younger associates more face time with their bosses and seems to improve morale, the Journal reports.

The 128-page West LegalEdcenter report is called "Leading Law Firm Professional Development: A Comprehensive Study of Professional Development Staffing, Resources and Program Delivery Modes." It's available for purchase online at

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