Engagement Ideas for Virtual Training and Remote Mentoring
By Katie Walter
Law firms are getting creative to keep virtual learning participants engaged and make sure new lawyers get the on-the-job training they need to succeed.
Hybrid is the new remote. Law firms are building on the technical jumps they made in 2020 to deliver even more engaging and effective learning. Those experiences may be in formal training sessions or informally between new associates and the more experienced lawyers who oversee their work.
PD teams have pushed themselves and their colleagues to get creative, try new things, and in some cases rethink the way their firms approach training sessions altogether. They want to keep online training engaging, and they need to replace some of the opportunities for lawyers to interact with each other and form personal connections.
We’ve rounded up ideas from PD leaders and other learning experts. Browse for inspiration and leave your own best tips on our LinkedIn post.
Warmups and intros
- One firm has added meditation to the beginning of Zoom events. While it was uncomfortable for some at first, the PD team reports that now people thank them for it.
- When you’re thinking about speaker introductions, keep this in mind: nobody really cares about the presenter. “Cut your personal introduction down to 10 seconds or less and focus on getting them acclimated to the chat pod,” says Facebook Customer Training Manager Jesse Evans. He suggests these three prompts:
- Type something into the chat pod to Everyone/All Attendees/etc. (“Say hello in your favorite language!”)
- Type something into the chat pod to Presenters/Private Chat/etc. (“How many of you have seen your law firm office already?”)
- Type one final thing into the chat pod to Everyone/All Attendees/etc. (“What are you having for dinner tonight?”)
We know that some people pay more attention when there are points and prizes on the line. This is why gamification is such a popular tool in learning and engagement strategy.According to The Association for Talent and Development, it goes further than that. “Playful learning aids in a mindset shift because learners at play are engaged, relaxed, and challenged – a mindset that supports learning. It’s an invitation to connect experience to application through knowledge and a process that drives learner autonomy and confidence.”
Here are some ideas from PD leaders:
- Ask for ideas from “peers” in sectors outside legal. One PD pro reported looking for ideas from her K-12 education friends, which led her to Kahoot, an online trivia app. Here’s an interesting legal Kahoot example.
- If pre- or post-work like Hotshot videos are in your toolbox, incorporate trivia learned in the videos into the virtual sessions to help reinforce key concepts. (Hotshot’s quizzes can be used for this purpose.)
- Try role-playing. One firm told us about a capital markets simulation that put associates in the role of seasoned negotiators to draft an agreement.
- Some ideas require breakout rooms – and breakout rooms sometimes require extra sets of hands. Try exercises that the participants can lead themselves, as you may not always be able to find lawyers to help.
- Keep breakout experiences short and active – have participants go in, do something, and come back out. One firm had teams sort the steps of an IPO in a Google doc so they could all collaborate. Then they came back to the main group and went through their thinking together.
- Instead of asking for a verbal debrief when people come back from breakout rooms, have them type one insight into the chat. That helps people participate without talking over each other.
We’ve tried to give you a hand with exercises like these. Hotshot’s Training Guides include hypos, discussion questions, and instructions for facilitators and attendees. These materials are great for PD leaders and lawyers who don’t want to have to develop breakout room exercises from scratch.
Experiment with format
Spread out the leaning. In 2020, many firms took one-week training bootcamps and spread them out over the whole summer. That let them experiment with formats and reduce Zoom fatigue. Here are some other ideas:
- One team created a 5-minute explainer video to introduce material that participants went on to read at their own pace. This replaced a full hourlong presentation.
- Another firm created episodic training – one week covering the full lifecycle of a litigation, the next the full lifecycle of a transaction.
- Summer associates at one firm worked in groups ahead of online bootcamps. They had enough self-paced material to submit group homework. Then the presenters could address what they learned and build from there.
- Sometimes presenters are hesitant to ask for comments or interaction because they’re afraid of getting no response. Polling on Zoom helps with that.
- Interaction in virtual sessions can be a lot for a presenter to manage. Designate someone to monitor the chat so the presenter can focus on connecting with the audience.
Direct feedback and mentoring
Integrating on-the-job training with the overall onboarding and training experience is more important in remote and hybrid environments. Mentoring and coaching don’t happen as organically as they did when people are working in person.
- Rick Jenney, a finance partner at MoFo, created a multiweek drafting program to help summer associates learn more advanced legal skills.
- Another firm has decided to be very intentional about providing cross- department, cross-tenure networking opportunities. That means matching up lateral hires with peers with similar interests or pressing on partners to connect with newer lawyers.
- One firm offers legal content to a broad audience but makes sure professional skills classes are taught in small groups with plenty of time for networking and connection.
- LMS provider Workramp suggests using “new hire passports” to help new joiners create more connections during remote onboarding. Create a digital passport that encourages people to have coffee or meet up with people across the organization. Give points and prizes for completion. According to Workramp, “When you leave it to the new hire to decide who to connect with – through conversations with their team or a buddy, you empower the new hire to build connections with folks throughout the organization. This also gives new hires a reason to start building relationships and feel more connected to the broader team.”
Most organizations are sorting out what the future of work-from-home and work-from-office looks like. Many people predict a hybrid future, even for organizations that avoided remote work before the pandemic. Ideas like these can help drive engagement when not everyone is together.
Hotshot can work with your firm to implement many of the ideas above. We can also brainstorm other ways to engage and educate your associates. Contact us to learn more or check out our topics, learning tracks, and training guides.