A chat with Jennifer Little, Manager of Attorney Development at Haynes and Boone LLP
By Chris Wedgeworth
In the first of a series of profiles of people who work in legal professional development, we talk to Jennifer Little, Manager of Attorney Development at Haynes and Boone LLP.
Hello Jen. Thanks for agreeing to do our first PD profile. We chose you because you’re fun and because you and your firm are doing interesting things in PD.
That’s a lot of pressure, but I’m happy to do it.
What did you do before you got into PD?
In a word – traveled! Having taken opportunities to study abroad in England during law school, I returned there in 2008, after starting my legal career as a litigator in Florida. I held both legal and regional PD roles with Clifford Chance in Europe and Asia before returning to the US in January 2017. I’m looking forward to more domestically-focused trips and exploring my new home state of Texas in 2018.
Why did you move into PD after being a lawyer?
After qualifying as a solicitor of England and Wales, I moved into a Professional Support Lawyer role with Clifford Chance in London. Building on my interest in the educational elements of my duties, I was able to transition to the central Learning & Development team, “The Clifford Chance Academy”, focusing on cross-border and comparative law training for lawyers globally. Designing and delivering programs in some of the most beautiful cities in Europe and Asia was a definite perk!
You know the game two truths and a lie? We play it with PD friends at Hotshot dinners. Can you share two truths and a lie about yourself?
I hold dual citizenship
I’ve completed 2 marathons
There are 64 stamps in my passport(s)
We’ll keep people guessing for a while.
Tell us about your firm and how the PD team is structured.
Haynes and Boone currently has 597 attorneys in 15 offices across 4 countries.
The Attorney Development team of 7 is currently based in our Dallas-Fort Worth area offices, though our senior team members regularly travel to other offices.
The senior leadership team is comprised of attorneys who formerly practiced law. While we consider ourselves to be one team, everyone beneath our Director primarily focuses on either Training and Programs or Talent Development.
What are some current trends you’re seeing in legal PD?
The plenary sessions at the recent 2017 NALP Professional Development Institute in Washington DC were well chosen to reflect current hot topics.
- Jordan Furlong spoke on the future of law firms and his point that we need to see the younger generation for who they are (and not who we were) really resonated with me, as training and retaining “millennials” is top of mind for many in PD.
- I was also encouraged to hear the report by the National Task Force on Attorney Well-Being because supporting and addressing lawyer wellness issues is an important part of a holistic approach to PD. The prominence of Lawyer Assistance Programs and focus of industry consultants in this space is another indicator of increasing interest.
What areas of training are your lawyers most interested in?
Lawyers are rightly interested in technical legal (“hard law”) topics that will help them to develop basic competence and gain confidence in their practices at the junior level, and support the development of specialized expertise as they progress to mid-levels.
But I think that more lawyers should be focused on becoming good, efficient project managers, and I expect we will see more dedicated training in matter management to facilitate this goal at every stage of their careers.
Tell us about a new or interesting program you’re working on this year.
An opportunity recently arose to work with a GC of an important client who has begun to invest his free time in the academic world. Having taught Contract Drafting for a couple of semesters at a local law school, he wanted to try out a CLE workshop format on a more advanced audience. We’ve worked with him to develop a 5-part series for 27 junior associates in our Dallas transactional practice, which kicks off next week.
We have already received inquiries from other offices in our firm about participating in the future. And of course, the firm will benefit from this new avenue to strengthening an important relationship.
Can you tell us about a training session that was particularly successful and why it was successful?
I was involved with a Cognitive Interviewing program developed with a former member of the metropolitan police for litigation and financial regulatory lawyers. The psychology behind particular witness interviewing techniques was fascinating, the trainer was a delight and the fun role plays made it something for which we had to run a waiting list! In addition, the program was a consistent success due to correctly targeting and ensuring a proper ratio and mix of participants, and keeping the timing to a tight ¾ day.
Any predictions on the future of legal PD?
The demand to deliver more, faster and cheaper, shows no signs of abating. Innovation and embracing technology will be the hallmarks of successful firms of the future. Similarly, PD professionals will need to expand their role to help achieve these goals.