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Sharing is Caring at the PDC Summer Conference: Part 1

By Ian Nelson

PDC Nashville long

A summary of the tips and ideas shared by PDC members at the 2019 Summer Conference.

Kristin Heryford and I had a big job at the Professional Development Consortium’s 2019 Summer Conference: delivering a session that would engage a room full of people on a Saturday morning, many of whom (including yours truly) had karaoke’d their hearts out the night before.

Good thing that PDC members love to participate and share! We just sat back and let everyone talk. Easy.

But seriously…

Kristin and I wanted to facilitate a group discussion that would give PDC members a forum to share ideas, tips, and lessons learned. There was no deck or panel, and the agenda was set by the audience. We put up a live poll and let people vote on what they wanted to talk about.

“It was somehow both a completely crazy and utterly obvious idea at the same time," Kristin said. "No content or talking points, no slides to fall back on or exercises to distract. We would be completely at the mercy of the crowd’s active participation. On a Saturday morning after karaoke... But sharing ideas, asking questions, getting and giving advice—that’s what many of us love most about these things. It’s the magic of the PDC.”

The session was terrific. People shared many great ideas, from wellness programs and initiatives for working parents to transactional and litigation training programs.

The group shared so much great advice that we broke this recap into two parts. In part one we cover topics related to legal and professional skills training, and in part two we’ll summarize ideas related to wellness and inclusion initiatives.

And a special shout out to Burt Lipshie for the terrific feedback:

“Thank you for doing this session. It’s wonderful to be in a room with everyone and share ideas like this. This is how the PDC started,” he said.

Thanks, Burt!

And now, here’s a rundown of the great ideas the group shared, organized by topic:

New Programs & Building a Program from Scratch

The whole room was eager to help a colleague who asked about starting a brand-new PD program. Here’s some of the advice we heard:

  • Get buy-in from partners and associates
  • Do a needs assessment – ask the lawyers what they want training on and prioritize accordingly
  • Make sure you know what you want to achieve beforehand, so you can articulate the ROI at the end
  • Two straightforward programs to start with:
    • Skills-based programs, like taking a deposition
    • CLEs on recently-completed matters. This is a great way to highlight work done at the firm. Have a partner or associate that was on the matter run the CLE, explaining why the matter was successful, what was interesting about it, etc. “Lawyers love these,” said one participant. “We always get great attendance”
  • Show off your results at the end – or at least communicate to the partners how each program met the objectives you agreed to at the beginning

Long-Form/Multi-Program Simulations and Programs

  • Consider a year-long business academy with a series of blended learning sessions following the life of a company from incorporation, funding, an M&A deal, and a litigation (Hotshot works with firms on programs like this and has materials to help.)
  • Improve litigation skills with a mock trial program. You can work through all the elements of a litigation matter over time, culminating in the mock trial
    • One firm uses transcripts from real depositions to make the exercise as realistic as possible and to demonstrate how unpredictable these matters can be

Making Programs Scalable

  • Consider making DIY PD easy for your other offices by creating pre-packaged trainings that anyone can deliver (Read a profile of a program like this)
    • Add an off-the-shelf training catalog on the firm’s intranet page
    • Create pre-packaged materials so anyone in any office can run the training (an associate, PD staff, an office manager, or a partner)--Make it easy for them to implement
    • This approach works in many formats, such as round-table discussions, multi-session programs, flipped classrooms, and more

Professional Skills Programs

  • Many people suggested different workshop topics, with encouragement to have partners give or participate in them.
    • Negotiation skills
    • Business development skills
    • Working style assessments like DISC
  • Include professional skills materials on your training page, along with the legal skills materials, and
  • Bring in a good speaker. Here are some that participants recommended:

General Engagement Ideas

There were a few questions about how to get associates to do the pre work that’s involved in flipped-classroom sessions and about how to send fewer emails.

  • Schedule time in associates’ calendars for pre-work before flipped-classroom programs
  • Put yourself on an “email diet” by grouping email messages when possible and sending from a mailbox that employees recognize
  • Post quarterly trainings on internal intranet for associates to watch if they missed one or need a refresher

This is just a high-level summary of the discussion. Please let us know if you’d like to learn more about any of these ideas. We’re happy to help!

Soon we’ll post part 2 of this series, which will highlight ideas around wellness, programs for working parents, and more.