By Legal Futures Associate Access Legal
Law firms in the UK have moved mental health and wellbeing and health and safety training up the agenda when it comes to legal learning, according to research by Access Legal.
The legal software provider, a division of The Access Group, surveyed more than 140 law firms of various sizes in November to delve deeper into their priorities for legal training, their top challenges for implementing training and what impact hybrid working has had on learning in the sector. It carried out the same survey in March this year with some notable changes in findings.
Although risk and compliance (69 per cent) and learning specific to the role (76 per cent) remain among the top three training priorities for law firms, mental health and wellbeing (48 per cent) and health and safety (35 per cent) have notably risen in importance, with the former making the top five.
The survey also found that many firms plan to put in place new hybrid working policies in the long-term. Significantly, only 32 per cent of firms plan to be fully office-based, compared with 86 per cent pre-pandemic. Interestingly, 66 per cent are aiming to practise hybrid-working models compared with only 9 per cent before the pandemic. There’s also a small percentage of firms who want to work entirely remotely (2 per cent).
This rise in hybrid working could be one of the main reasons that key barriers to training have shifted. In March this year, 74 per cent of those surveyed cited time restraints as the top challenge for ensuring practitioners were able to participate in training, this is down to 55 per cent in October. Reporting and evidencing training (43 per cent) is however up by 27 per cent.
These findings marry up with the fact that webinars (70 per cent) and e-learning (62 per cent) are the most popular forms of training, with in-person training now down from 44 per cent in March to 25 per cent in October.
Ed Jones, Product Manager, Access Legal Learning, who presented the survey findings at The Access Group’s Access All Areas virtual conference, believes hybrid- working is changing learning in the sector and providing new challenges for firms. He said; “The way firms now operate is significantly impacting what and how they provide training to their practitioners.
“With that massive shift to over two thirds of firms’ hybrid working, it’s clear why online training makes more sense over in-person.
“Although it’s no surprise to see risk and compliance still ranking as high priority, I think we are seeing mental health, wellbeing and health and safety move up the agenda because of changes in the working environment.
“Burnout and overworking practitioners has long been an important discussion point in legal and with more practitioners working remotely and visibly out of sight of colleagues, it poses a challenge to firms to ensure that practitioners aren’t being overworked and able to spot burnout signs or poor mental health. There’s an ambition in the sector to improve wellbeing so training around health is becoming more important.
“We plan to carry out our survey again in early 2022 and we imagine the trend towards e-learning and webinars will continue. We anticipate topics around mental health as well as the appetite for legal specific training will only grow as practitioners have more time to focus on learning tailored to theirs and their firm’s needs.”
To view Ed’s session at Access All Areas and to hear more insights on the survey’s findings, click here.