The importance of L&D for your (invaluable) legal accounts department

Posted by Elaine Pasini, head of communications at the Legal Futures Associate, the Institute of Legal Finance & Management (ILFM)

Pasini: Training is SRA requirement

Legal cashiers are hard to come by, and within a highly regulated industry, how do you keep them feeling motivated and valued in your firm?

Training is a key factor when it comes to attracting legal support staff. Recruiters know that a law firm hiring for a new legal cashier role with the offer of continued learning & development (L&D) as a benefit, will receive better feedback than firms that don’t.

We all like to feel valued in a position of employment, and if our employers can see ways to improve our motivation and job satisfaction through extra training, then the return on investment is a no-brainer.

Under paragraph 9.2 of the SRA code of conduct for law firms, it states: “If you are a COFA you must take all reasonable steps to ensure that your firm and its managers and employees comply with any obligations imposed upon them under the SRA accounts rules…”

As a law firm, especially one that has high transactional client accounts, you really want your legal cashiers (and all the designations similar in role) to have confidence when it comes to in-depth knowledge of the accounts rules, VAT and disbursements, legal compliance and the frustrating struggles around the double ledger accounts that don’t balance!

Studies for legal cashiers and law firm finance employees are, of course, essential but what about the continued training thereafter? The SRA may have drastically decreased the number of rules, but with that come grey areas where a cashier will need to have the confidence to understand those new rules in line with their practice and guidelines.

10 reasons to offer ongoing training to legal cashiers & law firm finance professionals

Losing law firm accounts’ employees (who are hard to come by anyway) due to minimal learning opportunities is one of the worst kinds of employee turnover to have.

Why? Because employees who ask for L&D opportunities are interested, and interested people make for a better and more valued group of employees. These are the employees who WANT to learn, so take advantage of that.

But what if you pay for their training and then they leave? What happens if you don’t offer them training and they leave anyway?

Lori Niles-Hofmann, transformation strategist at NilesNolen, says: “Rather than looking at hours of learning and course-completion rates, instead focus on identifying what skills are lacking in your organisation. With that alignment and clarity, L&D can create a skill-building program that’s in lockstep with your business strategy.”

L&D isn’t solely about motivation and retention tactics (or a way of attracting new talent), but also a way of looking at new solutions to career paths, internal mobility, and being the go-to law firm that genuinely cares about employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion.

In the legal industry alone, we have seen more chief learning officers coming onboard, especially at the larger law firms, where knowledge of psychology is utilised for profits and success.

How can a smaller law firm embed sustainable and effective training into their busy business without having a colleague with a psychology degree? It’s easy – just do some team research on their weaknesses and where they can gain knowledge, and of course, with knowledge comes confidence. It’s a win-win situation.

A small law firm might even say ‘We’re too busy to train’, ‘Our accounts department doesn’t need training’, or ‘We don’t have the budget for training and development’. I am sure we have all been in a firm where these excuses come up…

… until the SRA comes knocking on their door, or accounts department employees start resigning.

Not worth thinking about, is it? So as the body for professional education and membership support, the ILFM knows only too well that maintaining a healthy finance department through training and development can keep a law firm compliant whilst keeping the SRA at bay.

Remember, the SRA doesn’t want to fine you or shame you – they are protecting ‘us’ as consumers of legal services (because we all are in one way or another).

As an education and training professional body, the ILFM understands the need for continued development. Here are our top 10 reasons why employee training is important. It:

  1. Boosts existing employee morale;
  2. Creates professional development opportunities;
  3. Supports recruitment processes;
  4. Offers more learning opportunities;
  5. Highlights weaknesses and develops strengths;
  6. Helps with change;
  7. Enhances compliance and quality standards;
  8. Maintains consistency within the workplace;
  9. Offers equality for all; and
  10. Elevates your professional ‘brand’.

Internal mobility

Gleaning insights and data from LinkedIn’s Learning & Development Report 2022 is handy when it comes to understanding what employees want and how those wants align with an agile business.

Industry publications such as Harvard Business Review and Forbes agree that internal mobility is the most efficient path towards a firm’s success. Recruitment for a growing firm is essential, of course, but why overlook existing employees who can prosper and learn?

As Gogi Anand, senior people science consultant at LinkedIn, puts it: “Employees expect opportunities to learn and grow without limitations, managers who understand individual working styles and environments, and companies that offer flexibility as a standard of employment.”

Employees’ top three motivators to learn are all connected to careers

The L&D data from LinkedIn shows the top three reasons employees embrace training are that it helps them stay up-to-date in their field; when the training is tailored for their interests and career goals; and if it helps them get another job internally, get a promotion or get closer to reaching their career goals.

There has been a significant growth in L&D roles in recent times and those L&D professionals agree that the top 5 drivers for a great workplace culture are steeped in opportunities to grow and learn, belonging, organisational values, support and wellbeing, and collaboration.

Memberships also have the feeling of belonging, which is why the ILFM offer more rewards, invaluable masterclasses and ongoing training to support its members whilst – of course – also training our staff internally.


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