Junior lawyers find it harder to concentrate on virtual training

Remote training: Hard to concentrate

Junior lawyers “find it harder to concentrate” during virtual training sessions than their more senior colleagues, a report has found.

The report, for global business services provider Williams Lea, also found that partners ““strongly felt” they were not getting enough time with junior lawyers, who were in turn “frustrated” by their senior colleagues’ lack of speed in digital adoption.

Researchers from consultancy UnWork interviewed more than 50 lawyers from trainees to managing partners from an equal number of UK and US law firms for the report The future of the legal workplace. The firms included Baker McKenze, Pinsent Masons, DLA Piper and Irwin Mitchell.

Researchers said law firms forced to switch to virtual training by the Covid lockdowns found it was possible to provide “meaningful and appropriate” sessions, but there was a “difference between the views” of partners and associates.

“On the one hand, virtual sessions open formal training to broader geographies and more participants. This is democratising and more cost-effective for firms with multiple office locations, so many partners see this as a benefit.

“On the other hand, junior associates report feeling guilty (for not working on client matters) attending optional sessions and find it harder to concentrate on virtual training.”

One associate commented: “It’s harder to focus when watching a screen. I often end up multitasking and emailing.”

Researchers said in-person training seemed “unmatched in terms of keeping focus on the subject matter as well as on knowledge retainment”.

Meanwhile, partners “strongly felt that they weren’t getting the necessary time with their juniors for them to develop professionally”.

Researchers said progressive law firms would have to find “new digital and immersive ways” to train their staff, such as virtual reality or “digital nudges” from artificial intelligence (AI) to point them towards new content or “learning pathways”.

However, while virtual reality was “a novel way to attract new clients or simulate real-life experiences for training”, there were still “concerns about cybersecurity and data protection”.

The law firms which had tried virtual reality meetings had experienced “a false start”. One UK partner said: “We toyed with the idea of having meetings in VR. We tried, but not everyone had the tech and experience.”

Researchers described junior lawyers as “slightly frustrated by the speed of digital adoption of their senior counterparts”, with complaints about resistance to innovation.

“They feel their firms could benefit from new technologies by learning and developing faster, leveraging their strengths as digital natives.

“Regardless, lawyers at all levels are seeing the benefits of greater adoption of legal tech solutions for a range of tasks from legal research tools to industry insights.”

Managing partners and other senior lawyers saw the use of AI in process automation as having “the biggest impact” on the legal industry.

“We have been trying to use AI better,” said one partner. “It enables process to be taken out and frees us up to do the human, creative elements. There has been an exponential acceleration in it.”

With law firms settling into “a pattern of hybrid working that is typically in the office Tuesday to Thursday”, with remote working Mondays and Fridays, researchers said there would “inevitably be a reduction in office space”.

However, decisions by law firms such as Linklaters and Clifford Chance to cut the size of their new City offices, by “almost half” in the case of Clifford Chance, represented “a ‘flight to quality’ rather than a downsizing of operations.

“What they are losing in square footage they are gaining in quality of premises, amenities and experience.”

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