This blog post was also featured as a column in the June 2015 issue of Legal Practice Management magazine. To read the issue in full, download LPM magazine.
The old saying that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” should be banned from the office.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not being ageist – quite the opposite. You’re never too old to learn something new, as long as you have a full set of marbles (and if you’re still working then you most definitely should have, even for legal). Age is used as an excuse for too many things.
We all get set in our ways, whatever age we are, and if pressure from the top doesn’t filter through to push you hard enough and to force you to consider your attitude, anyone can become stale. How often do we hear: “It’s always been done like that”? It can be a red rag to a bull for the person asking why.
You cannot, however, direct your frustration, on every occasion, at that member of the team who appears to not make any effort to challenge whether the way it’s always been done is in fact the best or most efficient way.
It could be that the person knows full well that a task (or a number of tasks) could be done differently, but imagines that they have no right to exercise their ideas – perhaps the team leader wouldn’t appreciate assertiveness, they think.
That, or they simply can’t be bothered.
Training should be mandatory. During appraisal time, professional development always comes up. Managers ask: “Do you need any training? Is there anything we can do to help you in your role?”
How many times do you hear back “No, I’m fine thanks”, or you might hear: “Yes please, I’d like training in …” The problem is that the training doesn’t always happen. Most likely it’s just forgotten.
Training in the accounts department should be an ongoing process. Accounts staff don’t always know how to fully utilise the accounts software, they’re not compelled to use reference books to update their knowledge of changes to SARs, and they’re not taught skills to be assertive and selfconfident. It’s not obligatory to be the best you can be. Equally, it’s not just about getting a qualification – the training doesn’t stop once you have a few letters after your name. Regular coaching, education and good leadership should always be on offer. This is how good lawyers are bred and we should take a leaf out of their book and properly train our staff. Maybe if we charged those staff out at £400 per hour, our expectations would be met.