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Learning and development 2021 – breaking it down and building us up

As the year unfolds, firms should be flexible with their learning and development planning and ensure that they listen to feedback and adapt and improve any initiatives along the way, writes Leonie Green.

My daughter recently started high school.

I had expected a bit of an adjustment in the first week or two, but what I hadn’t expected, or considered, was building my competency as a parent of a high-school student. That is, I had considered her adjustment as a student, but not mine as a parent.

I was very grateful when the first school newsletter included advice and guidance materials aimed at the parents. The materials very much hit the mark – giving me some readily actionable takeaways (which have already helped).

Such material and support is also very relevant in the workforce. In the ALPMA 2020 Survey Report, following the Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey Salary, 97 per cent of survey participants confirmed that they paid for staff training. This, of course, can mean anything from CPD requirements through to Masters or Specialist accreditation, or executive coaching and education.

There is a very wide variety of learning and development that we might engage in, and we can sometimes feel lost in the variety of options and miss the opportunity to take some action (however small) in the right direction.

As we enter 2021 and plan our learning and development activities (or cram in our CPD points before the end of the CPD year), it’s a timely opportunity to consider what we might do differently, for greater impact within our firm. How do we get a greater return on our investment, and where should we be investing?

Something old

Sometimes it’s about not trying to re-invent the wheel. There are some basic CPD requirements that can be really helpful and important, so make sure they are covered off first and foremost. Likewise, with compliance training, such as bullying and harassment, or work, health and safety training.

Importantly, make sure it’s engaging, rather than a tick-the-box exercise, and make sure it’s meeting the needs of your participants. Sometimes these can be in-house and all the more valuable – your finance person, for example, taking your lawyers through some financial literacy training can be incredibly beneficial (and it doesn’t happen nearly often enough).

Start with the old and plan out what will be delivered across these core areas to ensure it doesn’t get missed.

Something new

Innovation may be a bit of a buzz word, and yet it is so important for us to consider. It’s not only consideration of design thinking and innovation as an area for learning and development, but also being innovative in the way we plan and implement our learning and development.

How can we do it better? How do we target needs more specifically? How do we get real engagement from our employees through learning and development? What are the skills that our people are going to need next year, next week, tomorrow?

If you are wondering how best to answer these questions, pull together some of your brightest operators and get their feedback and suggestions as to what would work for them. Tap into industry trends or listen to futurists about the skills needed to be successful in both business and law in the years ahead, and include these areas in your learning and development planning.

Something borrowed

Tried and true is sometimes best. Ask around – what have others found most effective and helpful? Where can you introduce more mentoring from successful employees or leaders? What have your employees enjoyed the most or found most helpful in previous learning and development? There is so much material that is accessible at little or no cost.

Podcasts and TED talks, for example, are free and often provide brilliant food for thought (i.e., learning and development).

Something blue

Mental wellbeing conversations are here to stay, so something blue is a reminder to ensure visibility of mental wellbeing in our learning and development planning. Last year opened up a range of conversations that were long overdue. As we progressively move back to office-based work, and re-connect our teams, it’s critical that we keep these conversations going, and that we keep learning more about ourselves and one another.

Building our resilience muscle, and continually improving how we look after ourselves, physically and mentally, is good for business – in fact, it’s business-critical learning and development.

Again, this doesn’t need to be expensive. Smiling Mind and similar apps can be shared and encouraged. Regular walking meetings can be encouraged. Learning and development can occur through shared experience and conversations over lunch and learning sessions – sometimes the best learning and development happens in this way, rather than in a formal learning environment.

Pulling it together … and don’t forget YOU

Learning and development needs constant adjustment and iteration. It’s great to plan out the year and stick to a plan, but it’s also important, as with anything in business, to listen to feedback, scan the environment and continue to adapt and improve along the way.

And, finally, don’t forget yourselves in all of this planning. Just like a parent of a Year 7 student might forget their own adjustment and learning needs, we need to adapt and demonstrate what learning professionals do – we don’t sit still, we don’t stagnate. We scan, we learn, we iterate and we improve. Just as we want our lawyers to do.

So don’t forget your own learning needs in all of this planning – you will support the learning needs of your employees better by ensuring your own learning is also prioritised.

Leonie Green coordinates the Legal Practice Management Course for the College of Law, Victoria, and is a co-founder and director of Corvus Group Australia, a multi-disciplinary firm. Leonie practised as an employment and industrial relations lawyer for a number of years before moving into the corporate world. Leonie now works as a coach, facilitator and consultant in all things people and performance. She can be contacted via email at