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Law firm partners ought to value opportunities to train in-house counsel at clients

A 2007 survey by the Association of Corporate Counsel, reported in Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 16, May 2008 at 61, drew responses from 1,166 general counsel. When asked what initiatives outside counsel could implement to improve the relationship with their legal department, respondents ranked at the top a set of billing improvements.

According to the summary, those improvements were “followed closely by offering seminars, training and CLE sessions and providing updates on developments in applicable areas of law.” In the 2006 survey, that training choice was ranked highest.

Some partners might be reluctant to train in-house lawyers, because they fear that those lawyers might then have less need to call upon the firm. A few partners might worry about appearing patronizing if they offer instruction. Others realize they are poor teachers. Some don’t want to take the time because it is not billable while a handful may feel that client lawyers do not want training. Or maybe the in-house counsel don’t ask for training or subtly discourage it.

Still, enlightened partners should realize that in-house lawyers who understand an area of law better can spot more issues, develop more work, and need outside counsel even more (See my post of Nov. 8, 2005: specialists drive more outside counsel spending.). Any self-respecting professional wants to learn about her chosen field. Partners should realize that training strengthens the bonds with their clients (See my posts of June 28, 2006: training and other contributions by firms; and Feb. 25, 2007: law firm training of in-house counsel.).