In-house attorneys learn and gain proficiency when they handle real matters start to finish. Here is how the point is put in Practical Law, Dec. 2010/Jan. 2011 at 86: “the best way to develop in-house lawyers is to ensure they are exposed to a wide variety of experience and many different cycles of learning.” This was the prime takeaway from a session at the ACC Annual Meeting last year. The best training programs fall short of first-hand experience (See my post of Sept. 3, 2008: action learning is best.).
What this means in day-to-day management of a legal department is that supervising attorneys need to let lawyers tackle matters that present new problems for them. Yes, this requires more supervision; agreed, not every lawyer wants to learn about new areas; certainly you might consider outside counsel to check over the results. But, in the end, learning by hands-on doing most effectively enlarges a lawyer’s skill set.