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Ida Abbott Consulting LLC

The new second edition updates and builds on the original book. It contains a great deal of new material and expands topics that now warrant greater prominence, such as competency models, technology-based training, and client-law firm collaboration in professional development.


This book is written for legal employers, managers, professional development directors, training partners, and everyone interested or involved in lawyers' learning and development. It is intended to be a complete reference for those who are starting, expanding, revising, or restructuring professional development activities. Whether you are new to the field or have extensive experience, this book will be an invaluable resource.

Table of Contents

Part I — Establishing the Foundations for Effective Professional Development

Chapter 1. The Professional Development Imperative

  • Professional Development and Talent Management
  • Why Professional Development Is Essential
  • Professional Development in Today’s Practice Environment
  • Changes in the Legal Industry
  • Changes in the Attorney-Client Relationship
  • Changes in the Way Lawyers Work
  • Changes in How Law Firms Make Profits
  • The Impact of Change on Lawyers
  • Associates’ Learning Expectations
  • Lawyers’ Quality of Life
  • Partners’ Learning Expectations
  • Changes in Law School Education
  • Challenges These Changes Present for Professional Development

Chapter 2. Designing a Professional Development Program

  • Approaching Professional Development Strategically
  • Leading the Strategy Development Process
  • Developing a Strategy
  • How Will the Parts Fit Together?
  • Continuous Reassessment

Chapter 3. Leading the Professional Development Program

  • The Training Partner
  • Professional Development Committee
  • Professional Development Directors: Responsibilities
  • Professional Development Directors: Qualifications
  • Finding Professional Development Leaders
  • Reporting Relationships of Professional Development Leaders
  • Practical Suggestions for Professional Development Directors
  • Appendix 3-A. Sample Job Descriptions: Fenwick & West LLP

Chapter 4. How Law Firms Help Lawyers Learn and Develop

  • Adult Learning Principles
  • More on Self-Directed Learning
  • The Role of Reflection in Learning
  • Neuroscience and Learning
  • What Lawyers Need to Learn
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
  • How Lawyers Learn
  • Creating a Learning Environment
  • Additional References

Chapter 5. Competencies and Benchmarks

  • Practice Benchmarks
  • Core Competencies
  • Developing Core Competencies
  • Implementing Competencies
  • Additional References

Part II — The Essential Components of a Professional Development Program

Chapter 6. Work Assignments: The Core of Learning

  • Overview
  • Developmental Work Assignments
  • Allocating Work Assignments Systematically
  • Components of an Effective Work Allocation System
  • Specialization and Practice Group Assignments
  • Creating Learning Opportunities
  • Associate Participation on Committees as Learning Opportunities
  • Pro Bono Assignments as Learning Opportunities

Chapter 7. Mentoring: Promoting Development Through Relationships

  • The Benefits of Mentoring
  • The Influence of Mentors
  • Enhancing Informal Mentoring
  • The Value of Formal Mentoring Programs
  • Establishing a Formal Mentoring Program
  • Mentoring Program Element
  • Evaluating Mentoring Programs
  • Coaching, Mentoring, Sponsorship
  • Appendix 7-A. Establishing a Mentoring Program: Checklist
  • Appendix 7-B. Sample Mentoring Plan
  • Appendix 7-C. Mentoring: Core Training Curriculum
  • Appendix 7-D. Evaluating the Mentoring Relationship

Chapter 8. Using Evaluations to Promote Lawyers’ Development

  • Informal Feedback and Formal Evaluations
  • Basing Evaluations on Explicit Performance Standards
  • Adopting and Implementing an Evaluation System
  • Allocating Sufficient Administrative Personnel and Resources
  • Evaluating Partners: Special Considerations
  • Aids to Get the Firm Started
  • Appendix 8-A. Associate Practice and Development Goals

Chapter 9. Training

  • The Reasons for In-house Training
  • Limitations of Training
  • Needs Analysis
  • Curriculum Design
  • In-House Training or Outside Vendors?
  • Course Design for In-House Programs
  • Faculty
  • Instructional Materials
  • Time and Place
  • Administrative Support
  • Technology
  • Program Costs
  • Evaluating Training Programs
  • Measuring the Value of Training
  • The Law Firm as an Accredited CLE Provider
  • Multi-Office Firms: Special Training Considerations
  • Common Training Questions
  • Appendix 9-A. Cooley College Faculty Guidelines
  • Appendix 9-B. Professional Development Program at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

Chapter 10. Training Trends and Innovations

  • “Apprenticeship” Programs for First-Year Associates
  • Business Training for Associates
  • Training for Partners
  • Training for Clients
  • Law Firm Universities
  • Project Management Training
  • Training in Cultural Intelligence
  • Appendix 10-A. Sample M&A Training Module: Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP

Chapter 11. Technology in Training

  • Videoconferencing
  • Web Conferencing

Part III — Knowledge Management

Chapter 12. Knowledge Management: Harnessing Information and Expertise

  • How Does Knowledge Management Work?
  • How Does Knowledge Management Benefit Lawyers and Firms?
  • Knowledge Management and Professional Development
  • Obstacles to Knowledge Management
  • Starting a Knowledge Management Initiative
  • Further Reading

Part IV — Budgeting

Chapter 13. Budgeting for a Professional Development Program

  • The Budgeting Process
  • Special Budgeting Issues for the Professional Development Director

Part V — Coordinating Professional Development Efforts with Recruiting, Summer Programs, and Orientation

Chapter 14. Associate Recruiting and Summer Programs

  • Determining and Applying Hiring Criteria
  • Training Lawyers to Conduct Interviews
  • Professional Development as a Recruiting Tool
  • Summer Associate Programs
  • Partner Recruitment


Chapter 15. Orientation and Integration

  • Orientation for Associates
  • Content and Format of Orientation Programs
  • Organizing the Orientation Program
  • Orientation for Partners
  • Additional Resources
  • Appendix 15-A. Harter Secrest & Emery LLP Senior Associate Training Agenda
  • Appendix 15-B. Harter Secrest & Emery LLP New Partner Orientation Agenda

Part VI — Special Issues Related to Professional Development

Chapter 16. Professional Development and Mergers

  • Pre-merger Involvement of Professional Development Directors
  • Post-merger Implementation
  • Impact of Mergers on the Professional Development Team

Chapter 17. Diversity and Inclusion

  • Women’s Initiatives
  • The Role of Professional Development
  • Diversity Training 
  • Work Assignments
  • Evaluations
  • Mentoring
  • Affinity Groups 
  • Work-Life Policies and Practices
  • Generational Diversity

Chapter 18. Career Guidance

Chapter 19. Alumni Programs

Chapter 20. Leadership Development and Succession Management

  • External Leadership Development Programs

Part VII — Professional Development in Corporate and Government Settings

Chapter 21. Corporate Law Departments

  • Career Advancement and Development
  • Orientation
  • Work Assignments
  • Evaluations
  • Mentoring
  • Knowledge Management
  • Training

Chapter 22. Lawyers in the Public Sector

  • Professional Development at the Department of Justice