Since kindergarten most of us have learned the same way.  We sit in a classroom, listen to a teacher and then do our homework after school.  When we get back to school, we are supposed to know how to apply our homework and use it as a building block for the next topic.  Homework, from the day before, is then distributed, but the class has moved on to the next topic giving students little time to reflect on how to improve what was not done correctly or work with the teacher on things that need more explanation.  Teachers are under pressure to move on and keep the entire class on the same schedule regardless of how individual students are progressing.

A few years ago, I heard about a new educational technique called “flipped training” in a PBS NewsHour program (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzPJ6XNWcwY).  “Flipping” was being used successfully by a school in Detroit that was failing.  The principal decided to try the “flipping” technique after realizing how well his training videos on baseball, sent to each player before practice, had helped improve his son’s baseball team.  After one year, the school saw an increase in passing rates on state exams in every subject.  (http://assets.pearsonschool.com/asset_mgr/current/201317/Clintondale_casestudy.pdf.)

“Flipping”, in the traditional sense, involves creating videos on the topic of the day that are sent to each student.  Students are expected to view the videos before class and then come to class ready to engage in learning activities based on the video viewed the night before.

I have watched “flipped training” grow in popularity and move from the classroom to corporate boardrooms.  I began to think about how “flipping” might work for lawyers. I realized that “flipping”, in a sense, was how I learned in law school.  At Cumberland School of Law we utilized the Socratic Method.  This educational model is intended to stimulate critical thinking (although initially I thought it was just a cruel way to scare 1L’s) by requiring students to read and understand legal concepts outside of the classroom and then go into the classroom prepared to “brief” the assigned cases.

Working in law firms, I had hired great coaches, good speakers and had fantastic facilitated sessions in the past.  But, even with quality presenters and content, only a few of the lawyers actually utilized the training they received.  I knew training and coaching done in tandem provided better results than training or coaching alone.  The question was if the use of the “flipping” technique alongside the combination of training and coaching could be even more effective.  The answer was a resounding yes.

How do you flip the training?  “Flipping” means that the focus is on applying what is learned outside of the training session (in my case during coaching) in the group training session.  An example might be a coaching session that focuses on networking skills followed by a group session where participants practice, critique and simulate networking scenarios.  Importance is placed on “doing” not teaching during training.  But “flipped training” not only gives lawyers a chance to practice what they have learned, it also provides:

  • Confidence in their ability to act on the training
  • A sense of “team” as lawyers work together in the training session to improve
  • Honest critiques and an opportunity to correct behaviors that might be barriers to success BEFORE mistakes are made outside in the “real” world

Because “flipping” is a different format, it requires some getting used to and explanation, but once understood, most lawyers embrace the concept and enjoy something different.

Training should emphasize what each lawyer NEEDS to learn.  By “flipping” training, coaching sessions can be dedicated to what the individual lawyer being coached needs to learn versus the assumption, made in “classroom” style training that every lawyer needs to learn the material as taught.  Individual lawyers, through “flipping”, have an opportunity to learn and explore their individual needs during coaching.

Using the example above, some lawyers enjoy networking but may need help in how to follow-up.  Their coaching session may focus on this aspect of networking.  During the training session they can share and show their recent success or failures in using their new found follow-up strategies.  “Flipping” training to focus on individual needs benefits everyone in the group by:

  • Helping others recognize their own shortcomings, perhaps unrealized, until the training session
  • Giving everyone in the group ideas on how to improve their overall performance
  • Allowing lawyers to mentor others
  • Putting participants in charge of leading the group by showing and doing versus having an individual trainer
  • Moving the training session from a learning presentation to a learning experience

“Flipping” your training.  Innovative law firms are spending money and time equipping their attorneys for success.  That said, every law firm has a limited budget for training.  To that end, as you think about your 2018 training budget, I would encourage you to give “flipping” a try.  As I stated before, you will need to explain the concept, but once explained, you can use this technique with small groups (no more than ten) very effectively.  “Flipping” is effective because it:

  • Provides more interaction and engagement
  • Gives participants the opportunity for real-time feedback
  • Allows the trainer time to give focused individual attention during class time
  • Motivates group members to be prepared for the training class in advance
  • Exposes gaps in the outside training instantly

There are vendors who provide great video content that you can use as a basis for “flipping” in the area of business development.  Some recommendations include Mike O’Horo’s RainMaker Virtual Training (http://www.rainmakervt.com/#virtual-training) and Julie Savarnio’s on-demand training (http://www.busdevinc.com/welcome.bdi).  Once you select a vendor with the content you desire, you can send out video modules to your small group and then use the training class to practice the tips and techniques from the videos.  If you want to take this even further, add personal one-on-one coaching to this format and you will see ROI in your training explode.  While this type of training takes time to develop and implement, the results will make you look like a rock star!  Even if you outsource the training and coaching, which may work best for busy firms, the payoff is huge.  Just ask Coach Urban Meyer who has been using the “flip” system throughout his football coaching career.  He took The Ohio State University Buckeyes from losing seasons to a national championship in just three years.  As defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said in a recent Wall Street Journal article (http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-urban-meyer-took-the-buckeyes-to-school-1417806534) “the technique keeps everyone on their toes.”  Each player is responsible for learning and thinking about how to best play their position before practice. Practice is spent doing what was learned.  This technique makes each practice more effective and helps Coach Meyer make the most of the time he has with his team.

If you would like more information on “flipping”, here are some additional resources:

If you would like to discuss ways you can flip your law firm’s training, shoot me an e-mail at teahoffmann@lawstrategycorp.com.  My focus is making lawyers and law firm more profitable, efficient and effective.  “Flipping” is just one way to do that in 2018, so flip out!