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Digital learning: the case for change

In a law firm environment, with the pressures of fee earning in a high-performance culture, learning and development is not always a priority. After all, lawyers may argue, the real learning is done ‘on the job’. Anything else is an indulgence, or a chore. 

Yet learning new skills has never been more important. As the world battles COVID-19, the UK navigates the twin forces of Brexit and an impending recession, and law firms and their clients rush to understand the implications of new digital technologies, it is clear that adaptability isn’t just necessary, its essential for survival in the digital age.  

The pandemic has underscored the importance of digital resilience –the ability to pivot and adapt quickly to new operating models in response to unforeseen market changes. Look at the response of the Chinese media company Huanxi Media to the closure of cinemas during lockdown. To avoid losing millions of dollars on its upcoming film release, Huanxi partnered with ByteDance, a digital media platform, to distribute the film. As a result, Huanxi earned $91 million and a share of advertising revenue. 

Crisis situations are of course exceptional, and demand an exceptional response. Yet even pre-Coronavirus, the shift to digital was a growing strategic priority in most sectors. The legal services market is not immune from the digital imperative.  

Digital learning, changing the status quo

Post-Coronavirus working practices will mean less time in the office, and less time for traditional lectures or classroom learning. Creating or enhancing your firm’s digital learning proposition would seem an obvious strategic response. However, not all law firms will be receptive to moving away from traditional modes of delivery.  

If you’re likely to meet resistance, here are some reasons why we feel the case for change has never been stronger. 

  • Flexibility: Lawyers’ work profiles will always be hectic and unpredictable. As a result, regular scheduled training is often skipped or cancelled at the last minute. A move to digital learning can allow lawyers to work at their own pace, flexibly – and to take ownership of their own learning journey.

  • Timely: The legal profession is adapting to new modes of delivery and lawyers are moving to new ways of working. Digital learning supports modern practice, by being immediately available to lawyers when they need it, on whatever device they choose. For example, providing ‘just in time’ training to lawyers before a virtual meeting or negotiation.

  • More equitable: With diversity and inclusion high on the law firm agenda, moving to digital allows the creation of learning experiences that are diverse by design. Both content and learning environment can be more equitable for learners than a traditional classroom setting (which can play to the most confident or dominant learners). 

  • Efficiency: The right blend of digital and classroom learning means that face to face learning can be used to maximum effect when office time is at a premium. 

  • Relevancy: As the business world moves away from the traditional office based working practices, the law firm’s digital presence becomes its corporate office – and a manifestation of its identity and culture. Learning to interact digitally is now an integral part of a lawyer’s professional life – and a core skill.  

  • Forward looking: Generation Z learn in ways that can feel alien to other generations. They are digital natives, used to socialising virtually and seeking out new learning on YouTube or TikTok. These are the future partners of the firm, and they will embrace the opportunity to learn digitally.

  • Cost effective: Although there is likely to be cost involved in moving to a digital learning model, this can be offset through a number of savings:
    • Travel cost (think of the expense of convening a conference, particularly overseas)
    • Opportunity cost (revenues lost through attending mandatory face-to-face training during office hours)
    • Associated logistical costs (think of the food wasted from all those breakfast training sessions that were poorly attended)
    • Costs of reproduction (digital content can be replicated and repurposed at minimal cost) 
  • Increased return on investment: Once captured, digital learning can be reused and easily distributed, across every geography and practice group, giving a much higher return on investment than a face-to-face partner lecture.

  • Revenue generating: The right kind of digital content can be a compelling ‘value add’, which can even help to win new clients and new work. Having digital learning that you can tailor to a particular client’s training needs is an asset that you can ‘pitch’ to clients.  

The digital opportunity

While an increasing number of law firms were already embracing online education, the past 12 months have undoubtably accelerated adoption. The most compelling argument remains the same however, in the digital age, the law firms that embrace an adaptive learning culture will gain a crucial competitive advantage. 


The College of Legal Practice is a digital provider of legal education. We create collaborative, interactive and practical learning experiences to help students progress in law. This blog is part of our Online by Design content series, exploring ways to help L&D teams reimagine their learning experiences for a post-pandemic digital age.


up next: Applying digital design principles
to achieve learning outcomes