3 Winning Strategies to Secure Business Buy-in for Legal Training

I mean, it’s obvious why training is important, right? No?

As corporate counsel, we take the importance of employee training at face value. If there’s a risk, employees should be aware of how to avoid it.

Why wouldn’t every employee want to know the ins and outs of antitrust law?

Don’t they care about the company?

Employees care more about the strategic goals of their departments than the macro-level hypothetical risks worried about by the lawyers. This can create tension between managers who want their employees focused on business goals and corporate counsel who are paid to help employees manage risks.

Lack of manager buy-in can be a death knell for legal training. We all know “tone from the top” is critical when trying to maintain an effective compliance program. But it is just as important to get the support of a regional sales manager when you're going to train her staff on email best practices. Remember, employees will only care about training when their managers care.

How do we get buy-in from managers?

(click here to find out how to get buy-in from their employees)

Lawyers are not salespeople by trade. However, effective sales techniques are often the difference between success and failure to secure buy-in.

Lawyers must learn how to sell employee training to managers.

Here are 3 winning strategies:

1. Explain benefits of legal training as related to specific managers' strategic goals

By involving managers early, you can help them and help yourself by understanding risks, needs and priorities for a particular group. This will help you craft valuable training which can serve as future "proof" that your legal training returns value to involved management. 

E.g., Where a particular manager is focused on signing up new customers, your legal training provides better understanding of contracts which will help the manager's team create a better customer on-boarding experience. 

2. Show managers that employees will learn valuable information in an hour of legal training or less (30 minutes if possible) 

It can be difficult for in-house counsel to condense legal training for certain topics. However, training must be quick and pointed to (1) be effective (which also means that legal training needs to be well-designed) and (2) get buy-in. 

Using this strategy will require you to send your agenda to the manager ahead of time, and make sure you stick to that agenda during training. That said, you are much more likely to get buy-in from a manager if you're not taking up too much time to realize training ROI.

3. Provide legal training to make managers' jobs easier

By positioning your legal training as a way to make a manager's job easier, you've automatically created training ROI (as long as you deliver). Although this strategy isn't easy to use for a number of areas (e.g., trade/antitrust compliance), there are a few legal training topics ripe for this strategy - e.g., advertising/marketing professionals will waste a lot less time developing a name for the company's new product if they understand the basics of trademarks.

By utilizing these techniques, you will show the business greater value in legal training by demonstrating strong correlations between your priorities and those of other functions within the company. And ultimately, the company will benefit from better training and more engaged employees.

What other "buy-in" strategies have you tried? Leave us your thoughts in the comments!