Hit the floor: floorwalking as a training tool

Lisa Sabbage on how she uses floorwalking to help fee-earners improve their research skills.

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Supporting successful fee earners

As the training officer in the Library and Information Services team in a UK Top 20 corporate law firm, I’m constantly looking for ways to refresh and improve the research skills of our solicitors to help them work more effectively and efficiently. This, I assure them, will ultimately make them more successful fee earners and result in bigger bonuses. I call it the Ker-Ching Argument.

However, even the promise of bigger bucks is not always enough to drag fee earners away from the more pressing demands of their clients, colleagues, supervisors and emails. So, if we can’t persuade them to attend training sessions, what is the answer? In one word: floorwalking.

Now I know that the very thought of floorwalking is enough to make many information professionals pull their worst sucking-a-lemon face. "It’s a waste of time," you say, "solicitors loathe being interrupted." Indeed, I used to be one such naysayer. But floorwalking can work if implemented methodically as part of a wider training programme.

What follows is a potted guide to the approach I’ve found works best. Much of this is common sense, but it may be useful for those of you who have never floorwalked before.

* Pick Your Focus – Floorwalking is bound to fail if you turn up in your fee earner's doorway asking if they've had any issues you can help with. They'll shrug vaguely or shout at you to get out. Choose a reason or theme for the floorwalk. Perhaps you’re demonstrating a handy new function on a legal database, or promoting a new resource. Our recent themes have included setting up current awareness alerts, new research guides we've made available on our intranet, and highlighting a rather hidden deals database to which the firm has access. Keeping in mind, that some fee earners will still be too busy, design a concise handout to leave with them to refer back to.

* Pick Your Targets – Your topic and your targets should be a good fit. Obviously, there's no point promoting a property resource to corporate solicitors. Select a practice area or a "community" to target. For instance, when floorwalking the research guides I target the trainees because they are generally less adept at identifying the right resource for the right research task. Print out a list of the people you want to visit - that way you can record who you've seen, who you've missed, and any follow-up action required. Targeting also makes floorwalking productive for you – you’re more likely to capture your fee earners in a timely fashion (I recommend no more than an hour or so treading the carpet), and you’ll feel more effective having captured eight out of 20 fee earners, rather than eight out of "oh gosh, I don’t know how many doors I knocked on".


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