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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Responsible Business Insights

Creating sustainable change

The future of learning

The Clifford Chance Academy provides valuable learning and development opportunities for our people, honing key skills that align with the firm’s strategic objectives.

These skills, which benefit the firm and the individual, include commercial awareness, client relationships, collaboration and innovation and provide the focus for most of the Academy’s core programmes.

For lawyers, we set out a pathway with various milestones for them to attain. However, it’s not just about the formal training, it’s about the supervision and the career development they’ll gain from the partners as well, which makes it a much more compelling learning journey, and one that they may not get elsewhere.

Equality and inclusion is high on the Academy’s agenda, which is why it also works with other areas of the firm to ensure learning opportunities are available to all of our professionals. Business professionals have the same opportunity to learn as lawyers and can attend practically all the same courses. So there’s equality in terms of what they’re exposed to and how they can develop their own skills. More recently, we’ve partnered with functions such as finance to work on talent development, specifically looking at what they require for excellence within that function and working to create, design and deliver a programme for them.

The agility the Academy showed during the first few weeks of the pandemic allowed it to continue offering these opportunities in extremely challenging circumstances. Over a matter of a few weeks, the Academy pivoted from in-person to virtual, embracing technology to deliver more agile learning practices, from online classes and TED-style talks to eLearning playlists and a learning app.

As the pandemic wore on, it became clear the Academy would need to focus not just on career development but also on other, so-called ‘softer’ skills such as resilience, change management and wellbeing. We have a role in our people’s personal development and during the pandemic we really had to listen to what they needed from us. So while we’re proud of what we do in helping people develop their careers, we’re also pleased to offer support in other areas too, such as working from home, how to cope with stressful situations and virtual communication with clients.

We had to shift perceptions around how and what the Academy delivers. And our people responded really positively to digital learning, especially since they could digest these online courses at their leisure. We have since made this even easier by releasing our digital learning mobile app, which allows our people access to learning wherever they are via their smart devices.

Technology helped support delivery through the Academy’s learning management system, which administers all the reports and launches all the courses, while widely used platforms such as WebEx and Microsoft Teams proved invaluable in providing easy access. Alongside this, the Academy tapped into a range of authoring tools to put together online content and link video, audio, quizzes and animations together to produce more engaging courses.

It’s much more difficult to gauge how engaged people are online, so we had to develop more interactive content. The technology also helped us produce more interactive features such as polling, chat functions and breakout rooms, which have helped keep interest levels high.

The Academy had already been preparing for this kind of shift towards more online learning, but the pandemic allowed it to introduce these new ways of learning earlier than expected. This enabled it to offer courses to people from different practice groups around the world much more easily, meaning learning opportunities became more globally inclusive. It has also contributed to significant carbon emissions savings for the firm.

There has been zero international travel for Academy course attendance since the pandemic started. Previously, we trainers and in some cases participants would have flown around the world to attend courses, but now everything’s online. As well as being a more sustainable way of delivering training, it’s also helped break down the barriers between lawyers and business professionals, since most of the courses on the curriculum are applicable to both.

We're incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, making sure there’s support for everybody through the crisis while also seizing the opportunity to introduce our firm to what is the future of learning.