Law firm 4.0: fit for the future thanks to specialist training

Qualified employees are indispensable for the success of law firms – even in times of digitalization. Hermann Brem shows the importance of training and continuing education.

For small and medium-sized law firms in particular, training skilled employees (paralegals or legal specialists) ensures their competitiveness. Particularly in times of increasing digitalization and dynamization, including of legal advice, it is all the more important to have clever minds in the lawyer's office. However, training requires the personal commitment of all involved and must be seen as an investment. In the end, education pays!


Software and apps for every law firm need, ever-improving dictation systems, mobile client work, file management in the cloud, virtual lawyer's secretary's office… digitalization has long since found its way into law firms and determines their everyday life. At first glance, this development simplifies and speeds up workflows and increases productivity. Does it also save the use of qualified personnel in the lawyer's secretariat??

". Especially in the digital world of legal advice, the support of professionals is more important than ever before!"

The motto "I can quickly do that myself before I pass it on to someone else," could be a good one for the "Lawyer 4.0" can be so easy these days. But especially in the digital world of legal advice, the support of professionals is more important than ever before!

Client expectations are becoming higher in terms of speed of response, accessibility, communication on various channels, especially status updates in the ongoing mandate. Digitalization means acceleration, even in an environment that requires time to deal with complex legal issues. In addition: In times in which virtually every private person can get at least a superficial first overview of legal issues on the Internet, many – including small and medium-sized enterprises – have brought legal expertise in-house, and online legal consultancies, tax consultancies and other industry-related players are now increasingly providing legal advice, professional specialization is becoming the key competitive factor for the freelance legal profession.

Incidentally, the digital world does not work "at the push of a button" either, but needs attention to software updates and ongoing new links to other programs and apps. Not to mention possible troublesome breakdowns and failures. After all, even the busiest lawyer's day has no more than 24 hours in the end. And the attorney hours should be billable if possible and not be wasted in office management and administration. Consequently, the possibilities for "rationalization" in law firms are limited. The increasing specialization, complexity and dynamism of legal advice thus clearly argues in favor of lawyers having specialists in the firm – regardless of size! – support. One of the ways to get there, the one with the most lasting impact, is to train paralegals in the office.


The statistics of the Munich Bar Association leave no room for doubt: the number of lawyers in private practice has been rising for years, and currently stands at almost 22.000. In the same period, the number of apprenticeships for legal assistants (ReFa) is falling significantly. Only about 1.000 lawyers in the Munich bar – that's just 5% – are in training. This is extremely low compared to the training rate in the German economy (over 50%). In 2017, law firms had just 300 freshly certified paralegals available to serve as junior lawyers. So the gap between job vacancies and skilled workers continues to widen year after year.

For the reasons described above, this gap can only be closed to a very limited extent through technical progress (digitalization). The solution to the growing shortage of specialists lies in a greater willingness to train among the legal profession. What's more: in the competition for young talent, the personal commitment of every lawyer is crucial!

More than half of all trainees were recruited to train at a law firm through friends, acquaintances, parents or a law firm internship (18%). In the face of the ubiquitous "glittering world" of crafts, car manufacturing or trade on the web, in the media and at schools, chambers and training offices must convince with personality. Therefore lies straight in the "Schnupperpraktikum" still much Potenzial: Here pupils can make themselves best a picture of it, how variously, exciting and future-oriented the future training and work in the legal advice can become. The trainers, for their part, can look for suitable trainees without much effort.

"In the competition for young talents, the personal commitment of each lawyer is crucial!"

Your personal contribution against the shortage of professionals:

  • Promote the work in the law firm among your acquaintances and employees
  • Promote training to your fellow lawyers
  • Offer an internship in your office
  • Offer a training place (z. B. on the job market of the bar association)


Training is an investment! This must be said in advance, because training means personal commitment, patience and work for everyone involved, including the trainers.

If you want to offer a training position, you should of course first approach former trainees. In any case, offer a training position well in advance, toward the end of the year before training begins or at the beginning of the training year (usually 1. September, sometimes 1. August). You can find a lot of valuable information about how training should proceed and what is required in terms of material on the training page of the Munich Bar Association. Apprentices are taught 1 fixed day per week at vocational school as part of the dual training program (every 2. week then on another fixed school day).

When selecting future trainees, allow yourself a second look at the application documents! For example, students with a lower secondary school leaving certificate or with an immigrant background make up for a lack of prior knowledge with diligence, ambition and commitment. What you need in your law office are practical intelligence, diligence and commitment. Let yourself be convinced in a personal interview. You should also prepare for a selection interview by asking questions: Tell about your work as a lawyer, your law firm, and ask specific questions about qualifications you need to work in your law firm.

The care and commitment with which you prepare and accompany training in your firm reduces the risk of later mutual disappointment or even premature termination of training.

Keep in mind during the training that you will not have a finished specialist in your office yet. The "Charter for Good Training", a guideline for trainers and trainees, points out for good reasons that "trainees should neither be underchallenged nor overchallenged" according to their qualifications. Explain individual activities and requirements, take time in between – for example, for a training consultation hour. Be open to questions, ensure an "open door". Be sure to involve your already trained ReFas in the training. Take into account that you yourself determine the quality of professional training! In the same way, you determine the personal training of the trainees through your example and the culture of cooperation. of the young adult in your office!

Personal impressions of the training and of the trainer shape the image of the training profession and the work in the law firms at schools and in public, not least via fast and multiplied social media.

In addition, take advantage of the fact that you are generally bringing "digital natives" into your firm with the trainees, who are simply more at ease with the dynamically changing, technical working environment.

If, in spite of this, the trainee and the law firm do not fit, either professionally or personally, then this is part of the reality of our working life. In such a case, first have a serious, open conversation in which you address your expectations and existing deficits. In such cases, make use of the training advice provided by the bar association. If all else fails, you can – as a last resort – use the probationary period (of up to four months) and, if necessary, terminate the training relationship. But even in such a case, in case of doubt, your "training experiment" will not fail: What may not have succeeded in one case, may succeed all the better in the next attempt!

The financial commitment for the training allowance recommended by the Munich Bar Association ranges from €700/month (1. year of training) to 900 € (3. year of training). Usually there are also small amounts for legal texts, many training companies also reimburse travel expenses. On the one hand, this is still sufficiently attractive in the competition between training professions, but it is also manageable for lawyers practicing individually or in smaller law firms. In the end, it will come down to the fact that a good training makes as much as possible out of each euro!

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