E-learning in Action: Insights from the Forefront of First-year Training

E-learning in Action: Insights from the Forefront of First-year Training

June 11, 2024

The sooner junior associates can develop the skills, knowledge, and judgment to become trusted, useful members of the team, the sooner they can set themselves up for success. For first years, the challenge is particularly steep, as they transition from academic learning to the practical demands of working at a law firm. And while it’s generally accepted that live training—whether in groups or on-the-job—is an effective method of learning, the reality is that demands on senior lawyer time can prevent them from reliably getting all first years to where they ought to be. Recognizing this limitation, leading firms are increasingly turning to practical e-learning as a vital tool in their training arsenals.

Interactive e-learning offers an effective method of training that complements traditional live training, and allows new lawyers to develop the practical skills they need at their own pace. Providing practical training that associates can access when they need it, enhancing their confidence and competence for the job.

This article explores three common applications of e-learning in first-year associate training programs:

  1. Augmenting live training with pre- and post-session coursework,
  2. Offering standalone learning opportunities that fit within differently busy schedules, and
  3. Providing timely, task-specific training as applicable in the workflow.

By implementing one—or a combination of all three—of these strategies, law firms can optimize their existing first-year training programs and help new associates be better prepared, more engaged, and ultimately more effective in their roles. 

Universal Benefits of Interactive E-learning

Before we get into the unique benefits of the most common approaches, there are benefits that interactive e-learning affords generally—including when applied through the three approaches we explore below. Those benefits include:

  • Immediate Feedback: When an e-learning platform provides instant feedback, learners can quickly understand and correct errors, reinforcing learning and increasing confidence in their abilities to avoid similar mistakes on real work.
  • Active Learning: Interactive exercises facilitate a deeper understanding and retention of material. Associates gain practical knowledge and skills through hands-on practice.
  • Flexibility: The ability to access training anytime, anywhere allows learning to integrate into busy schedules, making it possible for learning to continue without disrupting daily work commitments.
  • Consistency: Providing all associates with the same level of baseline training—regardless of their prior experience or any special mentorship they’ve been fortunate enough to cultivate—helps everyone to have an equal opportunity to succeed 

1 - E-learning Around Live Training

Interactive e-learning can be strategically leveraged to optimize the precious time of live training sessions, preparing associates beforehand and reinforcing learning afterward.

Pre-session Preparation

Associates engage in on-demand training before live sessions. This equips participants with knowledge and skills to be built upon in the live session, allowing everyone—no matter their prior knowledge or experience—to engage in the session from a consistent baseline. (And allowing the presenter to work from that common baseline, too.)

Post-session Reinforcement

Following live sessions, first-year associates engage in practice-based e-learning. This approach helps solidify the material covered in a live session by allowing associates to apply concepts in simulated environments, enhancing the retention of knowledge and skills. It also can allow associates to dive into the minutia of a particular skill or task that is best worked through on one’s own (e.g., diligence charting).


  • Enhanced Preparedness: Associates come to live sessions well-prepared, allowing them to actively engage in discussions and learn more from the session.
  • Efficient Use of Live Time: When everyone enters with a similar level of understanding, live sessions can focus on learning goals that are better achieved live, such as hearing different perspectives on particular topics, learning the firm’s unique approach to applicable tasks, or practicing interpersonal skills.
  • Improved Retention: Engaging with interactive e-learning both before and after live sessions helps make the learning more enduring.

Real-world Examples

Pre-work Example: A number of Praktio clients assign Contract Fundamentals before live workshops on contract drafting. This helps all participants arrive with a consistent understanding of contracting concepts and key provisions. The live session then concentrates on more nuanced aspects of drafting contracts, building on top of a shared baseline of knowledge.

Post-work Example: After a live session on due diligence, firms often assign a course like Doing Due Diligence as a way to build on live discussions about the firm’s approach to the diligence process. With this approach, associates get into the weeds on their own time, working through the detailed lessons of reviewing target contracts and filling out sample diligence charts.

Implementation Tips

  • Set Clear Expectations: When assigning pre-work, make it clear that live sessions will build on material covered in the on-demand courses. This helps associates understand the value and relevance of completing their assignments beforehand.
  • Send Timely Reminders: In addition to sending reminders throughout the learning period, an additional reminder sent a few days before the live session can serve as both a prompt and a reinforcement of the importance of the pre-work. If possible, mention specific aspects of the live session that will relate to the pre-work.

2 - Standalone E-learning

E-learning can offer a valuable standalone training tool—even if it’s not connected to other training programming. On-demand training can help associates to learn at their own pace and on their own time. This flexibility is particularly valuable against the demanding and varied schedules of first-year associates at large law firms.

When given interactive simulations designed to mimic real-world scenarios, first years are able to learn knowledge and skills in context and transfer those lessons into their practice.


  • Personalized Learning Pace: In general, self-paced, interactive e-learning allows each learner to determine whether to spend extra time reviewing lessons before proceeding, and this is all the more true when learners decide for themselves when they focus on each training.
  • Taking Ownership of Development: By giving learners autonomy for when to take training to equip themselves for success, it puts the onus on them to take ownership of their own development, while providing the best resources available for them to do so.
  • Reduced Dependency on Senior Attorneys: On-demand e-learning can reduce reliance on busy senior lawyers for routine training, freeing them to focus on more complex mentoring and tasks, and allowing juniors to receive the guidance they need when they need it.

Real-world Examples

When a live orientation is concentrated in the first few weeks of associates’ time at the firm, implementing a structured e-learning curriculum to follow is a common approach. Firms in this scenario often schedule any number of courses to be completed each week over a series of weeks. The quantity of courses depends on the first years’ expected workload at the time, though it’s not uncommon to dedicate at least 30 to 90 minutes each week to e-learning.

This approach supports continuous learning and development without overwhelming daily responsibilities, allowing associates to gradually further develop their skillset. This also balances putting the associate in the driver’s seat, encouraging them to take ownership of their own professional development, while still implementing a structured set of expectations to keep them on pace.

Implementation Tips

  • Set a Clear Deadline and Suggested Cadence: While it can be important to allow flexibility, setting a deadline communicates the importance of the training and helps drive completion. Suggesting a learning cadence—e.g., completing two courses per week over six weeks—can help associates manage their time effectively and mitigate procrastination.
  • Continuous Communication: Offering repeated communications about available e-learning resources throughout the associate’s first few weeks or months can help keep these top of mind. This can be done through any internal communication methods, whether in regular email newsletters about professional development, through physical bulletins, or by mentioning them at the start of appropriate live meetings.

3 - Just-in-time E-learning

Just-in-time training is an efficient way to provide necessary training precisely when associates need it, enhancing their ability to perform new or unfamiliar tasks with confidence and accuracy. With this approach, training can be integrated directly into the daily workflows of associates, connecting learning to practical application, making it highly relevant and immediately useful.


  • Enhanced Motivation and Retention: Associates can learn and directly apply skills for specific tasks, which boosts retention of learned knowledge and skills, and, by the same token, the motivation for learning them.
  • Increased Efficiency: Reducing the need for repeated pre-task guidance and post-task corrections from senior attorneys allows for a more efficient workflow and less time spent on revisions.
  • Empowerment: Associates feel more empowered in the workflow—better able to ask informed questions and to “see around corners.”

Real-world Examples

At a number of firms, first years gain access to a library of e-learning courses from day one. While the firm may implement deadlines for each course over the coming weeks or months, the firm wants associates to have access to any resources they may need to confidently complete assigned work.

For instance, when a senior associate asks a first year to handle signature page packets for the first time, the senior can direct them to Praktio’s Signature Pages course. The associate can then complete the course and more effectively perform the assigned task with significantly fewer mistakes. The training not only saves time for the senior associate but results in higher-quality work—and, in this particular example, a smoother, more professional process for all involved.

Implementation Tips

  • Educate Senior Associates: Provide seniors with demonstrations, lists of training topics, and access to the e-learning platform. This knowledge enables them to guide first years to appropriate resources as needed.
  • Integrate Training with Task Assignment: Encourage seniors to routinely pair task assignments with recommended e-learning courses, embedding training directly into the workflow for maximum relevance and impact. 

Harnessing E-Learning to Empower First-year Associates

The integration of e-learning into law firm training programs presents an opportunity to enhance existing training and set new lawyers up for success. Whether leveraging just one of the methods above or a combination of all three, law firms can:

  • Provide comprehensive and consistent training across the board, regardless of whether a given associate has an invested mentor who also happens to be an effective instructor.
  • Make the most of precious live training by augmenting critical lessons before and after live sessions.
  • Adapt learning experiences to fit the unpredictable schedules of associates, so they’re able to learn in pockets of opportunities throughout their uniquely busy days.

By giving first-years access to interactive e-learning, firms give them a robust and engaging learning experience. And when associates learn through realistic, professional contexts, they can quickly develop the skills, knowledge, and judgment they need to meet real-world challenges with confidence—and ultimately become proactive, effective members of the team.

Praktio provides interactive, practice-based training that teaches practical skills to junior associates and other legal professionals. We can help you develop the best e-learning strategy to complement and enhance your existing training program. Schedule some time with us to learn more.