How to Build a Business Development Training Curriculum

A good business development training program is not a one-time event, but a curriculum. What makes a training program different from an introductory event is that it covers a broad area of topics. Business development curriculums should be directly related to the skills, knowledge, and strategies necessary for attorneys to do business development successfully. They can include teaching new skills, providing exposure to unfamiliar ideas and opportunities to role-play, receiving feedback, and engaging in productive discussions.

By building a legal business development program, your firm is demonstrating to its lawyers that it is invested in them and their careers and that the firm wants them to be successful.

Determine Your Training Needs

Before building a training program, first review your firm’s strategy and goals, since you want your curriculum to help your lawyers meet these goals. Then align your training objectives with your firm’s goals so that when the lawyers meet your training objectives, they will also be meeting the firm’s goals.

To determine your training needs, survey your target audience and ask them what type of classes they would like to see offered. You can conduct your research through focus groups, questionnaires and conversations at department/practice meetings. You also can review performance data to identify weaknesses that people need to fix. Additionally, use your eyes and ears to observe your lawyers. What complaints and areas of confusion do you hear? When you talk to the lawyers, what do they say and what makes them feel uncomfortable?

Based on your identified goals, objectives and research, you can then identify what skills are necessary for your lawyers to be successful and draft your training curriculum accordingly.

Create a Program

There are two key people involved in running a business development training program. The first is the person who is actually managing the program. The other is the person who conducts the trainings themselves. The same person or group may be responsible for all aspects of your program, but not necessarily. At the beginning of this process, someone should be designated to develop and create your program and to be in charge of overseeing all the sessions. As the curriculum develops, you will then realize who the right person/s is to conduct the classes.  You may also choose to hire an external consultant to help your program.

Then you will need to decide who is in charge of coordinating the program logistics. This is the person who is responsible for each session scheduling, communication and marketing, presenter identification and the other related logistics.

Once you decide what types of training you will offer, separate your training into categories and career levels. Write up descriptions for each program and think about each session’s format, length and speaker. Then decide if there is a logical order to class offerings and what types of teaching methods and techniques you will use – speakers, discussion groups, group activities, audio-visual presentations, individual problem-solving, role playing and simulation, readings, lectures, etc. Keep in mind that there are various learning styles.

Next create a schedule. Decide when you will offer the training, and the timing and frequency of your programs. You should plan your schedule for six months to a year in advance.

Then create a training matrix that lists the type of classes offered and who the targets of the training may be. Some general training may be applicable to lawyers at multiple stages of their careers.

Obtain Buy-in

Before finalizing your training program, ensure you obtain the necessary buy-in. Make sure that practice and department leaders and senior leadership support the program.

Market Your Program

Create a communication and marketing plan for your program. Remember to promote the benefits of the training via emails, internal newsletters, internal Web pages, and hard copy invitations.

Conduct the Training

As discussed earlier, when you create a program, you should designate someone to be in charge of the program logistics. Identify who would conduct which sessions – the business development curriculum program director, other firm members, or outside consultants. Think about who has the expertise for the goal of each class.  Implement your training program and follow through with your session schedule.


Provide resources for each class that attendees can use when they return to their desks and want to immediately implement their new skills. Create a resource center including the class materials and additional resources for people who want to refer back to what they learn and further their learning on the topics.

Offer consulting sessions for your lawyers including one-on-one training conversations with your Chief Marketing Officer and business development directors and managers. Host follow-up group sessions and create deadlines to turn in homework/report back to help keep lawyers accountable.

Evaluate and Revise

Systematically assess your training needs by obtaining feedback and comparing before and after statistics. Evaluate your program afterwards to get a sense of how it went, should it be offered again, and what can be improved upon for next time. Monitor your workforce to identify “new” training needs. Tweak and modify classes as appropriate and bring back programs in appropriate intervals.

Additional Tips

  • Offer trainings with food, lunch or breakfast
  • Offer trainings at various times of the day
  • If you have offices in different time zones, consider hosting sessions in different offices, or flying people in to attend class in person; if you host sessions by video ensure the time is practical for the other location(s)

By Helena Lawrence, Business Development Manager for Proskauer, for the November/December 2014 issue of the Capital Ideas Newsletter.

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