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Exploring the contribution of workplace learning to an HRD strategy in the Scottish legal profession

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore the relevance of human resource development (HRD) for law firms in the UK. It examines how the characteristics of legal professional practice in the UK, including the partnership structure, long established methods of targeting solicitors and the law society, may act as barriers to the implementation of HRD. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper uses an exploratory case study research approach to investigate characteristics and issues influencing the adoption of HRD in a Scottish legal firm. Primary data are collected via semi-structured interviews with a cross-section of representatives. Findings ‐ Despite recognition of the importance of learning, the characteristic elements of law firms, including the partnership structure; the pervasiveness of time-billed targets in the solicitor community; and HR's profile and acceptance among the solicitor community, remain as barriers to the applicability of HRD. The research also exposes variability on the level and scope of development opportunities, an emphasis on technical skills development, and a lack of solicitors' self-managed learning ability. Research limitations/implications ‐ While the research findings provide a useful insight into the barriers to HRD in one legal firm, this does not allow for any generalisations being drawn from the study. Practical implications ‐ The paper explores the suitability of workplace learning to support legal professional development. Originality/value ‐ There is a dearth of research into HRD in legal practices in the UK. The paper contributes to the contextual influences that limit the applicability of HRD to legal professional practices.
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Keywords: Human resource development; Law; Legal profession; Scotland; Workplace learning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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