In an extremely competitive category, SJ Berwin takes the prize for its bespoke training programme for its secretarial team. The programme, called Quadrant, is the most ambitious scheme SJ Berwin has ever delivered for its secretaries and the firm says it is both popular and effective. It was launched in 2011 officially, but rolled out fully from April last year.

The judging panel found SJ Berwin’s focus on its secretarial staff commendable. One judge said it was an “excellent programme targeted to an often forgotten audience that can make a real difference to both client experience and lawyer effectiveness”.

Quadrant has four key areas, focusing on client service and commitment, working together, personal effectiveness and technical ability. One of the key benefits which has become apparent from the introduction of Quadrant is the increase in activity logging on SJ Berwin’s systems. Training has increased activity logging by 26 per cent, and new contact creation has gone up by 36 per cent. As a result, the firm says its data and mailing lists are cleaner and up-to-date and the improvements have led to better contact with clients and potential clients.

SJ Berwin says Quadrant has also had a positive impact on the engagement between partners and their secretaries and on secretary retention. Only four secretaries left the firm in the 2012/13 financial year, compared with 10 in the previous year.

2ND: Eversheds

Eversheds takes second place in this category for its international commercial academy, aimed at junior lawyers of up to four years’ PQE. The academy was initially tested in the UK and was rolled out to all of the firm’s international offices last year. The programme is intended to provide lawyers with “lifelong skills instilling intuitive commerciality” and includes a mini-MBA.

Eversheds also selected those who were most engaged on the scheme to join its future leaders programme, which sees delegates lead a strategy-linked project. Academy participants speak warmly of the skills they picked up during the programme, pointing to practical examples of how the courses have helped them deal with clients. Indeed Eversheds undertook research with clients to work out what they need from their advisers to design the academy programme accordingly. Judges praised Eversheds’ emphasis on commercial rather than soft skills for its junior lawyers.

3RD: Mayer Brown International

Mayer Brown focus on project management training seeks to embed processes and ways of working which are more common in the world of project management. The training covers all lawyers in the firm, from trainees to partners, as well as support teams.

The firm aims to provide detailed project plans for clients which can be integrated into the client’s master project plan. Mayer Brown will review the programme at the end of 2013, with the aim of expanding it to other offices around the world if it has proved its worth – measured through financial benefits and client relationships.

The training and development team has also designed a toolkit resource on its intranet aimed at supporting the programme.