A commitment to 'Investors in People' merely to achieve the kitemark is foolish – firms should be realistic about the time it will take to be true 'investors in people'. Working closely with Birmingham Tec, some of the major firms in Birmingham are collectively developing projects to help move towards achieving that national standard.

Why collaborate with your closest competitors? Simply, many of the issues we face are the same and working together to resolve them will improve the competitive advantage of Birmingham firms in the national market.

One of the first initiatives the group worked on together was a detailed survey of the management development needs of solicitors. The purpose behind the survey was to produce a structured management training package to fit the requirements of firms. The results of the survey allowed us to select training providers on the basis of their ability to satisfy the requirements of people in our organisations, rather than letting them tell us what they thought we needed.

Pilot courses run by each firm have allowed us to fine tune each course and bring firms together to see where there is a mutual interest.

Following on from the management training initiative's success, we are holding a secretarial skills survey to establish what legal secretaries do in law firms, rather than what we think they do. Again, once the survey is completed it will increase efficiency to secretarial services. Involvement of secretaries is key to this process; their commitment is essential if we are to succeed.

Working together does not diminish our individual competitive edge but enhances it. Resources in individual firms are always limited, but focusing this limited resource on particular issues between firms does produce results.

Robert Halton is training and recruitment director at Edge & Ellison.