Last year five law firms in Birmingham took the unusual step of getting together to co-ordinate a joint approach to training.

Under the auspices of the 'Investor in people' project organised by Birmingham Tec, the firms, Edge & Ellison, Wragge & Co, Evershed Wells & Hind, Martineau Johnson and Shakespeares decided to pool resources to determine their precise training needs.

Robert Halton, training director at Edge & Ellison, was instrumental in the move.

"We considered that this was not an area of competition," he says, adding that the concept of investing in people linked personnel training and development into the business plan of an organisation.

"In a law firm, the only resources we've got are people," he says. He adds that if successful, the scheme would have the effect of attracting clients to Birmingham.

The firms first became involved two years ago when they commissioned a survey to look at management courses for partners, associates and assistants.

This put them in a position to tell training providers exactly what they needed.

Previously, the chief complaint against trainers was their claim to be individually tailoring courses for firms which they then used in other firms.

The survey enabled the firms to get an idea of what they needed and they subsequently held a beauty parade of trainers to find a course suitable for use by all the firms.

They are currently putting together a survey on secretarial training, assisted by secretaries from various firms. The aim is to compare the different roles legal secretaries have and how they can be assisted.

Halton says that those in the club, which does not cost anything to join, are willing "to talk frankly about the training needs in their own firms".

Birmingham Tec, which receives government funding for the project, facilitates the meetings between the different firms, analysing the results of research undertaken by the group and sitting in on meetings.