Graduation season is here and a pool of fresh attorneys is open for hire.
You just finished making some great connections at one of the biggest IP events of the year, and there was one connection that you would really like to bring into your office.
Finding the right person to offer a position at your firm is a challenge, one that often requires a sigh of relief once negotiations are finished and the contract is signed. Yet, the challenge is not actually over, now you have to get them on board and make sure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
At first glance, we may believe that onboarding a new attorney is a task for the human resources department. Indeed, HR is important to onboarding, but the department mostly handles logistics; explaining policies and benefits. What HR (usually) does not do is teach culture and ensure new hires feel welcome. If you want to get the most out of your new hire, you’ll need to go beyond a simple HR session and invest in them. Even when bringing in an experienced attorney, investing time on onboarding is essential.
Get to Know Your Employee
The short interviews conducted during the hiring process rarely provide deep understandings in who the hire is. A few strengths and weaknesses are exposed during the interview, but it is essential to also observe them in a work environment and to check in with them regularly so you may gain deeper insight.
In doing so, you may find a valuable hidden talent that can be utilized to your firm’s benefit. Equally important, you may discover that certain expectations you had for the hire might not be easily met. As you learn more about them, you’ll see where flexibility is needed in order to bring out their best and adjust for their weaknesses. If you are able to be flexible and balance expectations among your staff in a reasonable manner, everyone in the firm can find themselves working more comfortably and efficiently.
Make Them Feel Welcome
New hires have a lot of prep to do, files to read, and HR policies to internalize, while you have your own work bearing down on you. It’s easy to drop them off at their desk with a simple “good luck”, and let them get to work on the pile of paperwork and emails already building up. There is no better way than this to make a person feel like they are just another cog in a machine.
Instead, make sure that they feel truly welcome at the firm. A simple email announcement welcoming them is a great start, but coworkers should be encouraged to stop by and introduce themselves personally. You can also show them around the office and introduce coworkers who might not be able to step away. A smiling face and greeting is a great way to make a person feel welcome.
Harkening back to our old school lunchrooms, think about how you would treat the new kid in school. If you see them eating at their desk alone or you are going out for lunch with colleagues, try inviting them to eat with you. Grab coffee with them when you can. Nothing forms a connection better than eating together.
Groom for Success
We all want happy employees who feel like part of the team, but those employees also want to feel that they are on the route to success. As their employer, you need to equip them with the tools to be successful in your firm.
Fresh attorneys may have legal knowledge, but education can’t make up for years of experience. Mentorships can help bridge the gap through having veteran attorneys pass their experience and skills to the newer generation. Mentors will not only help pass on skills to new hires but will help make them feel more welcome and part of the team. As a matter of fact, even assigning partners to work with experienced attorneys new to the firm can play a valuable role in onboarding.
If you want to excite your new hire, show that you value their success by offering training opportunities. This may be in the form of in-house training, or by offering to cover the costs of outside training. An excellent bonus to in-house training is that it can be combined with team building programs. You can make the whole firm and new hires feel more welcome and excited to work with you with just one program!
Not mentioned above, as it fits every aspect of onboarding, is that you should ask your new hire what can be done to make their transition to your firm more comfortable. By asking, you invite them to tell you more about how they work, you encourage them to feel welcome being open with you, and you learn exactly what they need to succeed. Just make sure that you listen to them!