General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionTechnology & Practice Guide

New Employee Orientation Checklist


Robert Woodke is the managing partner of the Bemidji, Minnesota, office of the law firm of Brouse, Woodke & Meyer P.L.L.P. His practice emphasizes litigation, real estate, and corporate and commercial transactions. He is a member of the Council of the General Practice Section.

When a solo lawyer or small firm adds or replaces a support staff person, there often is no formalized training program to assimilate the new employee. During the transition process, productivity may be impaired, the new employee may become frustrated and confused, and deadlines may be missed.

This checklist is designed to alleviate the burden of staff orientation and training in small offices. Go over this checklist, adding your own personal touches, with new employees during their first day of work at your law firm, and you will not neglect to cover any important topic. Follow up by going back over the checklist again after the first week of employment to cover any questions or problems that may have developed. Be sure to provide a copy of the checklist to employees so that they can make appropriate notes and have it as a guide for their work.

Payroll and employment

  • paydays
  • time cards
  • evaluation standards
  • hours of operation
  • holidays
  • sick leave and vacation policy
  • pay review policy
  • time keeping
  • employee benefits
  • staff training and education

Incoming mail

  • date stamped
  • personal or confidential
  • junk mail
  • calendaring and ticklers

Outgoing mail

  • certified
  • fax
  • express mail
  • signing on behalf of the firm

Opening new files

  • new matter report
  • fee agreement/engagement letter
  • file folders and labels
  • file numbers
  • index cards/cross reference cards
  • organization of contents
  • general principles of filing


  • standard salutation and close
  • standard number of copies
  • use of letterhead
  • signature in absence of attorney

Incoming telephone calls

  • listening readiness
  • first impression
  • response when in conference
  • response when out of office
  • judges
  • priority of messages and content
  • call return form

Outgoing telephone calls

  • long-distance record log
  • time and charges
  • personal calls


  • the rules of ethics that bind staff
  • Rule 1.3--diligence
  • Rule 1.4--communication
  • Rule 1.6--confidentiality of information
  • Rule 1.7--conflicts of interest
  • Rule 1.15--safekeeping property
  • Rule 7--advertising/solicitation

Photocopier and fax machines

  • posting to client account
  • personal use
  • repairs/maintenance
  • use of copy services
  • fax cover sheets
  • ethical problems in fax usage

Filing court papers

  • signatures/notarization
  • service on parties/opposing counsel/co-counsel
  • proof of service--by mail, in person, by fax (where permitted), published
  • copy in file
  • certified copies (when required)
  • appropriate fees paid

Filing at the county recorder's office (register of deeds)

  • signatures/notarized
  • drafting statement
  • appropriate fees paid
  • well disclosure/waiver
  • certificate of real estate value
  • review against document checklist
  • copies distributed

Filings with the secretary of state

  • signatures/notarization
  • street address for organization office
  • appropriate fee enclosed
  • return envelope and copy
  • copies distributed

Financial record keeping--receipt of funds

  • match to client bill
  • post to journal and client ledger
  • endorsement of checks
  • prepare deposit slip/deposit procedures
  • cash receipts and receipt book
  • trust funds--recoveries for client, retainers, contingent fees earned, and costs procedures

Financial record keeping--disbursement of funds

  • costs account/advanced expenses
  • petty cash transactions
  • retainers
  • office expenses
  • fund balances
  • checking account reconciliation


  • updates
  • loaning or borrowing books
  • shelving books
  • new purchases

Files/abstracts/client originals

  • intake record
  • outgoing record
  • storage/safekeeping

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