Many law firms are excited to embrace new hires and provide orientation and some onboarding. Then, the new hire is left alone in the coming weeks or months to sink or swim. Handing a new hire—whether an associate, a lateral hire, or support staff—an employee manual and making introductions cannot ensure a smooth transition.
Set Up for Success
If you do not already have one, create a checklist: Every new hire will need a phone extension, an email address, licenses to your software, application subscriptions, a new laptop, and peripheral network access and permissions. Send new hires their phone number and email address so they can update their contacts and LinkedIn profile. If they will work in an office, create their physical space, giving it a cleaning and sprucing up. Don’t forget to make keycards, parking passes, or anything else needed for physical access, if applicable. If the new hire is a lateral, do a conflicts check right away and create ethical walls as necessary.
Add new hires to your firm’s website and get their help with the creation of a bio. Prepare a press release for new lawyers, tell the licensing agency, and prepare announcements for bar associations.
How Do I . . . ?
If you document how to accomplish tasks and some basic tenets of law practice, you will create a great resource not only for onboarding but also for business continuity. Creating training manuals is a significant time investment. However, some tools will make it easier to capture processes, knowledge, and instructions with little additional effort.
First, you need to identify the best people to create documentation, for example, on how to properly submit time. Then, ask them to document the process as they do it. They can create written documentation, annotated screenshots, or a video tutorial. Many tools that you may already have can accomplish this. Microsoft Teams can help with ongoing documentation: Create channels to address workflows and procedures with discussions, file storage, and wikis.
To make capturing your firm’s knowledge easier, use screenshots and screen recordings. Prefer to record your screen? There are third-party tools such as Loom, but Microsoft PowerPoint has a screen-capture tool built in. Macs also have video-capture tools built into the operating system. Microsoft 365 subscribers also have tools such as Stream. Stream lets someone capture audio and video, as well as screen capture. The resulting video can be edited and annotated. The Stream videos are stored in SharePoint and are searchable. Microsoft OneNote is great for capturing information, including checklists, video tutorials, screenshots, and linked documents.
In addition to documenting how to do tasks, capture knowledge. You may have a tutorial on using the e-filing system, but how about an experienced member of the firm talking about the probate process? Or the pros and cons of different business entities in the state? Use the video recording tools to help capture the knowledge of your firm’s assets. Ask the attorneys, paralegals, and others on the support team to submit videos on topics they think new hires should know.
Does your firm have a brief bank? A clause library? A playbook? Templates? Are they updated and easy to find? Searchable? Asking a new hire to search through a huge document repository to find some gold nuggets can be frustrating. Leverage clause libraries with document assembly tools or Word add-ons such as officeatwork or shared content libraries stored in SharePoint. Or create a well-organized and searchable folder structure on a shared drive or document management system.
It is helpful to have a way to assign and track tasks for new hires, whether in a practice management application, a project management tool such as Asana, monday.com, or Trello, or tools in the Microsoft 365 suite such as Planner or To Do. Tasks should include a due date and description, links to templates, and notes for context and help. Task management tools provide a way to get clarification. Also, supervisors can view outstanding tasks or those in jeopardy of being late. By using a task management tool, a supervisor can also prepare 30-, 60-, and 90-day reviews with objective information instead of relying on memory.
A big part of onboarding is training. Timing and context are important. Training hires on how to use a tool too early will mean they are overwhelmed because they lack understanding of how the tool is used. Start small and in digestible chunks. For example, show inexperienced users how to efficiently track time before you launch into dashboards. Let them get used to the basic functions before launching into all the bells and whistles.
With younger hires, there is an assumption that they “get” technology. However, this may be the first time they have ever used certain software in a business setting. They may have some limited experience with practice management software from their clinics, but they may not have used it to track matters.
Companies such as Microsoft offer extensive training and tutorials for free. Microsoft 365 has a help and learning website featuring videos, written tutorials, a knowledge base, and more. Choose the app on which you want training or help and follow the instructions. There is also Microsoft Viva Learning, which offers courses on Microsoft applications and courses on time management, leadership, collaboration, wellness, avoiding phishing scams, and more. These courses are often short and provide skills-building and certificates. Other places to look for educational content include the myriad choices from CLE providers. In addition to providing necessary credit, CLEs cover a range of substantive topics, including risk management, business skills, and technology.
Putting It All Together
If you have your onboarding tutorial videos, how-to instructions, firm employee handbook, links to payroll and requests for time off, reimbursement forms, templates, standards, who’s who, and more spread out among multiple repositories, it will be difficult for new hires to remember where to look and whom to ask. Firms can and should develop an intranet to capture and update internal resources. Whether your firm has ten people or 10,000, an intranet can help to keep all necessary information accessible in a single place. Like a website, an intranet is never finished. It can always be improved and refined. Get your users’ feedback to see how to continue to improve it.
ABA LAW PRACTICE DIVISION
This article is an abridged and edited version of one that originally appeared on page 26 of Law Practice, May/June 2023 (49:3).
For more information or to obtain a copy of the periodical in which the full article appears, please call the ABA Service Center at 800/285-2221.
PERIODICALS: Law Practice (bimonthly digital magazine available to all ABA members who opt into the Law Practice Division as an included value of their ABA membership) and Law Practice Today (free monthly webzine available to all). Both periodicals can be accessed via the Division website or their respective apps.
CLE AND OTHER PROGRAMS: More than 100 educational programs annually, including live CLE sessions at various meetings (ABA TECHSHOW, Division meetings, ABA Annual) and monthly CLE webinars.
RECENT BOOKS: Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th ed.; The Lawyer’s Guide to Working Smarter with Knowledge Tools.