An effective law firm induction process doesn't just help new lawyers and other employees settle in and get up to speed. It sets the tone for the whole relationship. A well-planned induction using the checklist below is the first step in developing a committed and enthusiastic member of the firm, writes consultant Catherine Gasparini. (Updated 28 March 2022)
"Practices must conduct an appropriate induction for all personnel, including those transferring roles within the practice ..." Law Society Lexcel Standard, England and Wales V6.1
- Maintain contact before they start, especially if a high quality candidate has a long notice period. Consider organising a social meeting with new colleagues.
- Send them in advance of their start date any documentation or information that can be read before starting.
- Send clear joining instructions in advance of their first day and an outline of the induction process.
- Make a diary note for the issue of a contract of employment within two months of the start date.
- Review the new lawyer or employee's job description, CV or application form and interview notes. Identify key training needs.
- Where a member of existing staff is transferring roles within the firm, consider which aspects of the full induction process are relevant and plan accordingly.
- Prioritise: break down the induction plan into the immediate basics, then getting them started on useful work, and finally further development. Avoid overloading the recruit with too much information too soon.
- Set an induction timetable, typically spread over the first month. Consider what part other team members may play in the induction process (eg explaining particular activities). Plan their timetable of events.
- Make sure all relevant systems are set up eg HR, payroll, IT user's rights, e-mail, training records, and so on.
- Inform team members of the new recruit's start date and role. Resolve any potential conflicts, for example over clients.
- Make a firm-wide announcement just prior to the start date. Encourage people to introduce themselves.
- Appoint a mentor or key contact to meet them on the first day and provide informal support on an ongoing basis.
- Prepare a workspace and organise essential equipment – for example, a desk, computer, phone and stationery.
- Consider sending a note – or even a brief video – the night before the first day, to create a warm welcome from the team.
- Arrange training on how your IT and communication systems work.
- Explain key systems such as case management or CRM.
- Walk them through how to find or access knowledge they need. For example, your precedents library.
- Ensure key areas of training are prioritised (eg health & safety) while providing access to the firm’s office manual or handbook detailing any other information which will help the employee settle in.
- Introduce the new recruit to the rest of their team. Make sure new lawyers meet key people in other practice areas as well.
- Arrange a lunch with members of the team within the first few days.
- Show the recruit basic facilities (eg toilets, coffee machine).
- Provide background information on the business, including practice areas, key customers, business culture and strategic objectives.
- Provide basic HR information on their terms and conditions of employment (eg pay, holiday arrangements).
- Clarify the recruit's role and key objectives, and the standards you expect. Explain the firm's management structure and what the individuals' responsibilities are.
- Use a mix of training methods. Focus on hands-on activities, or at least observation of activities, rather than just providing instruction manuals.
- Involve the recruit in real work (with appropriate supervision) as soon as possible. Plan any client and caseload handover, identifying opportunities for early successes.
- Confirm understanding at every stage, particularly of written information.
- Keep a record of all induction activities and make sure all are completed.
- Hold frequent informal progress reviews – perhaps on a daily basis for the first week, then weekly for a month; encourage discussion.
- Encourage partners to take an active role in the induction of new lawyers and other staff. Management of juniors should be part of partners' objectives and incentive schemes.
- Once the recruit has been with the firm for a few weeks, ask their feedback and modify your induction process accordingly.
"Use the personal touch. A word from the partner – or a chat over lunch – means much more than leaving it all to HR."
Nicola Jones, director, Athena Professional
"The first day can just be a blur of new faces, so limit the number of introductions to key individuals. Introduce new starters to a buddy or mentor who will ensure that the basics are not forgotten, and can be a lunch partner over the first few days. Simple things count."
Anne Harnetty, managing director, Jonson Beaumont