Inductions for in-house lawyers

You know that recruiting a new lawyer into your team is an intensive process that is rarely done quickly...

...Yet, having had your offer accepted and agreed a start date, the process is far from over.

You’ll now want to think about how to settle your new recruit into the team in a way that makes them feel welcome and provides them with the information and guidance that they need to become productive as soon as possible. And you’ll also want to make sure that a probationary period is used well so that you can assess progress and make an informed decision as to whether your new hire is actually working out well or not. 

A well-structured induction programme can help achieve these objectives. Your HR colleagues will normally have their own induction checklist to ensure that, for example, all relevant paperwork is completed and collected and that essential company policies are highlighted. 

But in addition to this, there are a number of other matters that you’ll want to cover. Listed below are 11 matters to consider as part of your induction programme. 

1. Notification 

Tell the team and other key individuals about your new recruit and their start date. Provide a short synopsis of their role (particularly if a new one) and a short bio. 

This is often a good time to reshape roles so make sure that the leadership of the client departments the role is working with endorses and reinforces to their team through messages and actions what the new role is about and how to work with the new person. 

2. IT, phone, security 

Make sure that any security pass, IT equipment and mobile phone is in hand for when your new recruit starts. 

Also ensure that they are added into email and internal messaging groups, calendar invites, SharePoint and document management systems and any applicable insider lists - they will not know what they are missing so you must work it out in advance for them. 

3. Workstation 

Ensure there’s an allocated workstation, that it’s clean, tidy, has been personalised to them and not to their predecessor, and that any other adjustments needed are made - this may sound trivial but can make a huge change to a person's on-going motivation to feel cared for on arrival. 

4. Information pack 

Your new lawyer will have learned something about the organisation and the work of the legal team through the recruitment process. But an information pack can be useful in advance of the state date covering maters like:- 

  • The job profile
  • Organisation charts 
  • Bios of the legal team and of other key personnel
  • Summaries of the work of different areas of the organisation
  • Key events, milestones, goals and objectives for both the organisation and the legal team
  • Information on research and learning and development tools and options
  • Examples of recent reports or MI
  • A list of the legal team’s key stakeholders, including external providers
  • An explanation of how key general business processes and tools work (expenses, holidays, work travel, booking meeting rooms, canteens are diaries "open" or private, etc.)
  • An explanation about how key legal team systems and processes, policies, precedents, document intake work prioritisation, document management and automation tools, knowledge management systems, law firm work commissioning processes etc. work; and 
  • A list of acronyms and abbreviations (and what they mean!). 

5. Buddy/Mentor 

You may want to have a member of the team act as buddy or mentor for a period. This person is responsible for making sure your new recruit knows where the facilities are, has a lunch partner and provides general support. 

6. Introductions and mandatory training 

First days can be confusing and a bit overwhelming for new recruits if they’re introduced to dozens of new faces. You can temper this a bit by limiting the introductions to, say, the legal team and perhaps a few other key individuals (who you’ve notified in advance). 

This time should also be used to get all of the mandatory training (e.g. IT, anti bribery, premises safety) diarised, done and out of the way before they become busy. 

7. Briefings 

Particularly if your new lawyer is in a senior role, it can be useful to set up a schedule of ‘get to know you’ briefing meetings. This will obviously include the lawyer’s own team (line manager, any direct reports etc.), together with key individuals in the organisation. Depending on your lawyer’s role, this may include the CEO and executive team, business or function heads and perhaps some external stakeholders. 

It is good to get a new starter's diary live before they arrive and to pre-book these relevant meetings in for them for the first couple of weeks with key stakeholders and standing meetings so that they can use their first few days well rather than trying to fit in around other people's previously arranged diary commitments. 

Even if you’re not the new lawyer’s line manager, it will be very useful for them to meet with you as the General Counsel or Head of Legal given that your role sets the parameters and tone for the work of the legal team. An understanding of your role and how you lead the legal team is therefore important guidance for your new colleague. 

Many organisations run induction sessions or days for new joiners, where they’re briefed by representatives from the various business functions. These are always sensibly included as part of a wider induction programme. 

8. Handover 

If your new lawyer is replacing someone who’s leaving, ideally you’ll have a handover period where issues can be explained and transferred gradually. This could involve a short shadowing period. If this is not possible, including where there’s no overlap at all, you’ll want to make sure that matters are up to date and key events identified and diarised - please see our exit management checklist. This information may all be helpfully held in case/matter management systems but, in any event, you’ll want to ensure that the transfer is as smooth as possible. 

9. Performance review and milestones 

Once your new lawyer has started, you’ll want to ensure that they have every opportunity to raise queries and talk through issues. While much of this will occur informally, it’s helpful to set up regular 1-2-1s. These will usually be with the line manager, but if that’s not you, you could also make clear that you’re also available for help and guidance. 

There may be a probationary period for new joiners – often three or six months. This may involve a formal assessment process, say monthly review meetings covering specific areas. These are useful for both parties as they provide some formal structure, allowing the new joiner to raise issues and queries and allowing you to assess performance and progress. If you have concerns then you must raise and seek to resolve these early - extending the probation period if necessary. 

Remember that it is the well being of the team as a whole and the business that will be affected and not just the lawyer who is on probation so, if in doubt, don't retain. 

10. Reviewing the induction process 

Certainly you won’t want the induction to have a negative impact or undermine how quickly new joiners settle in and get up to speed. Clearly, you can use feedback from your new joiners (and others) to adapt aspects of your induction programme and 1-2-1s and performance management reviews can assess how quickly and smoothly new lawyers reach agreed standards. While a number of matters can determine how well a new lawyer settles in, the effectiveness of your induction programme can be a factor. 

11. Returning employees and changes of role 

While this article has focused on inducting a new lawyer, there may be other situations where some form of induction may be useful for an employee returning after a period of leave or absence, or for someone transferring from within the organisation on a secondment. You may not need such a detailed programme as for a new joiner, but this may be a helpful way of welcoming someone back or into the team and ensuring that they are up to date with company systems and any issues impacting the team and their role. Similarly, if someone is appointed to a new role with, say, increased responsibilities, an induction programme could be useful in helping to manage this change. 

Conclusion and takeaways 

You won’t want to undermine an excellent recruitment campaign by having an ineffective induction process. A good induction programme should allow your new lawyer to feel involved and welcomed and provide a structure to help them take on board the large amount of new information they’ll need and to meet the new people they’ll be working with. 

It also provides a structured assessment process to allow the lawyer to raise queries and concerns and for you and them to measure progress - if in doubt don't make sure that you put the wider team and business interests first. 

Even if you’re nor recruiting regularly or in large numbers, helping new joiners settle in and get up to speed quickly also helps the effectiveness of the legal team itself in that it aids business continuity and helps maintain high standards of service. 

If you have gone to the trouble of hiring well then you should ensure that you give that new lawyer the best chance to succeed and the team and the business the best chance to get the maximum benefit from the new starter's arrival - and for these goals a good induction process is essential!

Finally, inductions are not just for new joiners as they can also be helpful in other situations where lawyers are returning to, or coming into, the legal team. 

Reference materials: 

Acas – Starting staff: induction 

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