The Elusive Finish Line When Recruiting New Attorneys

We typically write our blog for the attorney, but we get a lot of feedback from employers who read our blog, too.  To that end, this week’s topic is geared for the law firm or in house legal department to assist in their “on-boarding” process.  Sometimes even the best firms fail at the necessary work that needs to be done AFTER the offer has been accepted.

So, congratulations – you successfully recruited that elusive attorney for that hard-to-find niche.  When that attorney shows up in your lobby for the first day of work, they aren’t the only one who needs to work – you do, too!

The recruiting process isn’t over the day that the new hire reports for duty.  The employer needs to continue to “recruit” the attorney long after the I-9s are completed and should have a plan for integrating the attorney into the office.

THE FIRST DAY – Preparation is the key

This is a no-brainer: make sure that the new recruit knows where to be and when to be there.  Have someone assigned to assist in their transition to your office.  If clients need to be called, make sure there is a team designated to assist with file transfers and that this team is immediately available for the attorney.  If files aren’t being transferred, have a schedule for the new recruit that includes the obligatory office tour and time to fill out the necessary tax forms.

The key here is that the attorney must feel welcomed and get a sense that the firm/department is excited to have him/her there.  Walking into a clean office with office supplies stacked on it is perfect.  Walking into a recently-used office with the retort “we’ll get someone to clean this out for you” is not so great.  Unless the attorney’s transition was done clandestinely in the middle of the night, the office should be ready and the IT requirements (email accounts, computer pass codes, etc.) should be set. Also, referring to the attorney as the “new Steve” is never okay.  If they feel fungible, they are prone to leave.

Don’t worry if the new attorney is reserved when they arrive.  Remember that the office is a “tribe” and the new employee doesn’t know the customs of the group.  They are nervous and unsettled.  Make their transition easier by letting them know the customs of the group.

Also on the first day, the new firm should send an email to others at the firm announcing the attorney’s arrival.  Designating several “ambassadors” to gather folks to meet the new attorney throughout the day is a great idea.  Having a team assigned to take the attorney to lunch is mandatory.

Finally, it’s really important that there is substantive work available for the attorney to do on the first day.  If they aren’t bringing their own files, having a project or files to review should be a priority.  Again, this shows that they are wanted/needed.

BEYOND THE FIRST DAY

Do regular check-ins with the new attorney.  Make sure that they are assimilating with the firm, utilizing resources properly and that they understand the expectations of others.  For the first few months, have a group that goes out to lunch or coffee on a semi-regular basis to make sure that questions are being answered.  The work of on-boarding isn’t done after the first week.

Why is this so important?  An attorney was looking for a new position before they joined your office.  They may have other irons in the fire – irons that are keenly aware that if you falter, they could hire the attorney.  They may still have an outstanding offer that they could accept if they think that your firm/office is not the fit they were looking for.

RECRUITING TOOL FOR THE FUTURE

Finally, an employer should think about using their newest recruits as a recruiting tool.  Who better to discuss the transition process to potential attorney hires than the person who just went through it?  If their schedule allows it, think about putting your newest attorneys on the recruiting team.   Being asked to help interview for a firm/company solidifies the new attorney’s standing with the firm and often boosts their feeling of inclusion.  Just be careful not to put too much on their calendar too quickly!

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