Getting the Most out of a First-Year Associate

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Getting-the-Most-out-of-a-First-Year-AssociateGetting the best first-year associates to work with your law firm is only half the battle, the other half is getting them to stay and making the most of their talents. But how do you get the most productivity out of your first-year associates?

Create a Soft Landing

Many new attorneys find the transition from law school to law firm to be a tough one. Making their first few days at your law firm as easy as possible will help set the tone for how they view and interact with your firm.

Create a welcome committee. Find a group of volunteers willing to work with first-year associates to get the acclimated to their new environment. These volunteers can do everything from helping new associates find the best lunch spots to answering questions about the company culture.

Minimize paperwork. Paperwork is a natural part of any new hire’s experience but you can minimize the amount of paperwork your associates are forced to tackle on their first day by allowing them to fill out forms and read company policy manuals online.

Mentoring program. There’s a lot of talk about the importance of law firm mentoring but creating an official mentoring program may really help first-year associates. Consider creating a mentor/mentee matching program and include information about it as part of the onboarding process.

Identify First-Year Associate Goals

As soon as you onboard your first-year associates, you must make it a priority to identify what their strongest talents are and their most important goals. What is it that they want to get out of working at your law firm?  Once you figure that out, work with your team to make sure that first-year associates are getting the type of work that best aligns with their talents, skills, and career goals. Associates who know that a law firm is looking out for their best interests are more likely to give their best even if their lack of experience causes them to make some mistakes.

Stretch Their Skills

When appropriate, allow your first-year associates to take on tasks that will stretch their abilities.  Challenges that force them to learn new skills and have unique experiences will help them grow as attorneys.  The opportunity to reach a little higher than their current skill level may also serve as an incentive to work just that much harder and produce high-quality work for your law firm.

Offer Training Opportunities

New attorneys need training but not all of that training can happen just by doing the everyday work of a new attorney. If you want to get the most out of your first-year associates, consider offering training that is specific to their needs. Training that can address the unique challenges first-year associates face can help mitigate issues and improve morale for associates who are struggling with life as a new attorney. Well adjusted attorneys will improve the overall productivity of your law firm by decreasing the amount of mistakes they make and developing the soft and hard skills necessary to survive law firm life. At Smokeball, we offer free training and onboarding processes for new staff members.

If you want to get the most out of your first-year associates, you must have a plan that addresses their unique issues.

By |June 15th, 2017|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.