Starting a new job at a law firm can be daunting whatever level you are at. But what can you do to feel more integrated? Some firms are well set up for integrating their new lawyers, but others are not.
When looking for a new firm, culture is very important, but until you are actually there it’s sometimes hard to get a real feel for the place. When looking for new roles recruitment agents are often a high level source of information. But calling a peer you might be working with will also give you a good insight. This also increases the chances of you being hired, because you have done your homework and have taken an interest in the firm. It also means you can ask better questions at the interview as you are better informed.
Here are seven ways to build connections and feel more at home:
Introduce yourself: Sometimes lawyers are so focused on their own bubble they fail to notice what is going on around them. They may see a new face in the office but don’t do anything about it. So just saying, “Hi, I’m X, I’ve just started in team Y” will get a conversation going. Your team might run an employee bio of the month or something similar – volunteer information: this will get you noticed and people will be more likely to seek you out, especially if you have something in common.
Mentoring: Having a mentor within the firm is a great way to find out who the key people you should align with are, and what you should be doing to get noticed in a good way. They can help you spot gaps in your knowledge and suggest where you can learn more.
Buddy scheme: Some firms operate a buddy scheme where you are paired up with someone who has been at the firm for a while. This is great to get introduced to the right people, learn about how the firm operates and have your questions answered. Some firms might even have an integration plan to make sure you are on track and exposed the right people and work.
Clubs: Working as a team through sport or other activities is a good way to build relationships. Many firms have football, running, softball and theatre clubs. You get to know people on a social level which will help you to bond quicker.
Social committee: Some firms have a social committee who organise corporate events at a discount price. These may be things like for example; visit to the opera; paintballing or Royal Ascot. Getting involved in a social setting is often easier than in the office as people are more relaxed. But remember professional boundaries and don’t do anything which will could show you in a bad light.
Cakes: Lawyers love cake. Bring cake, win friends.
Visit other offices: If you work with a team overseas the best way to get to know them is by jumping on a plane and meeting them. Maybe organise a join seminar for clients so you have to work closely together. Also spend at least 20 minutes talking to each person individually. Find out what their role is, what’s important to them and how you can assist them. Make a note as you go along. Follow up with people, refer back to your notes and ask them how the thing which was important to them went.
Sometimes meeting lots of people can be overwhelming. If you feel yourself getting stressed, remember to breath slowly and deeply, relax your shoulders and smile. Also give yourself a break even if it’s a couple of minutes. Ask if there is a photobook of team members as then if you forget someone’s name you can look them up later.
After a month of being at your new firm, review your progress. Do you need to speak to more people? Is there any extra knowledge or experience you need? If so, be proactive and seek it out. Remember, if you see any new joiners welcome them in. People sometimes forget what it’s like to be the new boy or girl.
Ruth Fenton is a solicitor, executive leadership coach and communications expert who specialises in helping junior and mid-level lawyers excel in their careers.