How to onboard your legal employees remotely – top tips for employers

4 mins

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the legal sector,  like many other industrieshas seen a real shift towards remote working. Looking forward, it is highly likely that a hybrid way of working will continue.

Local authorities and other public sector clients seem much more open to hiring a legal locum or even a permanent member of the team from outside of the geographical area on the basis the role will be conducted fully remotely. Prior to 2020 and the pandemic, fully remote working opportunities were rare, but we have seen many more become available in recent months.

With home working here to stay, onboarding new employees has never been more important. A well thought out onboarding process will help your legal professional feel equipped with the relevant tools and knowledge to settle and thrive in their new role – regardless of whether or not they are fully remote, office-based or a mix of the two.

The legal recruitment market is extremely competitive, with prospective employers working hard to attract the best talent. Having a robust onboarding process in place means your new starter can get up to speed quickly and effectively, whilst also ensuring that they feel welcomed and engaged with their team and the wider organisation.

Since March 2020, Sellick Partnership has facilitated many new legal locum and permanent placements, the majority of which have been on a remote working basis. After speaking to a number of my legal clients and candidates who have successfully navigated this process, I have collated some top tips to help employers create a good onboarding strategy for remote workers.

Ensure your new starter is fully equipped with all relevant IT equipment, log in details and systems access
  • Delays in having access to relevant systems can be a source of huge frustration for new legal professionals keen to get to grips with a new caseload. Make sure IT equipment is ordered and couriered out to them in plenty of time.
  • Ensure log in details are requested from IT as soon as you have a start date confirmed. Either make arrangements to send them to your new starter prior to or on their first day so that they can access the system as soon as possible.
  • The initial induction is also a good time to help get your new starter logged on to the system for the first time by walking them through the process. Make sure they know who/where to seek help for any IT related queries.
Schedule in a virtual induction
  • Book in an induction meeting for the first day.
  • Video meetings work well as it is more personal and engaging to speak to someone face-to-face rather than over the telephone. Also consider sharing screens where possible.
  • Take the time to give some background information on their immediate team and the wider organisation. Explain the team structure, who people are and what they do in their roles.
  • Introduce your new legal professional to their wider team and the support staff via a video call. Welcome them into the wider team, put faces to names and help break the ice. This way, when your new starter may need to ask a colleague for some help, it will not be the first time they have spoken to them!
Schedule in time for training on the case management system
  • Where a case management system will need to be used, schedule in some time before allocation of work for your colleague to familiarise themselves. Offer training if appropriate. This may avoid any potential delays later down the line.
Set clear expectations
  • It is important to communicate what is expected of your new starter as they start to settle in.
  • Guidance and targets can help in those early weeks of working remotely and provides tangible goals to work towards.
  • Clearly explain any processes that will need to be followed. For example, how to record information on the case management system, how much communication you expect from them with regards to keeping you up-to-date with case files or their whereabouts.
  • Make clear what admin/paralegal support is available to them and what they are expected to do for themselves.
Have a virtual open door policy
  • Often clients who require a legal locum need them to hit the ground running and work under minimal supervision. However, it is very important to convey an open door policy.
  • Working remotely does not allow for on the desk learning or an impromptu conversation. Often a new starter may be hesitant to pick up the phone to ask for help therefore it is important that you make it clear that they can contact you at any time to ask for help or guidance.
  • Getting to grips with a new system remotely can be tricky. Try to be there when needed and take the view that there is no such thing a stupid question! Even the most experienced legal professional sometimes needs a helping hand navigating a new internal system.
Schedule regular supervisions
  • Keeping in regular contact will provide the opportunity to review performance and iron out any teething problems.
  • Provide the opportunity to discuss their workload and to share ideas with a manager and/or colleagues in the wider team.
Keep it social
  • One of the biggest things people miss whilst working from home is the social interaction. Not all team meetings have to be work related. Schedule in some time for a more casual, social interaction among the wider team.
  • You may want to go one step further and consider arranging a virtual activity for your team. There is now a lot of choice available to suit remote working, such as online escape rooms, virtual wine tasting, team bingo and murder mysteries. Virtual team activities can help keep the team connected, motivated and engaged.

Remote working has so far proven to work well for many organisations. One of the biggest advantages for employers who recruit a legal professional either on a part or full remote working basis, is access to a much wider talent pool not constrained by geographical location. By choosing to tailor your onboarding process and including some of these tips, you are enabling your new starter to settle in quickly and smoothly.

If you are thinking of hiring a new legal professional either on a locum or permanent basis and wish to discuss your recruitment needs or the market generally, please do not hesitate to contact us.