Onboarding is both a process and a philosophy.  The law firm leader, that’s you, must have a solid belief that the time, money and energy invested in the onboarding process is a valuable investment in the future of the law firm. Specifically, you must believe 10 important things. Today, let’s talk about these five:

Collaboration is an important tool

The future of law belongs to lawyers who are willing to give up the old ways and embrace the new ways of interacting and lawyering.

As an Ombudsman and mediator, collaboration is my jam. I’m always surprised when I remember that my fellow lawyers don’t like to collaborate.

The resistance to collaborating is rooted in the lessons learned in law school. Namely, mistakes are bad. You are responsible for any mistakes. Avoid mistakes at all costs.

Well, the best way to avoid mistakes is to do everything yourself without delegating or collaborating.

However, that’s also the best way to burn out, have a nervous breakdown and develop substance abuse problems.

As the leader of your law firm, you need as many tools in your toolbelt as possible. You must recognize the importance of collaboration and learn how to collaborate effectively. There’s also one other belief that is the companion to this one that I’ll talk about in part two of this article.

Onboarding gives you a chance to practice your collaboration skills.

Asking for help is a sign of strength

Contrary to popular belief, asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness. It’s the exact opposite.

The lawyer who asks for help is self-aware with high emotional intelligence. She knows her own worth and weaknesses and isn’t afraid to ask for help to accomplish her goals.

If you are constantly micromanaging your new paralegal because you worry that she’ll make a mistake then you are defeating your purpose in hiring her.

Onboarding enables you to grow your social awareness skills so you recognize the strengths (and weaknesses) in others and know how to deal with them.

Leadership is about influence, not control

The law profession is built on what I call stick culture. You know, either you get the stick or the carrot depending upon your behavior.

Stick culture occurs in Big Law but also in mid-sized and even solo firms. People are driven to perform to avoid getting the stick for making a mistake or performing poorly.

Truth is, you catch more flies with honey. Reinforcing the desired performance works a lot better than placing blame.

Onboarding helps you to create a working relationship based on connection, trust and transparency.

Good communication is essential

Isn’t a mind-blowing that people who are so good at analyzing theories and explaining complex problems are also such poor communicators?

I think the reason is that lawyers spend so much more time talking than listening. Listening is the most underrated business skill if you ask me. Good listeners are often good communicators. Onboarding requires you to develop those skills. Want to get a jumpstart? Check out Alan Alda’s book*

People inherently want to do a good job

Believe it or not, people are inherently good. Yup. They want to do their best and belong within a community like your law firm.

If you think about your life experiences, you realize that’s true. Most people aren’t trying to be difficult or screw you over. Some are, for sure. But that’s always a risk. Unfortunately, we tend to sniff out risk like a bloodhound and obsess on it.

Nobody wants to work for a boss who doesn’t trust them. Onboarding helps you to build systems that enhance trust and manage the situation when trust is broken.

You might not have these beliefs when you start, but I can assure you that you will after you hire, onboard and retain a few amazing employees. (What is onboarding? read here)

Express yourself

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these beliefs in the comments. The second batch of the ten beliefs is coming soon.

*Note: The post contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I get a tiny monetary gift if you purchase the book. Think of it as me getting a latte.


Dina Lynch Eisenberg, JD, is the CEO of OutsourceEasier.com, an outsourcing training/consulting firm for successful lawyers and entrepreneurs based in Oakland, CA.

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