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Cite as: (2004) 78(1-2) LIJ, p. 88

Improved induction programs help boost retention rates by acclimatising and assimilating articled clerks.

The best way firms can ensure that the articled clerks they have selected fit the culture and strategy of the firm and have the right attitude is by investing time in them once they have joined. Evidence suggests that hiring, retaining and making today’s workers productive requires a series of experiences and events to assimilate and socialise the newcomer into the organisation and job.

The objectives of an articled clerk induction program should be to:

  • build employee identification with the employer;
  • build a positive attitude in the articled clerk;
  • communicate company culture, values and priorities;
  • encourage socialisation and team building;
  • help avoid misunderstandings;
  • make the articled clerk feel valued;
  • model good customer service behaviour to the articled clerk;
  • relieve articled clerk anxiety and set expectations; and
  • shorten the learning curve of articled clerks.

The critical components of an induction program are:

  • pre-arrival;
  • getting started;
  • formal training;
  • coaching and mentoring; and
  • measuring and evaluating.

Pre-arrival

It is important to ensure the contact the firm has with the articled clerk during the hiring process is positive and consistent.

Welcome letters and calls set the tone for the articled clerk to form a positive and lasting impression. This time should also be used to communicate first-day information including parking, dress code, schedule and other employment policies. It is also a good time to provide independent reading materials including employee communication materials such as newsletters and intranet notices. This information should help the articled clerk begin to adapt to the company culture.

Getting started

The primary aim is to orientate new employees and the first task should be to greet the articled clerks and ensure all required documentation such as tax forms, confidentiality agreements and staff profiles has been completed.

There should be a systematic and thorough introduction to the company, department and job with an opportunity for them to meet the firm’s leaders. Reading materials and group meetings can facilitate this process. A model staff induction program, including checklists, is available on the Law Institute website at http://www.liv.asn.au/services/services-Human.html.

Formal training

After the initial orientation for assimilating, educating and training articled clerks, formal training should begin. The principal has full responsibility for this process.

Tactics include:

  • setting objectives and allocating appropriate work;
  • facilitating an understanding of company processes and practices through hands-on training, rotation or shadowing;
  • teaching company goals and strategies; and
  • providing information on handouts or intranet that the employees can reference.

Formal training for recent graduates should aim to ease their transition to work life and allow them to build a personal and professional network. Membership of the Institute, particularly the Young Lawyers’ Section, can provide articled clerks with access to a package of services and benefits that gives them an advantage in their future career pursuits within the legal profession. Services such as the library, bookshop, continuing professional development, Institute Sections and publications will be made available to them so they can take responsibility for their own training, development and contribution within the legal profession.

Coaching and mentoring

This is a process for creating a smooth transition for articled clerks to become familiar with the firm culture and environment and is usually best done by their peers and staff in the firm other than their immediate manager.

This process can involve tours of the workplace or work areas and meetings with clients. Pre-planned introductions and substantive conversations with partners, senior team members and direct reports should also generate familiarity with company resources and systems.

Establishing personal networks through Young Lawyers’ events at the Institute is also a useful way for articled clerks to develop themselves.

Measuring and evaluating

This is an ongoing process designed to measure and evaluate the success of the articled clerk and the induction program.

It requires the employer to develop objectives and meet regularly with the articled clerk in the first year.

It is important that initial induction sessions be followed up with periodic one-on-one meetings between the articled clerk and supervisor to find out how the articled clerk feels about the new job, and give the clerk the opportunity to ask questions and clear up misunderstandings.

The key to the success of an induction program is to avoid complex structures and materials, have clear induction material and stress simplicity. Firms must convey a strong message to business units and staff that induction programs are a priority.

Well-structured and administered inductions programs can reduce company liability and turnover and result in articled clerks who know that they are supported.


DIANNE UNDERWOOD is the Institute’s human resources manager. For more information on this column and other HR issues tel 9607 9410.

hrcolumn@liv.asn.au

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