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IT in practice: The cost of time

Every Issue

Cite as: November 2011 85(11) LIJ, p.83

Good planning helps firms speed up induction of new staff.

One hidden cost associated with staff turnover in the legal profession is technology. The cost here is not the purchase of new computers or software, it is the cost of time – often provided by an external technology consultant – to deal with the detailed tasks associated with staff movement. There are several tasks involved, and these fall into areas of termination, pre-induction and induction.

When a staff member leaves a firm, for any reason, it is necessary to ensure that the email flow is not interrupted. Simply disabling a person’s email account is inappropriate; it is necessary to leave that email account open for a time – three months is usually a good benchmark – and automatically redirect all emails to another person in the firm for handling. On the employee’s last day, login privileges should be disabled.

Again, rather than removing the person’s accounts from servers and workstations, it may be more appropriate to merely change their password so other staff may still access files.

Finally, reformatting and rebuilding a computer ready for the next member of staff presumes that the terminated person had nothing of value stored on their computer. This is almost never the case – where a “clean” computer is required, techs can remove the old employee’s hard disk, insert a new one, and quarantine the old one for a while. The few hundred dollars of cost that this entails is minimal compared to loss of that vital client document that an ex-employee accidentally stored on a now-wiped hard disk.

Pre-induction is the part of welcoming a new staff member to a practice that many firms recognise as exceptionally important because it marks the end of the recruitment process and the start of the induction process. As well as the usual activities of allocating a desk or office, having business cards printed, and making sure there is a phone in place, there are a host of technology-related tasks that can be undertaken.

A trigger point for pre-induction will be a confirmed letter of offer, at which time the technology staff can be provided with employee details. Making sure that this communication is in writing will minimise wrong name spelling (sadly, a common “own goal” in welcoming a staff member to the firm).

Preparing a computer for use by a new staff member will require setting up user accounts, email addresses, the actual computer to be used, printer access, access to software such as timesheeting and document management applications, dictaphone and scanning, and any associated smartphones with integrated access. This is also a good time to ensure that all relevant practice policies and guidelines are available and up to date – email usage, standards for document preparation and storage, etc.

The well-prepared firm will also move one level of detail deeper – setting up the new employee’s email signature block, testing all functions, adding the employee to the relevant email groups, confirming default spell-checking and document template availability, providing access to shared calendars and emails, to default printer, and similar details. The budget for a good pre-induction process will run to several hours, but can be minimised by having a checklist of items. Well-timed pre-induction will mean that an employee will start with a mailbox full of information and they can hit the ground running.

The technology side of induction for a new employee predominantly revolves around training. There may be software that is unfamiliar and training in this will be required. This will usually take the form of one-on-one training by another member of the firm where the “why” can be combined with “how” during the process. Any items that the new employee has problems with during induction should be fed back into the pre-induction phase to ensure that any future new employees can become productive as quickly as possible.

Induction will also cover things such as phone, smartphone and photocopier-printer usage, as well as walking through the firm’s technology guidelines. A tour of the office will include the printer resources. For employees with access to portable or remote technology, an additional layer of induction will be required relating to how remote access to the office works, and the special security and confidentiality safeguards that are in place and need to be maintained.

Firms with successful induction processes tend to have a short session two to three weeks after an employee starts, to deal with any issues they may be having difficulty with, but which they had been trying to deal with without troubling their new employer. Often these can be easily resolved, and again fed back into the pre-induction checklist.

ADAM REYNOLDS is the principal of Proficio, an independent IT consulting firm. To contact him, ph 0413 487 640, email or see For more IT in-practice information see the contributions of the LIV Legal Practice Management Committee and IT e-Marketing Department at


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