Creating an Impactful Orientation: How to Start Off Strong

Topics: Law Firm Profitability, Law Firms, Leadership, Legal Innovation, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Talent Development

Clayton Utz

Legal employers and managers are looking for the secret sauce that will turn young recruits into the more traditional, driven professionals they can count on to work hard, aspire to significant responsibility, act like owners and stick around for at least three to five years, at which point they will have justified the organization’s investment in them.

Achieving this will require pumping up orientation programs far beyond using basic logistics, relying on technical training and explaining employee benefits. People in a wide range of industries come to me with stories lamenting new entrants’ cluelessness of work behavior. Well, things are different. Today, these new entrants are raised and educated in a much more informal environment with looser rules compared to older generations. Most had not been taught the ways of the typical workplace or the perspective of management. And what’s “typical” now anyway? So, in many cases, it’s the orientation process itself that needs a makeover.

Changes in orientation aimed at the Gen Y/Millennial cohort will benefit people at all levels, even senior management, as they open their minds and participate in orientation programs. Indeed, their participation will truly raise the performance level.


Changes in orientation aimed at the Gen Y/Millennial cohort will benefit people at all levels, even senior management, as they open their minds and participate in orientation programs.


As immediate takeaways for you to use right now, here are some topics I recommend to add to new entry orientation programs, ASAP. They are appropriate for interns and people entering laterally from another organization as well as new entry-level hires. These include having orientation attendees:

  1. Understand the economics of the firm or organization, and how they, personally, affect revenues and costs.
  2. Learn the organizational values and culture that define the brand.
  3. Know Expectations — the firm’s and yours. These must be clearly articulated.
  4. Recognize how the perceptions of others — including senior management, supervisors, colleagues and clients — affect career progress. This topic would cover various aspects of behavior and communication, attire, perceptions of work ethic, etc. — essentially, the components of professionalism.
  5. Learn how to initiate conversations with more senior colleagues and mentors, and how to ask for feedback.
  6. Identify how to channel creativity appropriately, and why certain behaviors and self-expression may hurt other people.

While I recommend this enhanced orientation begin early, it also needs to be spread out and reiterated over time. A one-shot message won’t achieve the desired results. And for the best return on investment, a similar approach should be incorporated for laterals of all levels — even partners — to foster a cohesive culture.

Yes, I know this takes work and investment, but once implemented, think how much time, frustration, unsatisfactory work and do-overs it will eliminate. It will seem like a bargain! Are you prepared for the coming influx?

Let me know what you would add or change. I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas with you.