One of the challenges of law firm life is the variety of new hires. We have lateral hires – both partners and associates – as well as summer associates, fall associates, paralegals, a variety of staff positions, including administrative assistants, IT personnel, case clerks, etc. And each new hire has orientation with a representative from the different departments. Admittedly, the library/research group doesn’t have orientation responsibilities for all staff, just attorneys, paralegals, sometimes IT, and anyone else who needs to perform research or know about the library systems. This probably isn’t much different from what happens in other types of libraries.
For us, the new hire orientation lasts 1-2 days, depending on the person joining the firm. Attorneys may take 1 day because they need to start working on cases by the second day (and sometimes on their first day). The Knowledge Services orientation is allotted 15 minutes – and that’s 15 minutes whether it’s one person or multiple people. Not a lot of time to go over the library/research structure, online research, CLE, and anything else that comes up during the orientation. It’s like feeding information through a fire hose and hoping the new hire remembers something/anything.
We tailor the orientation to the individual. A case clerk would not receive information on CLE attendance or as much detail about how to use our reference attorneys. A transaction attorney won’t receive details on searching or tracking dockets. A lateral hire will be handled somewhat differently than a fall (or summer) associate.
Summer and fall associates can take advantage of training in law school, and law librarians frequently assist with research and writing courses (I know not all law schools offer or require those courses). Attorneys making a lateral move come from a variety of backgrounds.
Lateral hires from mid-size or large law firms frequently have had an in-house library and research team. But not all firms use their libraries the same way. Not all librarians perform legal research – that task may be handled solely by paralegals or attorneys. Laterals from smaller firms may not have had libraries/librarians that offered research services. And, there’s the online charges issue. We impress cost-effective searching techniques on our summer and fall associates (heck, we scare them with the average cost of a search, just to ensure they don’t develop bad habits). But lateral hires have varied expectations about online charges. Contracts for online services vary tremendously from firm to firm, so there’s often a learning curve for the billable charges.
How much can we expect a new hire to retain? How much can we tell them in 15 minutes? I’m envious of those firms whose librarians get an hour for orientation. I hit the high points, so that I can leave time for questions and get details about what is important to our new lateral hires. The lateral hires generally have questions regarding how they can get what they need. I want them to be able to go to work on their files without having to figure out where to find the information. And, if I’m really lucky, after a few days, they’ll have some breathing space and they’ll come ask me for more orientation information. Then I can sit down for a longer period of time, and customize the information to their practice and needs. While our 15 minute time slot has a list of items to cover, it’s not a one-size-fits-all.