Congratulations! Your in-house team is growing, and you’ve just hired a new member to free up your time. You’ll soon be able to focus on the high-level projects creeping up on the horizon. At this moment, though, you might be wrestling with the challenge of how to efficiently ramp-up your new hire, so that they (and you) can hit the ground running. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you onboard your new team member.
1. Review Basic Organizational Information
On the first day, start by sharing the most basic information about your company, from the formal organizational chart to the practical chain of command. When reviewing the org chart, discuss how information is shared within the company for corporate governance review, auditing data security controls and anticipating any potential discovery demands. The chain of command refers to how things actually get done, which is not always fairly represented on the org chart. Your new team member will also see how the legal department fits within the company as a whole, and more specifically, the appropriate lines of communication to use when a problem arises.
2. Share Key (Public) Company Filings
If you’re heading the legal department of a public company, you should share with your new hire every recent disclosure your company has made to shareholders and to potential investors, including proxy statements and the company’s 10-K. It’s also recommended that you point out any filings made with the SEC over the last several years that indicate key financing and acquisition events that could influence legal and business decisions moving forward. Encourage your new hire to read your competitors’ forms as well– which will help them to understand general trends in your industry.
3. Make Introductions
Schedule meetings for your new hire to meet with key people (like the heads of various departments) to learn about what the company plans to do over a measurable timeline. By learning about the company’s short-term plans from an inter-departmental view, your new team member can figure out ways to add value immediately. This is also a great time for you to check-in with key members of your organization. Talking about the company’s long-term strategy and vision, including exit strategies and potential mergers or acquisitions, will help you get a feel for how your entire department can add value down the road.
4. Encourage Mentorships
If you only follow my advice about reading org charts and 10Ks, you might end up missing the forest for the trees. The role of your in-house legal team is for each member to develop strong relationships with executives, employees, vendors, and outside counsel. These relationships are not always built in the boardroom, though, and are often supportd by mentoring from people within the organization (other than supervisors). From the first day, encourage your new hire to engage with as many people as possible and utlimately build strong mentoring relationships with one or more colleagues. This dynamic has shown to increase cohesion between segmented departments across an organization and can have a major impact on the success of the legal department you are now running.
Let’s face it—your new hire will probably be busy setting up their workspace and learning how to conference call on day one. But keep them close by and build them into your long-term onboarding strategy to make the most out of the opportunity to lead and grow a successful legal department.