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Two ways law firms can support junior associates from afar

When you’re new, you don’t know.

Remember your first day at your current job? The excitement of a new opportunity is easily matched by a fair bit of trepidation. Even experienced lawyers face uncertainty when starting a new role. But what about your junior employees?

Many associates count on direct access to their peers and face time with knowledgeable senior staff as they learn the ins and outs of life at the firm. That on-the-job training is part of the professional development cycle and plays a large role in a lawyer’s eventual success.

That guidance needs to happen, whether employees are learning the ropes in-person or across the internet. Without it, a lawyer’s work product could suffer along with the opportunity to meaningfully contribute or develop into a potential leader.

Step one: set new lawyers on the right path

One place to start is with access to experts. In this day and age, there’s no reason for an associate to face a blank page alone. If your law firm is spread across multiple offices, or even multiple home offices, make certain that your least experienced staff know where to look for the knowledge they need to be effective.

A robust knowledge management system is part of this solution, but so are tools that capture vital “how-to” information from outside of the firm. Lawyers across the globe have long looked to Practical Law to help them deliver a quality work product quickly and confidently. For junior associates facing limited exposure to their peers, it can feel like a lifesaver.

Going beyond collections of assets, more advanced tools like Panoramic include Matter Maps to provide the know-how of a legal issue along with an orderly workflow to ensure success. Not only are lawyers able to see the preferred processes their firm follows, users can copy existing matters as a basis for their work. Think of it as a kickstart – in precisely the right direction.

Step two: guide your team through meaningful communication

A strong start is, well … just the beginning. Circumstances can change on a whim and people working together need to communicate often. Especially when the expertise isn’t uniform across all participants.

Tools like Panoramic allow a legal team to guide one another regardless of where members are located. The aforementioned matter maps can be customized according to the best practices of the firm and to include the accumulated expertise of its people.

This capability is so valuable because it extends the knowledge of your firm beyond a few key individuals. This is certain to impact your practice’s quality of work product. But it has an added benefit of delivering guided experience to junior employees within the context of real work.

That context is an everyday need for lawyers who may be a little light on real-world experience. Here again the direction of leaders and mentors comes into play. Within Panoramic, users can add instructions or comments to specific work items. This is an effective way for teams to communicate directly with one another about the actual work in progress, and it provides a measure of reassurance on both sides of the career timeline. Senior staff knows the work is being driven properly while junior teams are empowered to move ahead with confidence.

If your junior associates are facing a challenge getting some face time, take a look at Panoramic or Practical Law and see if you can’t set them up for success from afar.

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