HR Mastery Part 2: Onboarding, Development, Review & Reward

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If you read part one of this article, then it’s highly likely you have the right people on your team, and you have them in the right roles. If you didn’t read it, I suggest you go back and look it up, and read it. ‘HR Mastery Part One – Right People Right Roles’. Either way, if you are following my advice, then you may be wondering, “What now?” This article is aimed at answering that very question.


The first next step is onboarding your people. I see this step being highly undervalued and mishandled. Face it. You have gone to the trouble of finding the right people, and then getting them in the right roles. Does it make any sense to open the door and point them to their desk and let them flounder to find their own way? NO! But I see it done time and time again.



Make them feel welcome. Introduce them to the rest of your team. Have a plan of what they need to know to get started and then enlist other members of your team to show them the ropes. Introduce them to your office manager or admin person and have them show them the basics – where the washroom is, the break room, etc. Then pair them up with the most appropriate person on your team to get them started. Para to Para. Lawyer to Lawyer. The point is, make them feel comfortable and welcome in their new home!


Another critical area for success in HR, and again usually overlooked. Each individual employee will have different needs so don’t just throw a cookie-cutter development plan at them and expect them to thrive. From the outset, you and your employee should know where they need to develop. Create a plan, with benchmarks and goals. Enlist the appropriate person on your staff or outsource to a coach. Choose the best programs from the ABA or your state Bar Association. Take the time to customize the learning and development program for each of your employees and see them thrive!


Here is a formula for the scheduling of reviews that I recommend for new hires: First week/First month/Three months/Six months/One year. From then on, yearly should be adequate.


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Start with the areas they need to improve upon. Be specific. Use examples. This is a teachable/learnable moment. Set up a follow-up plan with dates or benchmarks, in other words, an improvement plan.

Then point out what they are doing well, or exceptionally, and why. Again, give them specifics.

I suggest ending each review with this. “How can I help you help me, help the clients”? There is a bit of psychology here. You are empowering them to think about what they and you can do to make the client experience even better.


I have helped several clients create an incentive/bonus plan for their employees. I firmly believe when your people are going above and beyond, they should share in your success.


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When you are designing your incentive or bonus structure, be sure not to make it all about time. Rewarding people just for their time is very limiting. Make it about performance, their overall contribution to the success of the firm, and RESULTS!

I suggest you have a 3-Tier bonus plan.

  1. Job performance: This should be focused on their performance and client and peer feedback, not just the total hours billed.
  2. Giving back: This is about what are they doing to better the firm. Are they mentoring, going above and beyond their job title, or assisting you with managerial tasks?
  3. Business Development (BD): This is obviously about bringing in new clients and work.

When you base your reward system on these three factors, you are giving everyone on your team a fighting chance to earn bonuses. Some will flourish in certain areas, whereas others won’t. And they shouldn’t be penalized for it! All contributions are necessary for running a successful and profitable law firm.

In closing, HR is the hardest part of running a business, not to mention a business that relies on good people. But the time and investment you put into your people will come back to you 10-fold. There is nothing that will set you apart from your competitors, like the reputation of having the best people.


Gary Mitchell

Gary has tailored his coaching practice exclusively to lawyers since 2005. He has been named by two independent organizations among the top 10 business coaches for lawyers and law firms in North America. Gary has three books published and recently launched, The Law Practice Builder App, to help lawyers grow their practices. While a pioneer in lawyer coaching, Gary continues to innovate and bring more value to his clients. He hosts "The LawBiz Podcast" discussing various business issues lawyers face and sharing inspirational stories of growth and success.

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