Engaging Associates in the New Workplace

January was busy with presentations to law firm partners on the best practices for engaging associates in a hybrid workplace. I created this program in response to the frustration I’ve been hearing about associates not being responsive, lacking ownership over projects, and failing to communicate.       

The goal of the training is to provide partners with the skills and insights to engage associates and make them feel they are vital to delivering outstanding work to clients.  

There are 3 pillars to this 60-minute virtual or in-person training: 

  1. How to communicate clear expectations when assigning work. This includes teaching the partners to articulate their unique preferences, or what I call “pet peeves.” 
  2. How to build trusted relationships with associates. This includes teaching partners that by being vulnerable and sharing some of their early “failures,” they will pave the way to more open communication and trust.  
  3. How to instill a sense of belonging.  

In our post-COVID workplace, where most associates are new to the firm, partners need to communicate a shared mission that engages associates to do their best work. Without this glue the working relationship is transactional, where associates get money for hours.   

In my 30+ years of working in and with law firms, I have never witnessed more challenges to engaging legal talent. I truly believe we can repair the damage caused by COVID, which included our newest lawyers learning on zoom and not developing in-person communication skills. But to remedy these gaps and bring back the cultural glue, we need to provide both our associates and partners with training.  

I welcome your thoughts and experiences on associate engagement! 

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