By Adam Hopkins, marketing administrator at Perkins Coie LLP
2020 has proven to be a very… interesting year.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest and economic weariness, I also will remember this year for transitioning to my current role and firm. To say that I’m thankful for this new opportunity is an understatement. I’m thankful not only because of how my new firm, and my new colleagues, have welcomed me into the fold. I’m also thankful because it presented an opportunity for me to grow as a legal marketer, and a chance to stretch my potential further than it ever had been stretched before this year.
My supervisor, along with the rest of the marketing team, truly went out of their way to acclimate me to my new firm. Knowing that it was a new job altogether, but taking into consideration that I’d be working remotely, they offered a lot of grace and patience while I onboarded. They made sure I met with all the key players on the marketing team, understood all the breakdown of the overall marketing department (events, communications, business development, etc.). My supervisor also introduced me to the practice chairs and other key partners in the practices I’d be serving. In short, my new colleagues set me up for success.
But to be successful, I also had to give in order to get. My supervisor and other marketing staff provided me with plenty of tools, but I had to be willing and able to use them. So how have I used those tools in such a unique work situation? More to the point, how have I acclimated myself in this unique work situation? And how could someone else acclimate themselves? Here are some easy steps that anyone can use to set themselves up for success:
Connect with your manager before your first day. Developing a rapport with your soon-to-be supervisor is crucial in any work environment, but it becomes mission critical when you, they, and everyone else are working remotely. A good way to develop this rapport is to ask your manager questions – any question you can think of, but especially those pertaining to your marketing team, overall processes, best practices, etc. Ask if there are any marketing materials you could review before your first day. Remember – no question is too small.
When connecting with your new manager, a good question to keep in mind is one that may have come up during your interview process: What should I be learning and/or contributing within my first month? (Likewise, ask the same question about your first three months and six months.) This will show your manager that you’re truly interested in being there for the long-term, and that you want to be successful. It shows you’re truly interested in being a contributor and that you want to add to the marketing department’s achievements.
These are questions to keep in mind every day after you officially start – it’s a good way to hold yourself accountable. Your manager will appreciate that, and it also shows you’re teachable.
Research firm leaders and other partners. This could easily tie in the questions you’d like to ask your manager before arriving on your first day. It’s a good idea to ask who the key stakeholders are at your new firm. It’s also a good idea to ask who the leaders are in the practices/industries/regions you’ll serve, in addition to other key partners (for example, the rainmakers). Ask your soon-to-be manager to make introductions to these leaders – he/she may already have time carved out in your schedule for such meetings.
Once you know who the key players are and have discussed introductions with your manager, research them. Read their website bios. Read the client alerts and other publications they’ve written. Read the webpages of the practices they support. Read anything that’s public about the cases they’ve handled and the clients they’ve represented. Of course, you’re not going to know everything about the attorneys before day one, but you’ll put yourself in a good position to hit the ground running.
Ahead of meeting with key stakeholders, it is helpful to speak with your supervisor about the attorneys’ work styles and preferences. Are the attorneys the kind of people who just want quick, succinct answers to their questions? Do those you’ll be working with want (or expect) to be coached? Do they want their marketing staff to be walking encyclopedias who are able to source and provide information about any particular topic under the sun?
Connect with human resources before your first day. HR teams at most law firms are very good at planning your first day, first week, and – depending on the size of your firm – first several weeks. Part of that planning includes time scheduled to discuss your benefits. Before your first day, contact the HR manager or coordinator who oversaw your interview process and ask him/her for your benefits paperwork ahead of time.
Asking for the papers (which includes all the tax and healthcare benefits you’ll need to sign) ought not to substitute for your orientation. However, having these documents ahead of time will allow you to get a head start and save time as you dive into your new role. You drink from a fire hose when you begin a new job regardless, and that feeling becomes exponential when you’re working remotely. You can reduce the flow by getting a head start on your paperwork. It’ll help you to focus more on the role itself, and how you’ll fit in with the marketing team.
Connect with staff in your local office. Of course, you’re working remotely, and most likely the rest of the office staff is too. But they’ve been at the firm for a while and they know the ins and outs of the local office. Remember, the office staff includes everyone – legal assistants, hospitality and reception, IT support, the mailroom staff, and other administrators. You’re going to depend heavily on your fellow employees to provide all sorts of guidance and support, so it’s a good idea to introduce yourself as soon as possible. When doing so, ask what they do and why they enjoy working at the firm. Introductions are something your mentor could help with (more on that later).
Connect with the rest of the marketing team. This one seems like common sense, but remote work and virtual meeting fatigue make it too easy to not get acquainted with anyone else in your department. A good thing to keep in mind – navigating online meetings while helping your kids do schoolwork (or making sure the laundry basket doesn’t overflow) is a brave new world for your new colleagues too. They may be as nervous as you are, in terms of the online meeting/working arrangements. This is a new chapter of your career, so embrace the remote work as part of the excitement.
In meeting new colleagues, there are a couple good practices to keep in mind so that you may acclimate yourself and become a vital part of the team:
- Find a mentor. Your new firm may already have designated someone in the marketing department to be your mentor (aside from your supervisor), perhaps someone in the same office where you’d traditionally work. My firm had someone in place already, and I’m very grateful they did. The mentor should be someone willing and able to answer any questions you have about the office, the firm’s culture, and the make-up of the marketing team. If your mentor doesn’t have an answer to your questions, he/she ought to be someone who can help you find one.
- Attend various meetings. Especially if you’re going to a large firm, where the total marketing team may number in the dozens, it’s important to take advantage of every meeting and activity where most of the department will attend. There are your mandatory meetings, naturally, but some marketing teams may use COVID-19 as an opportunity to have virtual happy hours and other informal gatherings. Attend them. Introduce yourself to the rest of the team.
Depending on your role, find out if there are standing meetings for coordinators and assistants, and likewise for directors and managers. Whether these meetings are formal or informal, they present opportunities for you to get the know your peers and vice versa.
If you work at a small firm, with a smaller marketing team (or, perhaps, you are a solo marketer), ask around and see whether the firm staff have such informal meetings. Make sure you circle on your calendar and attend. Don’t be shy!
With these strategies in place, you can be proactive and set yourself up for success. One important item to add though: Don’t forget to have an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful for your new role, and your new firm and work environment. Be thankful for your new colleagues. Be thankful to your former colleagues, especially those who provided references on your behalf. Be thankful to your family members, who supported you when you applied for this role and interviewed. Be thankful to them for your use of their living space when you’re working remotely. No matter what’s going on in the world around you, your success is someone else’s too.