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High-quality internal training programs not only give people the skills they need, but also send the clear message that you care about people's career development and are willing to invest in them as individuals. According to one group leader, "It is the quality of the client assignments and the quality of the people in our team that often tips the balance between whether a person stays or leaves."

This leader reports that his group holds a special meeting on the very first morning of the lateral's arrival at the office. This gives the entire group a chance to strategize with the newcomer about which of their existing client matters the newcomer will get involved in, and which of the firm's clients might benefit from an introduction to the new person. Any discussion as to which of the lateral's clients could be cross-sold is held in abeyance until this new person develops some sense of trust from having become integrated into the work with existing clients of the group.

Sometimes new hires bring experience that can be immediately applied. Don't wait. Include them in the group's joint marketing projects or in the delivery of substantive internal training efforts, if they have the interest. Their experiences in a different environment and with different clients can often provide a shot of new energy for your team.

Experiencing an early success helps newcomers establish their own confidence and place in the firm and gives their co-workers confidence in them.


Orientation systems that steep newcomers in the personalities and culture of their new group build career-long relationships that support success in their new environment. Think bonding. Think teamwork.

Who will take responsibility for organizing lunches and dinners for the new lateral hire? Don't leave it to individual initiative. Someone (preferably the group leader) should take it upon herself to create regular social occasions for the new person to develop personal as well as professional ties with your team members.


Those groups that take internal communications seriously tend to do a far better job of retention. One group conducts an annual internal survey of its people (including junior people and support staff) to give them a voice and let them share their feelings, offer constructive ideas, or vent concerns. The results are shared with absolutely everyone.

The group leader conducts a two-way feedback process to assess the results, celebrate strengths, and get constructive suggestions for remedial action. He reports that the real value of the survey is that because it is annual it allows the group to monitor their progress. Surveys can be used to promote constructive change.

Is your group lucky enough to have a group leader with a dose of infectious enthusiasm? One midwestern group leader begins each week with a "good-morning" voice-mail message, broadcast to the entire group, introducing new people, announcing special achievements, and discussing client news and developments. E-mail and internal newsletters are full of wonderful cultural tips for the new arrival (and are a great "refresher" tool for everyone else).

It's Your Investment to Manage

If you believe that what your group earns its living from is talent and skill, then making people want to stay is a very good business strategy. It makes sense to bring in good people, help them succeed, and invest some time in making them part of the fabric of the group. Too often, when a new person fails to make it in a group, it's because the group failed the person.

Newcomers deserve your support. It only works to your advantage to have them settled in and thriving as soon as possible. Help them understand how they can best contribute to your group's success and then make sure everyone is contributing to theirs. It only makes sense, having made the initial investment, that you work hard to guard the long-term success of this, your greatest strategic asset.

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From FIRST AMONG EQUALS by Patrick J. McKenna and David H. Maister. © 1997-20062002 by Patrick J. McKenna and David H. Maister. Reprinted by permission of The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York. For more information, visit

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