How To Pass Your Probation Period In Your New Legal Role
- February 18, 2022
Probationary periods? When you look at the dictionary definition (a process of testing or observing the character or abilities of a person who is new to a role or job), it makes logical sense that an ethical law firm would have a probation period for all employees.
So today, let’s clarify what a probationary period is and how to ensure you pass yours with flying colours!
Probationary Period: A Definition
As a general rule in the UK legal sector, probationary periods last anywhere between three and six months, depending on the level of the role.
During this time, both you and your employer have an opportunity to decide if you are a match for each other, which you are both hoping is the outcome.
There will be a different notice period during the probation time frame, depending on your employment contract. It is usually much shorter and will vary from firm to firm. Your employer hasn’t recruited you on a whim; they want this to work out positively, as I suspect you do too.
Your new law firm has a duty of care to both you, their current team, and their clients. There is nothing worse than realising the role isn’t right for you or from your employer’s perspective.
Before we start looking at what to do to pass your probation, let’s remove the uncomfortable question on most new starters minds: “what do I need to do to make sure I don’t fail?”
Why New Legal Hires Fail
Though many new hires panic that their skillset and technical ability need work, capability is rarely why people fail. Any professional law firm knows and understand that everybody isn’t the finished article.
They want you to deliver in your new role, of course, whether you are a legal cashier or a head of commercial litigation. However, I am sure during the interview, you discussed how you want to develop your legal career.
During your hiring process, your legal recruiter will have assessed your CV, qualifications, experience, and skills aligned to the job role. Your hiring manager will have asked various questions to give examples of how you have achieved multiple results.
However, it is up to you to turn up and demonstrate what we call the double-A criteria;
- Attitude and,
Fact: Failure happens because of a lack of personal application.
HRmagazine in the UK and LeadershipIQ in the US shared extensive data that confirms that attitudes drive over 89% of hiring failures, while a lack of technical ability came in at only 11%. Career builder shared similar alarming research that 30% of managers had sacked staff for poor timekeeping.
I suspect you can see the pattern here of why people fail.
In summary, poor interpersonal skills often lead to an unwillingness to accept feedback—for instance, poor verbal communication skills, lack of listening and being too emotional.
One client came to us to ask for help with their recruiting, after making a series of poor hires.
One particular new property solicitor gave yes and no answers to everything rather than expanding her answers with the detail her manager needed. Then she complained that her manager was interrogating her. It was as though her twin sister, not her, came to the interview.
The person in question turned up ten minutes late every day without giving a reason, too; a pattern emerging all around the new hire’s attitude.
Motivation, or lack thereof, is another factor that leads to failure. Your employer doesn’t expect you to be the legal version of Ted Lasso, 100% motivated or enthusiastic all the time; however, demonstrating commitment and energy towards your role is something they want to see.
There is good news – all of the above reasons for failure are easily rectified with some mind management and awareness of your impact.
So, knowing attitude is key; what else can you do to make your probation plain sailing?
Make an Impact
Making an impact is easier than most people realise. Being positive and approachable are such easy wins. You moved into the role for a reason, so ensure people get that you are excited and enthusiastic about the opportunities ahead.
Dress codes vary in today’s workplace, and it’s still a good idea to dress smartly. This demonstrates to your new manager or leadership team and those around you that you take things seriously.
We mentioned earlier about lightness; whatever you do, don’t sabotage all the great ideas we’re going to give you by not paying attention to this key failure metric.
Though an uncomfortable truth, when you are new in an organisation, you are more visible to everyone, so make sure they see what you want them to see.
Put in Place Your Progress Plan
Here at Clayton Legal, we work with the best clients, and they all have specific objectives and criteria they share with new team members during their probation period.
However, we know that that isn’t always the case with every firm. We appreciate that you may be reading this post as a legal professional struggling with your probation. Our first suggestion is to make sure that you align with the objectives your manager has given you with the outputs required in your job description.
If you haven’t been set SMART goals, set them yourself. Always ask your manager to give you examples of what exceeding, good, average, and poor looks like.
Feedback is fascinating, as we alluded to before, so remember to be proactive here and ask for feedback from your manager and colleagues.
Forewarned is always forearmed; their experience of you can help you alter what you are doing, how you’re working and how you’re interacting with people.
Keep a record of your progress, positive and development feedback, and what you did to change. Write down your wins, too, when they happened and what you did.
This process alone is invaluable because it will help you prepare ahead for your review while also giving you a framework to keep winning in your role.
For many people, being “on probation” can cause a level of anxiety. Our human brain doesn’t help either. It has a habit of looking for the negative all the time.
I hope by reading this post, you appreciate that passing your probation isn’t the onerous task you are making it out to be.
About Clayton Legal
Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.
If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.