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Socialization of new lawyers: The influence of values congruence and mentoring on job satisfaction

Dissertation
Author: Roselynn S. Dow
Abstract:
This dissertation examined the socialization of new lawyers into the culture of law firms and the effects of shared values and mentoring on job satisfaction. Using two surveys, the Organizational Culture Profile (OCP), which measured shared work values, and the Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS), which measured job satisfaction, and face-to-face interviews on associate mentoring experiences, the researcher collected data from partners and associates in two law firms in central New York state. Sixty-six partners and 35 associates received the surveys; 45 partners and 25 associates responded. Eight associates were interviewed. Three research questions framed the investigation: Do new lawyers and senior lawyers from the same firm share similar work values that define their organizational culture? Do new lawyers who have helpful mentors experience job satisfaction? and Do responses to the job satisfaction survey differ according to demographics of age, gender, race, or length of employment at the firm? Examination of the OCP survey findings suggested that associates and partners in both firms shared work values that sustained organizational continuity, professional growth, and mentoring opportunities. Of interest were items of disagreement on being reflective, having a clear guiding philosophy, being team-oriented and collaborative, and being distinctive. JDS results suggested that associates were satisfied with their jobs in areas that provided motivation and promoted job retention but were dissatisfied with the perceived low level of complex skills needed to perform their jobs and the perceived routine nature of the work. Interviews on mentoring revealed associates challenged the effectiveness of the traditional socialization processes currently used and proposed ways to better meet expectations.

v Table of Contents Acknowledgments iv List of Tables viii List of Figures ix CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction to the Problem 1 Background of the Study 3 Statement of the Problem 6 Purpose of the Study 11 Rationale 12 Research Questions 13 Significance of the Study 14 Definition of Terms 16 Assumptions and Limitations 17 Conceptual Framework 18 Chapter Summary 18 Organization of the Remainder of the Study 19 CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW 21 Introduction 21 Organizational Culture 21 Socialization 24 Organizational Values 25 Socialization Theories 26

vi Socialization Behaviors and Traits 31 Interactionist Theories 33 Adjustment During Socialization 36 Person–Organization Fit and Values Congruence 38 New Lawyers and Socialization 41 Issues of Gender, Race, and Age in Socialization 42 Mentoring and Job Satisfaction 44 Summary 48 CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY 49 Research Design 49 Population/Sample 51 Instrumentation 59 Data Collection 61 Data Analysis 63 Validity and Reliability 65 Ethical Considerations 67 Pilot Study 68 CHAPTER 4. RESULTS 70 Introduction 70 Pilot Study 72 Missing Data 73 Characteristics of the Associate Lawyer Participants 73 Organizational Culture Profile 77

vii Job Diagnostic Survey 88 Interviews on Mentoring 90 Summary 99 CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION, IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS 101 Review of the Methodology 103 Research Question 1 and the OCP 105 Research Question 2 and Mentoring 112 Research Question 3 and the JDS 117 Implications 119 Recommendations 120 REFERENCES 123

viii List of Tables Table 1. OCP Items and Questions 56 Table 2. JDS Items and Questions 58 Table 3. JDS Core Job Dimensions 66 Table 4. OCP Values and Corresponding Questions 79 Table 5. Firm A OCP Set 1 Values 82 Table 6. Firm A OCP Set 1 Congruence 83 Table 7. Firm A OCP Set 2 Values 84 Table 8. Firm A OCP Set 2 Congruence 85 Table 9. Firm A OCP Set 3 Values 85 Table 10. Firm A OCP Set 3 Congruence 86 Table 11. Firm B OCP Set 1 Congruence 87 Table 12. Firm B OCP Set 2 Congruence 88 Table 13. Firm B OCP Set 3 Congruence 89 Table 14. JDS ANOVA, All Associates 92

ix List of Figures Figure 1. Conceptual framework 19

1

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

Introduction to the Problem A concern in law firms is how to adequately socialize new lawyers and bring their professional developments to the point where they can provide profitable service to the firm. When new lawyers are brought into a firm, they undergo a period of training that may extend throughout a 7-year period, up to the time they are eligible to become partners. This training process is called socialization. Socialization was defined by Schein (1968) as the process that helps newcomers share in the organization‘s values, beliefs, and practices by establishing goals, modeling desired behavior, and clearly outlining responsibilities for newcomers. During the period of socialization, the law firm does not fully benefit from the investment it makes in new lawyers until new lawyers have acquired enough experience and the knowledge necessary to achieve profitability goals. When new lawyers are fully socialized, they can more fully contribute to the firm. Experienced people such as these must be retained so that the law firm continues to reap the benefits of its investment in recruitment and selection and its socialization program. The lawyers who have successfully progressed through a socialization program will eventually expect to be promoted to the rank of partner, receive higher salaries and bonuses, and share in other positive feedback and rewards. Lawyers who successfully progress through a socialization program will also experience a sense of job satisfaction,

2 which is a strong motivator to stay with the firm. Thus, when the socialization program is successful, both the law firm and new lawyers are likely to benefit. This process of socialization is multilayered: learning organizational structure, recognizing and adapting to culture, and sharing values. The new lawyer must also be motivated to learn and should have access to mentors who provide assistance in the learning process. The socialization of new employees is a process that incorporates understanding of organizational structure, culture, motivation and learning, values and expectations, and mentoring. Other areas that also impact socialization processes are human resource management policies that deal with recruitment and selection and training. Law firms invest time, money, and effort into socializing new lawyers. They must wait several years before they earn a return on that investment because new lawyers are not ready to apply their law school knowledge until they have completed training in the specific practices of the firm. Even after a training period, it is not guaranteed that every new lawyer will become an asset to the firm. When it becomes evident that either the new lawyer or the firm is not satisfied with the relationship, a decision must be made to sever the relationship rather than prolong a bad fit. Regardless of which party makes the decision first, the firm‘s investment has not provided the return that was expected, especially if the associate (new lawyer) leaves, taking the experience and knowledge gained at the firm. The new lawyer also experiences loss, disappointment, diminished self-esteem, anger, and anxiety about finding new employment. Thus, firms must carefully plan their socialization practices to minimize attrition and maximize the investment in recruitment, selection, and training for

3 both the firm and the new lawyers. Low attrition rates can only serve to enhance the reputation of the firm among legal professionals and sustain its drive for profitability.

Background of the Study In the turbulent business cycle of the early 21st century, organizations experienced structure changes resulting from mergers, downsizing, globalization, and normal attrition of older workers. In addition, the younger work force, comprised of those born between 1965 and 1976 (Generation X) and those born between 1977 and 1994 (Generation Y) presents a challenge in their attitudes toward work, namely, their questioning of traditional concepts of loyalty to and longevity within one organization (Yan, 2006). Recruitment and selection processes that operated successfully in the past must now respond to these new challenges; thus, human resource professionals labor to carefully select new entrants, trusting that their training programs will result in satisfied and productive members of the organization. Ultimately, they hope that satisfied and productive members will remain with the organization over the long term. A primary objective of a training and development program is transfer of knowledge about job tasks and protocols that new entrants need to quickly learn. The more readily a new hire learns what is expected and how to navigate through the organization to achieve desired goals, the more rapidly the organization recovers its investment in recruiting and training. Apart from the acquisition of specific job-related skills, the new hire must learn how the whole organization functions and how the smaller subgroup, of which the new hire is a member, also functions. Learning what behaviors the organization values, how it

4 prefers to achieve its goals, how its mission and vision are articulated, and how the individuals in the organization function together are some of the other critical objectives on which the human resource department focuses. The overall process that encompasses all these objectives is called socialization. Socialization has been described (Wanous, 1991) as the process during which the newcomer changes and adapts to the organization. Another definition (Cogswell, 1968) describes the process as role changing: Individuals prepare for their roles as participants in an organization, whether that is the greater community, the organization by which they are employed, or any subgroup. In that sense, socialization is a process in which people are involved over their life spans. While professional trainers and educators have created many different methods of task-knowledge transfer (on-the-job training, modeling, small- group classes, for example) that accommodate the different ways in which individuals learn, the mere acquisition of skills and awareness of rules is not enough to ensure that new hires will be productive and successful. The extent to which each new hire becomes socialized (or acculturated) to the organization will moderate his or her level of satisfaction and intention to remain with the organization. Thus, from an organization‘s perspective, the process of socialization is best pursued in a conscious and organized way and not left to random articulations of how best to learn the organization‘s policies and practices. The newcomer must acquire specific knowledge of job tasks as well as become familiar fairly quickly with the organization‘s culture. A newcomer must also be perceived as a member who shares the values and mission of the organization‘s incumbents. Training programs in a manufacturing setting, for instance, can be broken

5 down into the skills needed to perform certain assembly line tasks or warehousing procedures. Those workers may need only to become socialized to the values and behaviors of their work groups without more extensive knowledge of other departments and subgroups in the organization. However, in a professional venue in which, increasingly, members of the organization will find themselves working in inter- or intradepartmental teams and with people who span levels of the organizational hierarchy, it is crucial that the socialization they receive is comprehensive in its breadth and depth. Graduates of professional schools—MBAs, JDs, and MDs—will enter their chosen organizations already trained in the skills needed to begin work. Their socialization programs will concentrate on the practices of their specific organizations. In their cases, socialization may be the process that helps them achieve the notice of senior members and earn promotions as the organizations‘ incumbents assess their levels of commitment to the organizational culture. Before that can happen, both the organization and the new hire must be convinced that the relationship is honest and strong, and that a good person– organization fit exists. Otherwise, neither the individual nor the organization can be sure the connection forged has the chance to last. Several distinct theories guided the socialization process in the past. Personality traits, for example, have long been the subject of recruitment and selection strategies. The Myers–Briggs personality test is one well-known tool used to measure the tendency toward certain personality behaviors and outlooks. The underlying belief was that if the individual possessed personality traits the organization believed were necessary for success, the person would be hired and trained in the specific job tasks related to the organization‘s work.

6 More recently (Chatman, 1989, 1991; Jones, 1983), the interactionist approach has been applied to socialization. This notion appeals to the professional organization because it recognizes that, in addition to skills and personality, the person and the organization must also share values and beliefs in order for each party to be satisfied and achieve its stated goals. In other words, both the person‘s characteristics and the situation‘s characteristics inform the person‘s behavior in the organization and determine appropriateness of fit.

Statement of the Problem A law firm must ensure that new lawyers will remain with the organization long term so that it benefits from its investment in its socialization program. The investment covers the time and effort of designing a socialization program, the time organization personnel spend with new lawyers, and myriad other expenses that may include such items as travel, training materials, or conferencing, to name a few. The goal of the socialization program is to train new lawyers how to conduct business, to share organizational culture, and to provide mentoring. The end goal is to develop productive members of the firm. When this process is successful, new lawyers are satisfied with their jobs and will choose to remain with the firm. They will perceive themselves as sharing in the values, beliefs, and practices of the firm‘s members, the organizational culture. This perception will further enhance their job satisfaction and desire to remain with the firm. When the process is not successful, new lawyers may decide to leave the firm; thus, the firm loses its investment in socialization and must devote additional investment in recruiting for new lawyers. When new lawyers leave, they not only deplete the number of

7 lawyers in the firm, they also harm the firm by taking with them the intellectual capital acquired while they were employed. Consequently, it is extremely important to make sure that a socialization program meets the expectations of the organization as well as the new lawyer. Can an organization determine if the person it hires, who possesses the particular skills, traits, and values that offer good fit with the organization, will continue to provide good fit over the span of his or her employment? Several important factors must be considered before an answer is developed: skills and traits, culture, anxiety and adjustment levels, and mentoring opportunity. Studies have shown that a person‘s traits, preferences, and behaviors are consistent and long-lived (Kenrick & Funder, 1988). So, the organization could conclude, based on that research, that behavior will remain consistent and the person will continue to provide a good person–organization fit. However, individuals vary from each other because of the distinctive set of traits and behaviors they possess. Situational theory holds that situations are consistent and elicit consistent responses from individuals. In this view, only the situations differ and individuals have many similarities in the way they respond to those situations. In respect to socialization, it would seem insufficient to emphasize only one dimension, that is, either the person or the situations, over another. Persons develop traits that help them satisfy their needs and subsequently lead them to seek out situations that require those traits. On the other hand, situations, that is, a vocation or a task, seek out persons whose traits are most required for the success and continuity of the situation (Wanous, 1991). Thus, for a good fit, the person and the situation must be congruent. (Etzioni, 1964; Jones, 1988; Schneider, 1987).

8 Another important factor in the socialization process is the role of organizational culture. Socialization (or acculturation) mandates that the newcomer learn not only specific tasks of the job but also the cultural content of the new role and ultimately become attached to it (Wright & Turk, 1967). Schein (1996) also pointed out the importance of culture and subcultures within the organization. The newcomer must be able to develop an understanding of organizational cultures and subcultures through observation and through discussion with incumbents. Understanding the set of shared, implicit assumptions of the organization can best be accomplished when the newcomer is mentored by a senior incumbent. It is through that association that the newcomer learns how the organization thinks about and responds to its environment. The adjustment required of a newcomer to a new cultural environment causes tension and anxiety, first, because the newcomer is trying to acquire the social knowledge needed to fit into his or her organizational role and, second, because the newcomer wants to reduce the feelings of isolation caused by being an outsider. The newcomer‘s anxiety will be moderated over time by positive responses from other newcomers and from the mentor‘s expressions of approval toward the newcomer‘s accomplishments and competence (Van Maanen & Schein, 1979). Absence of those expressions of approval will reinforce the newcomer‘s anxiety and sense of vulnerability. The development of an adult professional, in part, is facilitated by another key factor: the sponsorship of the new hire by an incumbent organization member. The incumbent may have been assigned to the new hire to oversee a formal training program and assess the newcomer‘s progress in learning about desired methods of accomplishing tasks. Sponsors may also be entrusted with the job of evaluating the degree of excellence

9 in a newcomer‘s performance. However, a sponsor may be assigned for only a short time or for a specific purpose. When that time period is over or when a process is completed, the sponsor‘s responsibilities may also be absolved, leaving the newcomer without support. A mentor, as opposed to a sponsor, is a person who has developed a more personal interest in a new hire and will invest a good deal of time and energy guiding that person through one or more stages in his or her career. A mentor would typically provide either formal, informal, or both kinds of training and supervision to a person who the mentor believes will subsequently serve the organization capably. In some cases, a mentor selects a person who displays characteristics or behaviors that are similar to those of the mentor at an earlier time. Other reasons for selecting a protégé might be to show kindness to a friend‘s child, to develop a power base of stellar new people, or perhaps to exploit the skills and abilities of a younger employee for the mentor‘s own objectives. While having a mentor is often critical to effective socialization and ultimately earning desired promotions, newcomers are also subject to the destructive personality of certain mentors: betrayal of their loyalty and hard work or loss of support and protection when a mentor leaves the organization. The mentoring process has the potential for supporting newcomers to the organization in reaching maximum professional growth. Included in that process is a commitment to value the employees, to help them to change when necessary, and to enrich the culture of the organization by offering them an opportunity to make contributions (Kanter, 1987). When newcomers sense pride in their achievements, they are more innovative and committed to the organization and to those who mentor them.

10 Mentors also model the behavior that newcomers are expected to adopt; however, the newcomer must temper a desire to imitate a mentor and instead consider the mentor‘s higher status in the organization, or other differences such as age, for example, as a moderator to his or her own behavior. Management literature has frequently focused on discussion of the organization as an abstract or, as in the mid-1950s, on bureaucratic, manufacturing organizations (Morgan, 2006). Early management concerns centered on improving productivity and later on addressing labor–management negotiations. The goals of managing and controlling were eventually tempered by a less paternalistic view of the employee that recognized that employees could be willing to work diligently and capably for an organization when they felt valued as human beings. As manufacturing organizations were joined in the marketplace by the expansion of U.S. service firms, the organization was examined as a system of interrelated components that affect each other by virtue of their connected tasks, cross-functional work groups, and other interactions. The expanding number of globalized firms has added more opportunity as well as a need to work in interconnected ways, further emphasizing the value of a systems approach. Consequently, management now views the socialization process as multidimensional, including the factors just mentioned: skills and traits, culture, anxiety and adjustment, and mentoring opportunity (Jones, 1988; Louis, 1980; Schein, 1996). Law firms‘ socialization programs reflect the multidimensional nature of the process and offer mentoring opportunities that they hope result in retention of satisfied young lawyers.

11 Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to examine how successfully the law firm socializes new lawyers, conveys commonly shared values that help newcomers to become part of the accepted culture, provides mentoring opportunity, and results in a feeling of job satisfaction. The overarching question is whether or not the process the firm develops helps or hinders the development of new hires and assists them in achieving a sense of job satisfaction. While the interest of management scholars has provided insight about many types of organizations and workers, the research rarely had opportunity to look at the people who are considered professionals. Government employees, teachers, graduate and undergraduate students are some of groups about which much as been written. However, when it comes to the professions of law and medicine, for example, the journals of each profession provide additional current and comprehensive data about specific concerns within each of those professions. Although some of this information is publicly accessible, traditionally these professions are very private about how they train and socialize their newest members. The culture of a profession mandates that newcomers model the behavior of senior incumbents if they expect to be promoted and acquire status. A recent publication titled After the JD, jointly published by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP, 2001), presented a detailed discussion of what new lawyers expect and encounter in terms of hours worked, nature of the work, income, job satisfaction, mobility, and turnover. The study presented data on recent law school graduates early in their careers and will continue to track them for 10 years, hoping to garner richer data as their careers progress. Of particular interest in the study are the

12 socialization patterns to which many young lawyers are exposed and that shape their decisions about the type of practice they ultimately choose, their level of satisfaction, and their movement within their organizations.

Rationale The rationale for this study is supported by socialization theory (Jones, 1983; Schein, 1968) and interactionist theory (Chatman, 1989). The need exists for law firms to train new lawyers and retain them; to develop a socialization program that leads to shared values and culture; and to provide all assistance, especially mentoring, that will lead to the outcome of job satisfaction. Above all, law firms must develop programs that allow them to achieve the desired return on their investments. For young lawyers, being invited to join the firm as a partner is a commonly accepted goal that signifies they have successful careers. While many lawyers choose to pursue private practice with small firms or partnerships, or with government agencies, thousands, for whom the allure of big cities and big law firms drives them towards performing with determination and withstanding long hours of rigorous work, choose large firms with the anticipation of becoming noticed as exceptional professionals worthy of becoming partners. For many, the mentoring received from a partner who is able to communicate expectations, deliver useful criticism, and expose young lawyers to opportunities in which they can excel, will be a determining factor in both job satisfaction and retention. For others, who perceive that barriers to success, such as gender, age, or race, have excluded them from being considered as viable candidates for partner, it may seem much wiser to move to another firm or choose another type of practice in which they have more opportunity for success.

13 In that case, the time and money spent on training new lawyers were wasted, from the viewpoint of the law firm, even if the lawyer ultimately finds satisfaction with a second firm. In this section, the concept of socialization was introduced, especially as it functions within the legal profession. The interactionist approach, which establishes the need for a good person–organization fit, has changed the way in which the organization looks for new recruits. Today, law firms that spend substantial amounts in recruitment and training look to make a match of expectations and values as a way of retaining those in whom they make the investment. Young law school graduates come to a firm with certain expectations that include, but are not limited to, finding satisfaction with their work and seeking success in the form of partnership. The law firm seeks out new hires who can offer excellent skills learned in law school, a strong work ethic, and a desire to acculturate to the firm. The human resource department works with senior lawyers to recruit, select, train, and socialize their newcomers with the hope that the investment made results in developing lawyers who will make a strong contribution to the firm‘s success. When senior lawyers working as mentors to these new hires successfully transmit a sense of the organization‘s values and beliefs, the organization is strengthened and its culture is continually validated and enriched.

Research Questions Three research questions drove this study of the examination of the socialization processes for new lawyers:

14 1. Do new lawyers and senior lawyers share similar work values that define their organizational culture? That is, does congruence of values that define the firm‘s organizational culture exist? 2. Do new lawyers who have helpful mentors experience job satisfaction? 3. Will responses to the job satisfaction survey differ according to demographics of age, gender, race, or length of employment at the firm?

Significance of the Study When a law firm hires a new lawyer, the new lawyer undergoes a period of training time, typically lasting 7 years, according to the NALP (2001), during which the new lawyer does not significantly contribute to the firm‘s profitability except as providing some support to the partners‘ work. This diminished capacity to contribute to profitability is partially attributable to a lack of technical capability. Technical capability, or the knowledge of practice, becomes progressively stronger as a lawyer gains experience with the firm‘s procedures and policies. One of the ways in which firms can more quickly develop new lawyers is through a conscious practice of positive feedback that includes rewards, encouragement, and opportunity for great professional involvement. Often, this is offered by a mentor. However, if new lawyers do not receive the training, encouragement, and mentoring that are the necessary components of a socialization program, new lawyers become dissatisfied with their jobs and may choose to leave. When that happens, the firm has lost its investment in recruitment and training. To better protect that investment, law firms should develop socialization programs that clearly address good person–

15 organization fit, that attempt to socialize new lawyers to organizational culture, and that offer helpful mentoring opportunities. The reason this study is significant is because it fills in a gap in the literature of socialization in the professional context of the legal profession. This problem has been addressed as it relates to corporate settings but not to the law profession. Law firms and legal associations have attempted to track retention and satisfaction but not in terms of management concepts, especially not from the perspective of socialization and person– organization fit. This study investigated how job satisfaction and retention are developed in a profession. The new information can expand management understanding of socialization, job satisfaction, and mentoring in a professional context. As a consequence, law firms can use the knowledge to create more successful socialization programs, stop the loss of unsatisfied new lawyers, and preserve intellectual capital. This study describes research whose results added to the body of knowledge of the socialization process by examining specific formats used in a professional context of a law firm. This focus is important because socialization in that context is complex, reaching beyond mere acquisition of skills and processes to the acculturation of new hires and their commitment to the organization. In chapter 2, the discussion continues with a literature review of socialization and explains how historical hiring practices first focused on skills, then on personality traits, and have been more recently moderated by an interactionist approach. Interactionists hold that it is impossible to secure a good person– organization fit unless management practices take into account both parties in terms of expectations and desired outcomes. Discussion of the organization centers on two aspects: (a) acknowledged organizational values and admired behavior that reflects those

Full document contains 138 pages
Abstract: This dissertation examined the socialization of new lawyers into the culture of law firms and the effects of shared values and mentoring on job satisfaction. Using two surveys, the Organizational Culture Profile (OCP), which measured shared work values, and the Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS), which measured job satisfaction, and face-to-face interviews on associate mentoring experiences, the researcher collected data from partners and associates in two law firms in central New York state. Sixty-six partners and 35 associates received the surveys; 45 partners and 25 associates responded. Eight associates were interviewed. Three research questions framed the investigation: Do new lawyers and senior lawyers from the same firm share similar work values that define their organizational culture? Do new lawyers who have helpful mentors experience job satisfaction? and Do responses to the job satisfaction survey differ according to demographics of age, gender, race, or length of employment at the firm? Examination of the OCP survey findings suggested that associates and partners in both firms shared work values that sustained organizational continuity, professional growth, and mentoring opportunities. Of interest were items of disagreement on being reflective, having a clear guiding philosophy, being team-oriented and collaborative, and being distinctive. JDS results suggested that associates were satisfied with their jobs in areas that provided motivation and promoted job retention but were dissatisfied with the perceived low level of complex skills needed to perform their jobs and the perceived routine nature of the work. Interviews on mentoring revealed associates challenged the effectiveness of the traditional socialization processes currently used and proposed ways to better meet expectations.