A Good Lawyer Is Not Enough
Category : Law Firm Management
For many lawyers looking to run their own firms, taking the idea of a solo or partner practice and putting it into — well, practice — requires one part entrepreneurship, one part business acumen, and two parts patience to handle a transitional period that could take years.
Bringing in the clients — and the money that comes with the clients — rests on the shoulders of you and your associate lawyers, but once the work becomes regular enough to warrant extra help, you’ll find yourself ready to take on non-lawyer personnel. Whether you view and treat your staff as overhead or as valuable assets will determine how critical they become to the growth of your firm.
Know the Right Position
Traditionally, law offices have been supported by legal secretaries and paralegals — each having a unique and separate list of responsibilities. Legal secretaries performed administrative and office duties, while paralegals, or legal assistants, conducted research and provided support to lawyers on client cases.
But, times, they are a changin’. Like every other industry, the business of doing law has evolved with technological advances in workflow and communication.
We lawyers no longer rely on secretaries to transcribe and mail letters for us. We write our own emails and hit the send button. Paralegals search for information in databases rather than in law books or cardboard boxes of files. Legal assistants use automated legal software to populate paperwork instead of cutting and pasting from previous documents.
In fact, many times the functions of these positions can blur job roles or spawn new ones, like that of a legal technology specialist or an e-discovery professional — someone with a background in IT and law, who uses technology to assist in legal proceedings.
For lawyers who may not be as versed in technology, hiring a tech-savvy staff member provides a crucial element of support for the firm. To attract someone who is looking for a career in the field, make sure you get a good understanding of the value such a team player brings to the table and offer a competitive salary and benefits package.
Nurture the Right Personality
While hiring from a pool of prospects with high-level skills may guarantee an employee who is competent and understands how technology supports a modern office, you can’t ignore the basics of matching the right personality with the job description and day-to-day tasks.
If you’re looking to fill a client-facing position, you need someone who enjoys working directly with people. Conversely, a researcher should feel content sitting alone sifting through online databases for hours at a time. Fulfilling careers are ones that align with people’s attributes, and if you understand that as a manager, you’ll foster a team of dedicated and fulfilled employees.
Incentivize Right for Success
Even if you don’t consider work as fun, you want to at least be content in an office where you spend a large percentage of your time. Make sure you are aware of the importance of how your employees’ environment and office structure affects morale and productivity. Are managers encouraging and empowering? Is the work-life balance tipping too much to either side? Are you giving quality of work precedence over hours logged? Take regular stock of how you are motivating your staff to put forth their best.
Remember, too, that the needs of your office will change as it grows. Are your staff members evolving, as well? Talented personnel may desire an increasing level of challenge over time. Being open to developing roles and responsibilities within your office structure can prevent personnel turnover.
Nurturing your non-lawyer staff can result in increased productivity and efficiency in your office, which is well worth the initial investment you may make in people and technology. At JurisDOC, we believe in making those investments. At JurisDOC, we believe in making those investments. Click here to download a free trial of our legal document assembly software and see how quickly you can save money — and time.