Law practice is a human resource-intensive business. A firm's lawyers and the staff who support them are its primary asset. Which is why it is critical for law firms to retain top performing lawyers and non-legal staff. A firm that fails to keep its top performers in the fold cannot hope to deliver consistent, quality legal services to its clients.
In our nearly thirty years of business at LawMaster advising law firms on effective management processes, we've observed how successful law firms manage to keep their top talent from jumping ship. In this article, we share four of those observations with you. Though all of them could apply generally to any successful enterprise, we've added our thoughts on why we think they're particularly important in the context of legal practice.
Embrace Learning and Personal Growth
Law is a business, but lawyers often struggle with seeing themselves as profit centres. Many of them joined the profession because it offered the prospect of intellectual challenge and the opportunity to engage in creative problem-solving. When, instead, a lawyer is expected to repeat the same, rote services day-in-day-out for her clients, she may be profitable but she also is at a higher risk of burnout. The same goes for her support staff. It's rare to find any employee who is happy stuck in a state of professional sclerosis.
Instead, successful law firms value personal growth in their workforces. At these firms, management encourages lawyers and staffers who express interest in developing a new skill or area of expertise to pursue those interests and makes training and mentoring available, including by leveraging knowledge management tools such as those offered in LawMaster's suite of legal practice management solutions. Not only does this serve the interests of the individual employees, it also results in a nimbler organisation able to respond to evolving client needs.
Pay Genuine Interest to Staff Well-being
Speaking of burnout, at LawMaster we've found that firms tend to keep staff around longer when they treat everyone, from the most senior partner to the lowliest assistant, as human beings whose personal lives can, and should, take precedence over their work lives from time-to-time. Working at a law firm can be stressful in its own right, let alone the stressors caused by family and relationship obligations outside of the office. If lawyers and staff do not receive the support to help them manage that stress, they will inevitably leave to find a situation that does.
Fortunately, firm managers can put the legal practice management solutions that LawMaster provides to use to identify lawyers and support staff at risk of burnout, particularly our Dashboard tool that gives managers real-time information about firm performance. For example, if a staff member's billable hours take a precipitous, unexplained decline, managers can quickly follow up to explore whether the solution is a much-needed dose of human kindness. That sort of senior attention to individual well-being tends to inspire long-term loyalty among staff firm-wide.
Be Transparent About Decisions and Generous in Giving Credit
Another law firm trait that leads to high rates of retention is making transparent decisions about advancement and remuneration and being generous with giving credit. Lawyers commonly cite a lack of clarity on opportunities for promotion, unexpectedly low or unpredictable compensation, and feeling unappreciated, as negative aspects of law firm life. And, let's face it, there really is nothing worse than a boss who hordes glory for victories and shares blame for defeats.
Of course, transparency and credit-sharing require access to information about firm performance. A firm cannot set a realistic benchmark for billable hours or revenue without understanding performance trends. And, management needs to know when a senior lawyer has contributed relatively little work to a successful matter, whereas his legal assistant has put her entire life on hold to deliver a win for the client. LawMaster's practice management software gives firm management this sort of visibility into firm performance, facilitating transparency and credit-giving from the top down.
Give Staff The Tools They Need
Even the most talented lawyer or non-legal staffer will turn in mediocre performances if he's not given the right tools to do his job. A firm that does not invest in those tools appears to its staff to lack interest in enabling them to do their best work. In time, lawyers and staffers who have to struggle with sub-par tools for time-sheeting, document management, billing, and other critical firm functions, will head for the exits.
When a legal practice embraces Learning, Well-being, Transparency, and Tools, it enhances its ability to keep top performing lawyers and staff on board and rowing in the same direction. The result is a happier, more productive workplace that has the capacity and consistency to keep clients satisfied and coming back.
To learn more about how LawMaster's legal practice management software can improve your firm's performance, contact us today.