Focus on Strengths

Kathy Fortin

September 1, 2019

Focus on Strengths


Recently I had a discussion with a group of Human Resource professionals and one of them mentioned Strengths Finder, a 2001 book written by Marcus Buckingham and the father of Strengths-based Psychology, Don Clifton.  Several of the professionals I was with worked in large companies and had used the Strengths Finder Assessment with their employees. The Assessment (a copyrighted method) is a tool to help identify each worker’s strengths and use those strengths as much as possible. This idea can be useful, if not vital, to law firms, regardless of size.

As a young paralegal, I was told by the lawyers I worked with that I excelled at interviewing witnesses as well as clients. They compared me to a colleague who disliked interviewing, yet her work at analyzing huge volumes of documents was excellent. While a formal Strengths Finder Assessment© was not involved, the lawyers had recognized our strengths, which made our work more effective for the firm and more personally and professionally satisfying to us.

We all know people who have strong people skills and those who definitely do not. We also know those who are well-organized and those who are not. Too often, managers of law firms focus on skills that an employee lacks and complain about a person’s shortcomings. At evaluation time the focus may be on the shortcomings and the need for improvements. While there may be a need for highlighting these concerns, there is a greater need for placing emphasis on what an employee does well and how to build on those assets.

I want to emphasize that paying more attention to what employees know and are doing is an important aspect to management people, as is taking steps to make every employee more motivated and satisfied. Appreciating these best attributes and skills will also affect productivity and the firm’s profitability. When a worker is using their best strengths, they are offering the most value, performing at their highest level, and eager to take on more of what they do well. While the tendency, especially in a small law firm, is to expect all things in every person, consider these thoughts:

  • Is the associate one who is better at researching and writing than arguing a case at a hearing? Knowing this will help to figure out what work to delegate and how to plan for their future in the firm.


  • Is your paralegal not good at details, but has a knack for seeing the big picture? You may notice she does great work at managing one large project at a time. Continually assigning a high volume of small tasks may result in lost productivity and a whole host of disappointing results.


  • If one employee is good at tackling last minute demands while another needs lead time to prepare, your choice for assigning the task or project needs thought. Assigning the former with an emergency that needs immediate attention might yield more positive results.


  • Are you, the lawyer, disorganized? If so, a highly organized assistant can be your right hand.


We all would like to be good at everything. But, knowing what your strengths are and having these valued and used are bound to make for more satisfied employees and a better operating firm.