It's All About Your People

Kathy Fortin

May 1, 2019

It’s All About Your People 

When we talk about law firm management, we are really talking about managing people. Sure, there are budgets, business plans, forecasting, cash flow, and related financial aspects to management. But, when it comes down to management, it is the people who matter most.

No matter what the focus of our consulting assignments they all have people at the center.  From assessing a firm’s financial health, facilitating “Strategic Planning” and “Retreat Sessions” and conducting “Profitability Studies,” to handling succession issues. A succession project involves having younger lawyers groomed and in place to succeed senior lawyers. “Planning Sessions” involve gathering the members together to help the firm move forward. Analyzing a firm’s financial picture involves each individual’s productivity and ultimately their contribution to the firm. It is impossible to address any aspect of firm management without considering the human factor.

Most often the reasons we become involved are because of failures to manage people. That is not to say that those lawyers responsible for managing the firm do not care about their employees. In fact, many firm owners care deeply about their “office family.” Many express great loyalty to them. They want them to be happy working at the firm. However, they neglect the most important aspect a business owner can do for their employees and for their firm’s health and success; Communicate.

The practice of law is a demanding feat. Most law firm owners are working very hard on client work which means their internal house sometimes takes a back seat. Communication  is with firm members is sometimes not even a second to third thought. Communication takes many forms and all of them matter. Consider these:

  • Distribute Weekly Newsletters, a Weekly Memo or  email that conveys firm news for the week. Include reports of what’s happening—big client matters, extended vacations, shortages or overflows of work. What about announcing  big victory with thanks to the team who helped. Or announce an Ice Cream Social on Friday afternoon?


  • Hold social events. Firms should allow down time and a little fun as a group to mitigate the pressure of work demands.


  • Document policies and procedures. Employees need and want to know what the rules are. Don’t disappoint them.


  • Don’t delay or neglect addressing an employee’s concern. Twenty, ten, or two people in a firm will have questions. Be sure everyone knows who to go to and always provide clear, consistent answers. 


  • Provide feedback on the work product both in informal meetings and in annual or semi-annual performance evaluations.


  • Hold Annual Retreats so everyone can participate in discussions of the goals for the firm.


These are suggested ways to communicate with those people whose work is the lifeblood of a firm.