Managing Law Firm Staff

Kathy Fortin

April 14, 2017

Managing Law Firm Staff

 One of the most common weaknesses in small law firms is the inadequate management of its staff members. Whether paralegals, associates, legal assistants or receptionist, all employees have certain expectations of their employer. Providing them with essential is often overlooked by busy lawyers. The partners are who employees look to for guidance, answers and leadership. Often, employees are left guessing answers to important questions.

The weakness often lies in communication. While the partners may be skilled at delegating work to staff, supervising, even critiquing work performance, they fall short in other areas. Often, staff are left with little to no information about the law firm’s policies on simple matters, such as vacation and other benefits, inclement weather policies and so on. Lawyers often view policies as not applicable to their small firm

While small law firms are typically a more relaxed in culture, in comparison to the larger firms, size does not negate the need for policies and practices. Practical information needs to be communicated to staff, whether the number of workers is five, fifty or one hundred and fifty.

You may be familiar with the war stories about an employee who is given different answers to the same question, depending on which partner is asked. Or, the employee who asks for information about the firm’s overtime policy and never receives an answer. These experiences are all too common and can erode confidence in the firm’s leadership. Without this confidence employees can become discontented, which can lead to a negative culture and costly turnover.

Communication takes many forms. Some helpful, easy practices to put into place are:

  1. Create an employment letter containing the explicit details of the employment— start date, position description, title, salary and benefits, etc.
  2. Develop an Employee Manual containing the essentials a new employee needs to know:
  • A firm history and overview
  •  A mission statement which reflects the firm’s core values
  •  A description of the performance evaluation process. (Employees are eager to know how their performance, progress and growth will be viewed and, hopefully, rewarded).
  1. Hold periodic firm meetings attended by all firm members help create a cohesive team and make everyone feel connected, working for a unified cause and appreciated.

           It is never a good practice to keep employees in the dark.  These simple methods can be very useful to all employees and contribute to their job satisfaction.