Whether you are growing beyond solo practice to creating a firm, a partner growing your team, or a managing partner growing your firm, this simple formula can help you navigate the way forward with respect to growth and staffing.
It’s far too common for lawyers to wait until they are at maximum capacity and beyond to bring in help. Managing growth is a good problem to have, however, it does pose new challenges.
So here it is. When you are at about 60% capacity, start looking to recruit. That gives you the luxury of time to find the right people. You can be selective and not panic. You can take your time to find the right people and fit. And, that way, by the time you are at 80% capacity, you will still have time to groom, mentor, train, and get your people up to speed before you hit your wall.
If you wait until later, you may, as is often the case, find yourself in a never-ending cycle of chicken and egg. Where is the time to train? Who do you bring on? “Oh, I might as well just do it myself-even though that means long nights and weekends.” Think forward. don’t get caught thinking I can’t afford to bring someone in right now. Can you afford not to?
Sure, there are many other factors here: Letting go of the reigns, quality control, consistency, profitability. But they are all better managed when you are proactive and plan ahead. Think forward!
If you are an owner or managing partner of a firm, do the math. One rainmaker (you), or all, (your entire team)?
If you are the only one bringing in clients, there are limitations to your time, energy and focus. Whereas, if you get your entire team engaged in business development, or bringing in clients, the opportunities for growth are far greater.
So how do you go from a ‘one-person show’, (you are the only rainmaker), to getting your entire team out there growing your firm?
- Get the right people on your team-that starts with hiring.
- Establish the ‘new way’ with your new people-leverage the competitive nature to encourage your current people to step up.
- Give your people the support and learning opportunities to develop new skills-that starts with investing in them.
- Reward this new behavior-create a comprehensive bonus structure, somewhat like ‘profit-sharing’ to reward your people when they succeed.
- Tell the whole world about your firm and your approach-this will help you to continue to attract the very best and brightest.
When you go from one ‘rainmaker’ to an entire team of rainmakers, watch your firm grow.
As a law firm leader, to positively impact the successful growth of your firm, you have to have the ability to attract and keep top-level talent. Whether it be at the junior stage with students and young associates, mid to senior associates, or high-value lateral partners, the approach is the same. Follow these five steps and you and your firm will garner a reputation as ‘THE’ firm to work for in your market.
- Recruitment- “Get the right people on the bus”-one of my favorite lines in the book, “Good to Great”, by Jim Collins. When you start at the beginning and get the right people, you are setting your firm up for future success. There will be less pushing and pulling, more teamwork and focus on client service, and your job as a leader will be far more enjoyable and lucrative.
- Properly on-board them: I find this component to be missing or dreadful at best in most firms. However you attract your talent, doesn’t it make sense to provide them with everything they need to get a good head start upon landing?
- Continue to support their development: Continued success means continued development. Think like a tech firm, constantly investing in innovating their products. Your product is your people.
- Market the hell out of it- Make sure the whole world knows about it. This is really about becoming known as ‘the’ firm to work at.
- Repeat- When you follow the first 4 steps above, each time you go through the cycle your ability to attract and keep top-level talent will increase.
There are so many benefits of following this formula; savings from higher retention rates; improved client satisfaction; firm growth, and higher profits.
Keep reading as I offer more insights for law firm leaders here in the weeks to follow.
You may also be interested to follow the ongoing series on The Lawyers Daily entitled “Building a Successful Law Firm”. I offer this in collaboration with Lisa Dawson and Mayur Gadhia. We have formed a Law Firm Leadership Alliance From start-up to wind up, we bring leadership expertise in Finance, Business Administration, Taxation, Risk Management, Cloud and Technology, IT Decision Making, Human Resources and Full Cycle Talent Management, Executive, Associate and Support Staff Leadership Coaching, and much more.
Here is a link to the intro article published in TLD.
You don’t have to be the Managing Partner to be a great leader. I have clients at various levels within their firms that are demonstrating great leadership.
One of the critical components of becoming a great leader is how you build your team. It comes down to this-don’t try to be all things to all people. Know your strengths, what you’re really good at, what you’re not good at, and what you don’t like. Then fill your team with people that compliment your strengths by filling in the holes around what’s missing.
Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you are the BEST person to do it. If that action pulls your time and energy away from the things you are good at and that will help your grow your practice and firm, it just doesn’t make sense.
I always conduct a SWAT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis with my clients. There is one school of thought that you shouldn’t waste too much time and energy on improving your weaknesses, you should focus on your strengths. When examining the weakness component of this analysis, I help my clients determine if by improving weakness, it will add to strengths, or take another approach.
Often it’s just best to get people around you who complete the puzzle. I use the word ‘puzzle’ intentionally because most lawyers find the concept of HR ‘puzzling’. Like many other components of business, law schools are short on the instruction of Human Resources.
So as you are building your team, concentrate on the skills, experience and knowledge that you, yourself, lack or don’t really care to improve on. Then, find the best people to fill these voids. The puzzle will come together with a lot less effort and stress. In the end, you will have the best people in the best roles producing the best results.
This is part one of a series I am doing on Leadership for Lawyers. You can also follow a series on The Lawyers Daily entitled “Building a Successful Law Firm”, that I am collaborating on with Lisa Dawson and Mayur Gadhia. We have formed a Law Firm Leadership Alliance. From start-up to wind up, we bring leadership expertise in Finance, Business Administration, Taxation, Risk Management, Cloud and Technology, IT Decision Making, Human Resources and Full Cycle Talent Management, Executive, Associate and Support Staff Leadership Coaching, and much more.
Here is a link to the intro article published last week, TLD.
Recently I’ve been working with two very different clients that have exactly the same challenges-incompetent staff. One is a partner at a national firm, and the other is a small firm owner. If you follow my writing you will note that I have been a very vocal advocate for lawyers and staff in that I believe in giving them everything they need to succeed in the way of development and support.
This however is one of those times where I am clearly on the side of ownership/management.
Their perspective is limited while mine is broad working with lawyers, paralegals and mgt across Canada. And from my perspective there are some pretty talented and amazing people out there. So there is no good reason to settle for incompetence whatsoever!
When they don’t show up, show up late, or constantly produce inadequate work? When they constantly complain. When they… Time to let them go. Don’t settle for less than excellent. Your clients won’t.
In addition to performing poorly, these people will drag the rest of your team down to their level. When you settle with the bar so low, other people will follow. Be firm. Be clear on expectations. Give them support and encouragement. But sometimes it doesn’t work out and you need to let them go. Don’t worry-there are great people out there who would love to work for a great boss like you!
When my clients ask me for advice around recruiting I always advise them to consider attitude as the no#1 attribute to look for. I am not discounting academics, or technical ability, but let’s be clear, they can be learned. Attitude is far more difficult to teach and learn-you have it or you don’t!
A few years ago I remember reading a story about this one top-tier law firm in the US. Their approach to recruitment was out of the norm-to say the least. First, they didn’t target top-tier law schools, they looked at 2nd and 3rd tier schools. Secondly, they didn’t look at straight ‘A’ students, they looked for ‘B’ students who worked while going to law school to pay for their tuition. Their thinking was that this demonstrated a strong work ethic and great attitude-these students were willing to do whatever it took to succeed. I was taken aback when reading it. I totally agree. Not to say that straight ‘A’ students don’t have a great attitude, but this firm got it right. “Attitude before Academics”. They often found that in the case of the straight ‘A’ students attending top-tier law schools that with that came a sense of entitlement.
With the right attitude you find the solution. The wrong attitude “Well if I breath in, then I am going to have to breathe out.” The right attitude. “What’s the solution? There is a solution for everything”- that is when you have the right attitude.
People with the right attitude or ‘good’ attitude will do what it takes to learn what they need to. They will do the work….They won’t complain or drag others down. They contribute. They are a part of the solution. in many cases they ‘self-manage’. And generally, they are a pleasure to work with.
So before marks, before resume, choose the attitude! In my humble opinion, it accounts for about 90% of everything!