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!
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!
This post is a collection of some of my favorite quotes with respect to business and life. I hope they inspire.
“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines
on things, they are transformed.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
“The primary wisdom is intuition.”
“All successful people, men and women, are big dreamers
They imagine what their future could be,
ideal in every respect,and then they work
every day toward their distant vision,
that goal or purpose.”
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”
“We have found that by reaching for what
appears to be the impossible, we often actually
do the impossible; and even when we don’t quite make it,
we inevitably wind up doing much better than we would have done.”
“The greater danger for most of us
isn’t that our aim is too high and we miss it,
but that it is too low and we reach it.”
“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone.”
Sandra Day O’Connor
“Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.”
“The past has no power over the present moment.”
“Wealth is the ability to fully experience life”
Henry David Thoreau
And my favorite…
“We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Many of my clients struggle with this question when taking a look at ways to grow their practice or firm. Whether you are in solo practice or heading a large international firm, my answer remains the same. Here is how I help them determine the difference.
A “cost” is something that does not directly impact your growth or generate higher revenues. Your office space is a cost. Paper clips, paper, photocopiers, desks, chairs, rent and so on, are all costs. They are the costs of doing business. You need them to run your firm or practice. That money going out does not come back. While they are essential, they don’t directly impact your ability to grow, increase revenues or profits and therefore are “costs.”
Read more here.
Would you sub in for a neurosurgeon friend who’s off on sick leave? How about take a tooth out for a neighbor? I hope not. That would be as silly. That would be like one of them walking into court and representing one of your clients. Or drafting a make or break M&A deal.
To put it another way, when your car breaks down, who do you go to? When your sink is clogged and you’ve tried to fix it on your own, but it’s not working, who do you call? Who do you go to when you’re not feeling well?
So why do you try to be the HR, marketing professional, office manager, IT or lawyer coach? Do you really think you are the best person you know to take care of these areas? And even if you are, where’s the time to be the lawyer? You are a lawyer right? That’s what you went to school for all those years for, and invested in your education, right?
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that you think you are ‘saving’ money by doing it all. Actually, if you look at the time you spend doing anything but the legal work, mentoring your staff on the legal work, or bringing more work in, and the difference in cost if you delegated anyone of these tasks to a professional in that area, you will find you are losing money, and losing BIG TIME.
My point here is why are you trying to do everything yourself? Why not focus on being the best lawyer you can be and then build a team around you to take care of everything else. Just a suggestion.
Oh and by the way, none of us can do it all on our own. We all need help.
Change is all about habits. Discarding old habits that don’t serve you and establishing new habits that do. You do this by making your best effort to put attention to practicing them everyday. When you do this, overtime they will become second nature. It might surprise you how quickly this can happen.
Prioritize: Whether it be forming new habits in your personal life or in business, it starts with one step at a time. Start with your top priority. What would you like to change first? Focus on that and when you are fairly comfortable and confident with this new habit, look at the next priority you would like to focus on.
Patience: Don’t be so hard on yourself. One step at a time. New behaviors take time to cement. But the more you practice the better you will get. It’s just like anything really. Once you understand this and have some success, any additional habits you’d like to change will come much easier and faster.
“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of The United States