A Quick Guide To Running A Law Practice: Managing Staff
Most law schools teach students how to pass the bar exam but fail to teach them how to transition into a successful legal practitioner. While these law schools teach students knowledge of the law, they provide little or no information about running a business. The California Desert Trial Academy educates, trains, and develops students with an emphasis on teaching them the practice of law, rather than just the knowledge of the law. This includes teaching skills that enable graduates to start their own firm if they should choose this avenue of practicing law.
Once you start your own law practice, you’ll need some help. Hiring employees touches many areas of law, not just those related to labor and employment, but laws regarding tax, insurance, and immigration issues. As an employer, you are now subject to requirements concerning pay, record keeping, working conditions, and procedures that are governed by federal, state, county, and city laws, rules, and regulations. Common sense and the Golden Rule go a long way in this circumstance.
One state bar recommends that you consider hiring staff when you are earning, at least, $9,000 in monthly gross fees. Develop a standard, written orientation process, including a description of office procedures and workflow practices. Because turnover is inevitable, you will likely use this procedure many times in the future.
Prior legal experience may be available at a premium cost but may be worth it. Since you are just beginning your practice and funds may be limited, you may not have the option of hiring the most experienced candidate. Always check the references of anyone who you are considering as an employee.
Thus, it may be wise to seek someone who can wear several hats and fulfill several functions, such as secretary, paralegal, bookkeeper, and receptionist. This may be necessary based on your hiring budget. And this is where taking the time to train someone properly will pay off in the future.
Whether it’s answering the phone or drafting a simple pleading, you must educate, train, and motivate your employees. Provide challenges and opportunities for your employees to improve and develop their skills. Suggest and support efforts for additional education and training away from the office. Make them want to grow with your business.
Keep employees as much as possible “in the loop” as far as what you are trying to achieve on behalf of the client. Schedule regular weekly meetings to review office matters, upcoming events, and any long-term office projects. Encourage employees to ask questions and continually stress the necessity and importance of confidentiality.
Treat your staff in a singular way. Do not be two-faced. Do not praise them only when behind closed doors in your office and then criticize them in front of clients and other employees. If anything, praise employees publicly and always correct and help them learn from their mistakes privately. Never lose your temper. Mistakes made by your staff are your responsibility. Never criticize an employee in front of a client! Question the competence of the work, but never the individual who produced it. Create a friendly, professional, employee-safe work environment to ensure only the best legal work leaves your office.
Do not treat employees as independent contractors to simplify and save yourself some record-keeping work. The IRS will eventually catch up with you. You also must use an Immigration and Naturalization Service Form I-9 so your new employees can certify that they can legally work in the United States.
Poor law firm management can cause professional issues such as malpractice, financial issues such as low profits, lost revenues, and unchecked expenses; and personnel issues, such as high turnover, low morale, and poor productivity. While they are a significant added responsibility, taking the time to train and motivate employees can yield substantial productivity and other meaningful benefits.
The California Desert Trial Academy (CDTA) is a 21st Century law school tailored to meet the needs of working people. Any lawyer must study and know the law. We believe that practical experience in tandem with legal knowledge is the best road to a successful, rewarding, and prosperous legal career. At CDTA, we train, educate, and develop students to be exceptional attorneys and trial advocates. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.