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Chapter 4/6

Leading a Law Firm Team for Ongoing Success

Hiring, Staffing, and Growing a Law Firm

3 min read

The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first.

Iyanla Vanzant

Leading Law Firm Teams for Satisfied and Engaged Employees

What makes a happy employee? Gallup’s research tells that the most satisfied employees are engaged at work. Engaged employees have clarity about expectations, believe they have opportunities for professional growth, and know their opinions matter. As the law firm’s team leader, you’re responsible for creating a law firm where employees are engaged. This requires managing people effectively.

Successful Team Leaders Follow the Four “Ps”

In Julie Zhuo’s book The Making of a Manager, she lays out three qualities of effective management—people, purpose, and process—and we’ve added our fourth: path.

  • People. People want to be cared for as human beings. To care for your people, you need to know them. Engage with them. Build a foundation. Help them define their purpose. If problems come up, coach them through them by asking them thoughtful questions that guide them on the right path.

  • Purpose. People work with a purpose. Your team needs to see a connection between the work they do and the firm’s vision, and your firm’s purpose in the world. 

  • Process. Team members want to understand expectations and hear when they succeed. Give each team member clear KPIs—or metrics—that help them know if they are on the right track. Use your accountability chart to show them their role and responsibilities.

  •  Path. Team members want to see how their work fits into their larger career path. Don’t be afraid to ask them what they see themselves doing in their next role (recognizing it could be with a different employer). Set the stage for these conversations by assuring them ?you want to help them with the skills they’ll need for future roles now. Show them ?you care and you’re invested in their long-term success.

By being intentional in how you lead your law firm team, you will create a team of happy and engaged employees. Keep your lines of communication open with your team.

Finally, don’t feel you have to put on a front for your team. You may find yourself in uncharted territory—needing to have tough conversations. You may confront issues ?you’re not sure how to handle. Sometimes, starting conversations by acknowledging that this is hard for you, too, can help. 

Provide Meaningful Feedback Beyond Performance Reviews

Studies show that employees satisfied with the performance feedback are more engaged and committed to the organization. Engaged employees typically perform at a higher level than those who are unhappy in their roles. It’s critical to give quality performance reviews to help your employees see growth opportunities and celebrate their strengths. 

To conduct a quality review:

  • Prepare. Prepare for the review ahead of time. Dig deep into all aspects of the employee’s work to identify the positive and negative that deserve attention.
  • Give constructive feedback. Don’t just list shortcomings. Instead, give constructive feedback by explaining what areas an employee can improve and how. Give examples of the specific behavior that needs to change or continue. Remember to share positive feedback as well.
  • Encourage questions and concerns. A performance review is a discussion. Allow your employee to speak freely and openly about their roles, responsibilities, and concerns.
  • Request feedback. Ask your employee for feedback on how they feel the performance review went and what behavior you can do more of in the future to improve.

Focus on Employee Retention

Over 70% of high-retention-risk employees say they’ll have to leave their organization to advance their careers. Most employees purposely look for employers who allow them to work their way up the ladder. If opportunities do not exist, retention levels decrease. It’s important to award top performers proper promotions to keep their talent. The cost to promote them will ultimately be less than replacing them.

Make sure your firm’s leadership is always looking for ways to keep your top talent.

Strategies include:

  • Mapping out a professional development plan. Make sure team members know you will invest in their growth (and how). 
  • Provide growth potential. Look for ways to promote team members and challenge them to learn new skills and take on additional responsibilities.
  • Pay fairly and competitively. Make sure you compensate your team fairly. (We’ll cover this more in Chapter 5.)
  • Look for ways to show your appreciation. Don’t be afraid to share your appreciation—it can be words of affirmation, gifts, or your time mentoring them.

Now that you’re supporting them as team members, it’s time to consider a new approach to law firm compensation.