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Chapter 1/6

The Law Firm Manager: The Leadership and Management Skills You Need to Succeed

Managing a Small Law Firm

3 min read

Management Skills for Lawyers 

You launched your business! Congratulations! Once people clear that hurdle and have their business off the ground, they probably feel ready to sit back and relax. But wait! You’re also a law firm manager now. And, managing your law firm is a constant and developing process that requires your attention. 

Your business often feels like you’re playing that hammer the hedgehog game at the fair. As soon as you get one part of your business running smoothly, another thing pops up that needs attention. In fact, success in one area often reveals problems in another. For example, you’ll get your marketing system humming along. Suddenly you can’t handle all the work coming in, and now you’ll need to address your work systems. That’s why it’s crucial that you are intentional about law firm management. In this guide, we’ll show you how.

The Difference Between a Law Firm Manager and a Leader 

At first glance, it’s easy to assume that an outstanding leader and fantastic manager are ?the same. In reality, these are two different functions. Your business really requires both. Understanding the nuanced differences will help you see which skills you need to develop to be effective. It will also help you identify  which team members could help plug holes where your skills fall a little short. 

A leader sets the vision for your organization. She announces to the team, “we’re going to the moon.” A manager manages the people and processes necessary to make that vision happen. The law firm manager builds the spaceship, trains the astronauts, and launches the rocket (ideally on time and under budget).

When you start your business, you are likely the sole leader and manager. Pay attention to which hat you are wearing. This will allow you to be more intentional about the skills you need to bring to that particular situation. Also, it’s ok to be honest and admit where you could hone your leadership and management skills (everyone can improve). These skills don’t always come naturally. Figure out where you can improve and then intentionally practice improving that skill. 

Go Deeper: Podcast Episode #366

Grow as a Leader With These Daily Experiments, with Susan Ashford

Listen to Episode

Invest In Your Managers with Training and Support

As your company grows, you’ll likely need other team members to help support your business. Many law firms automatically designate the attorneys as the “managers” in the office. This can be a problem. 

People often leave managers, not companies. Provide everyone on your team who manages others with adequate management training. Don’t just assume your attorneys are automatically the best-suited to manage other people. No matter who you put in management roles,  it’s important to understand that your managers are the leaders of your firm. To ensure they perform to the best of their ability, you must train them—often.

Trained law firm managers are:

  • Skilled communicators. They know how to communicate to their direct reports and staff to generate trust. They give solid feedback, enhancing your firm’s productivity and efficiency.

  • Productive. They know the best way to perform tasks to move projects forward. They can set realistic goals and create the strategies needed to achieve them.

  • Morale boosters. Trained managers boost employee morale through their confidence in their role. They pass that confidence to the employees they manage.

  • Happy. Law firm managers who understand how to be successful in their role are more likely to experience contentment.

How do you train your law firm management team to be the best they can be? Encourage them to take part in leadership programs. These programs teach managers how to delegate, best practices for managing a team, and more. Run a business book club where your team’s managers read and discuss selected books on management styles. These types of programs ensure that everyone on your team is approaching their management duties in a similar way.

Also, give your managers feedback often and be willing to listen to their concerns and answer their questions. Don’t be afraid to ask a manager’s direct reports for feedback. This can be an effective way for managers to learn what’s working and how they can improve their working style. Finally, each quarter or year,  give your managers a refresh of your goals and your vision to help them better understand the importance of their role.

Finally, find the support you need by taking advantage of coaches and training, mentors, and peer groups from a wide range of ?sources.

We’ll move onto Team Meetings and Communication in Chapter 2