As the need for legal services continues to increase, many law firms are looking to expand their teams with additional attorneys. Growing a successful law firm team requires more than just finding talented lawyers – it also calls for knowledge and planning coupled with great leadership skills.
With fierce competition in the job market, it can be difficult for even established firms to recruit and retain top talent. But this doesn’t mean that small shops don’t have any hope of building an effective team.
In this article, we’ll discuss some best practices for growing your law firm team and creating a powerhouse of legal professionals.
Define the Roles You Need to Fill
Identify Key Positions
The first step in growing your law firm team is to identify and define the roles you need to fill. To do this, assess your current practice areas and growth strategy – what are the key positions that you need to add or replace? There is a good chance there is work being done by yourself or other team members that could be delegated to free up time for more critical tasks.
By delegating these responsibilities, it can open up opportunities for growth within your firm by giving you more time to work on business development. Additionally, it’s important not to wait until you’re overloaded with clients before looking into hiring additional personnel. If you delay too long, it could become counter-productive toward achieving success.
Finally, remember that hiring full-time attorneys isn’t always necessary to support your growing law firm. Consider legal process outsourcing as an alternative way to delegate tasks and substantive legal work outside of your existing staff members. By taking these tasks off your plate, it can lighten the workflow for everyone in the office and allow you and your team to focus on priority work.
Determine Skills and Qualifications Needed
It’s also important to consider the core values of your firm and what characteristics you want this new team member to possess. Who works really well with you and your existing team? What skills do they need, and which skills can be trained?
When creating a job profile for potential applicants, it’s critical to look at the qualifications objectively. Are there any areas where your bias could show up unintentionally in the job description? Moreover, make sure that the skills listed as must-haves are truly necessary – don’t include anything that is just a “nice-to-have” if it is not essential.
Finally, ask yourself if someone who reads the job profile would understand exactly what kind of person you’re looking for – clarity here is key!
It can be easy to take your values for granted, but they are unique to your firm and help define your team’s working style. Remember that not everyone may approach work the same way you do – so it’s important to find someone who will excel in your environment. By hiring lawyers who share your values, you can ensure they will contribute to your firm’s culture and work well with your existing team. You’ll also want to assess whether the candidate has strong communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work under pressure.
Develop a Recruitment Strategy
Once you’ve identified the roles and qualifications you need to fill, it’s time to develop a recruitment strategy. Before taking a look at resumes, it’s essential that you create a hiring process that will be used to gather information about potential candidates and provide them with the necessary details for self-selection.
Determine Recruitment Channels
One of the first things to consider is the best recruitment channels for your firm. Depending on your location, practice area, and the level of experience you’re seeking, you may need to use different channels to reach potential candidates. For example, if you’re looking for entry-level attorneys, you may want to post job listings on law school job boards. If you’re seeking more experienced candidates, you may want to use legal job sites or work with legal recruiters. Digital marketing tools are great but don’t forget about the old fashioned “word of mouth” to get referrals from trusted people in your network to find the right hire.
Additionally, social media can be a powerful tool for recruiting lawyers. You can use platforms like LinkedIn to promote job openings and connect with potential candidates. You could even add a section on your law firm website inviting interested candidates to join your team and provide instructions how they should apply for open roles. By determining the best recruitment channels for your firm, you can increase your chances of finding the right lawyers to join your team.
Creating job descriptions that accurately reflect your needs and expectations is crucial to attracting the right candidates to your law firm. When crafting your job descriptions, be sure to clearly outline the duties and responsibilities of the role, as well as the skills and qualifications required. Also, highlight any unique benefits or opportunities your small law firm can offer, such as a close-knit team or opportunities for professional growth and building client relationships.
And don’t forget to create descriptions that speak to your ideal candidate and grab their attention! What would make your ideal candidate want to apply for the role? Share your vision for your practice and how the prospective team member will contribute to your vision. By doing so, you’ll be able to attract candidates who are passionate and excited by the opportunity.
Structured Interview Process
Establishing a structured interview process is crucial to ensuring that you’re able to identify the best candidates for your practice. By streamlining the interview process, you can efficiently evaluate candidates’ skills, experience, and fit with your firm’s culture.
A structured interview process typically involves creating a list of questions that are asked of all candidates for a given role. This can help ensure that you’re comparing candidates on the same criteria, making it easier to identify the best fit for your firm.
Before you conduct your first interview, make a checklist of your top two or three traits or qualifications that you simply cannot compromise on. Do you need someone with the know how to run a case from start to finish? Or would you prefer to hire someone who will need extensive training?
It’s also a good idea to involve multiple team members in the interview process, such as other attorneys or support staff like legal assistants or paralegals. They can provide a more well-rounded perspective on the candidate and help you avoid any unconscious biases.
Cultivate a Positive Workplace Culture
Foster a Positive Culture
A positive culture that promotes open communication, collaboration, respect, and work/life balance can create a supportive environment where attorneys are motivated to provide an exceptional client experience.
To foster this culture, encourage regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions, and opportunities for social interaction outside of work hours. Additionally, consider implementing automation and legal technology tools to streamline administrative tasks and allow your attorneys to focus on the work that they enjoy, and that is most valuable to your clients. By prioritizing client satisfaction and leveraging technology, you can create an enticing work environment.
Recognize and Reward Achievements
Acknowledging and honoring employees for their accomplishments is key to creating a positive work environment and inspiring a sense of belonging and motivation among your team members. When employees feel appreciated and valued for their contributions, they are more likely to feel engaged and committed to your law office’s success.
To create a culture of recognition, consider implementing an employee reward program that acknowledges employees for their achievements, such as hitting targets, providing exceptional client service, or contributing to the firm’s growth strategy. Also, celebrate successes as a team by acknowledging milestones, such as winning a difficult case or acquiring new clients.
As a business owner and busy attorney, it can be hard to carve out time to plan and participate in social events or recognition celebrations. Investing in your team is key to retaining talent for your legal practice over the long term and also attracting new team members.
Train and Onboard New Hires Effectively
Create an Onboarding Program
An effective onboarding program should include a thorough introduction to your firm’s culture, policies, and procedures, including your firm’s mission, vision, and values. Your onboarding program should also provide new hires with an overview of your firm’s business plan, technology systems, case management tools, and communication platforms.
Also, keep in mind that onboarding is an ongoing process and not just an initial orientation. Share your ideas repeatedly, in multiple ways, to ensure the information sinks in. However, make sure your systems and processes are well-documented, as this will make training faster and easier.
It may also be wise to consider scheduling regular check-ins during the first several weeks of employment to help new hires stay on track. Successful firm owners also craft a plan for regular reviews to provide mentoring and constructive feedback.
Set Clear Expectations
It’s important to set expectations for key performance metrics, such as billable hours, lead generation, and other metrics relevant to your practice areas. Communicate your expectations for behavior, such as professional demeanor, client interactions, and adherence to ethical guidelines.
Provide guidance on how to prioritize tasks, manage workload, and seek support when needed. Cultivate an ongoing conversation about all of these issues and offer support and/or training as needed. Establishing clear expectations from the outset helps to align new hires with your firm’s vision and can help them achieve the goals that are most important to your firm’s growth and success.
Offer Ongoing Training and Support
The legal industry is constantly evolving, and providing your attorneys with opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and trends can help them continue to grow and contribute to your firm’s success. Consider offering training programs and resources that can help your employees improve their skills, such as webinars, seminars, and workshops. This can also include training on topics like marketing strategy, search engine optimization (SEO), and other relevant areas of law firm marketing to boost business development and take some of the load off your shoulders.
To support professional development, consider offering training and development programs, such as attending legal conferences, workshops, and seminars. Encourage attorneys to pursue continuing legal education courses to deepen their expertise in specific areas of practice. In addition, consider providing mentorship and coaching opportunities to help your attorneys develop leadership and management skills. And meet with each team member at least annually to create and review a professional development plan.
Manage and Retain Your Team
Provide Regular Feedback
Providing regular feedback helps ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to expectations and goals and provides employees with a clear understanding of where they stand in terms of their performance. Regular evaluations can also help you identify areas where team members may need additional training or support and can be used to set goals and benchmarks for future growth and development.
To conduct an effective performance evaluation:
- Make sure to plan ahead and schedule the performance evaluation in advance so that you both have enough time to prepare.
- Prior to the meeting, review any notes or relevant documentation from past evaluations, as well as recent work completed by the employee. This will help ensure that all areas of focus are discussed during the evaluation.
- During the meeting, provide clear and specific feedback on both strengths and weaknesses – this can include concrete examples of how they’ve met expectations or where they could improve their performance.
- Encourage open dialogue throughout the process by asking questions such as “What do you think went well with X client?” and “What could you have done differently on X case?”. This will help foster an environment of trust and open communication.
- At the end of the meeting, make sure to set clear goals for improvement and provide resources or support where needed.
Address Issues Promptly
When issues arise, it is important to handle them in a timely and professional manner while also ensuring that all parties are treated fairly and respectfully. This can help to prevent minor issues from escalating into more serious problems and can help to maintain a positive workplace culture overall.
Whether you are dealing with conflicts between team members, concerns about workload or productivity, or other types of issues, it is vital to approach each situation with an open mind and a willingness to find a solution that works for everyone involved.
Offer Competitive Compensation
In order to attract and retain top talent in the legal industry, it is important to offer salaries and benefits that are competitive with other firms in your area and practice area. This can include things like health insurance, retirement plans, bonuses, and other perks that are attractive to legal professionals. It’s also important to regularly review and adjust your compensation and benefits packages in response to changes in the job market or your firm’s growth strategy.
It may also be worth re-evaluating some of the more traditional law firm salary and bonus models that revolve around billable hours. Traditional salary models can lead to drama and competition and don’t incentivize your team to do their best work. For instance, start by crafting a written compensation philosophy that explains how and why you compensate your employees. By establishing transparency around pay, you can help set expectations and remove money from the equation so that everyone can focus on the work itself.
Last, but certainly not least, be aware that today’s legal professionals value flexibility. We work in a challenging field and deal with high stress issues everyday. Part of your office management strategy can be to allow hybrid work from home, flex time, and other tools to empower your team to work wherever, whenever.
Create Opportunities for Advancement
Opportunities for advancement and leadership give employees something to strive for, but it also shows you are invested in their career development. Providing clear paths for advancement and setting achievable goals can motivate employees and help them see a future with your firm.
Encourage employees to take on leadership roles in their practice areas or take charge of certain projects / aspects of a case. Also, provide mentoring programs or training sessions to help your employees develop the necessary skills to take on larger roles to serve your clients. By promoting from within, you can create a sense of loyalty and dedication among your team.
LAWCLERK Can Help You Grow
Finding the right attorneys to fill your team can be challenging, especially when seeking attorneys with specific skills and experience. This is where LAWCLERK can help.
LAWCLERK connects law firms with talented, remote attorneys, allowing lawyers to grow their law practice without the constraints of physical location. With access to a talented pool of legal professionals, lawyers can effectively scale their law firm growth while maintaining high-quality legal services for their clients.