“How can I keep all of my law firm employees moving in the same direction?” Even if you’re a solo lawyer completely by yourself in your office without anyone helping you at all, you have to know that every law firm has the following positions on staff. Every law firm has a receptionist, a secretary, a paralegal, a associate, (a rainmaker), a manager, and a chief operating office. A chief operating officer is the person who creates the policies and the systems and the procedures and makes the factory work. A chief financial officer and an owner so you’ve got to inventory all of these people to make sure that you’ve got someone covering each of these positions. It may be one person wearing all of the hats if it’s all you by yourself still but if you ever want it to not be always you by yourself you’ve got to document what these jobs are, what these positions are.
Next step, you get someone in one of these jobs and now you’ve got to lead them. Leadership and management; two very different things. Don’t confuse management with leadership. Getting everyone to go in the same direction is a function of leadership. It’s very simple, it’s a very simple conversation. This is the job of the managing partner. You go and talk to the managing partner of a million dollar solo law firm, you go and talk to the managing partner of a 100-lawyer firm, the job of the managing partner is very simple, there’s four parts to it.
One part is to have a very simple conversation with all of the key players and the conversation goes like this. Ready? Where are you now in terms of your career, in terms of your income, in terms of your professional development? Let’s say for example that you talked to someone and where they are now is they’re 30 years old and they’re single and they have no kids and they’re making $75,000 a year.
Where do you want to be in 12 months, 24 months, 36 months? Well, in 24 months I think it want to be, well, obviously I want to be 32 years old and I want to be making $150,000 and I want to have these professional experiences and credentials and responsibilities and then you help the person make a plan to get them from where they are now to where they want to be. You help them make that plan, you coach them, you guide them, you mentor them, you advise them, you cajole them, you encourage them, you hold them accountable and you schedule regular interval meetings to sit down and say where are you against the plan that we laid out? Where are you against the things that we agreed that you were going to accomplish between then and now to help you accomplish your goals in your life and your career?
Now, to the extent that they’re achieving their goals in their life and their career are consistent with the overall business plan you have for your law firm, you’ll get everyone working in the same direction.
It’s okay, by the way, if someone’s plan is to achieve X, Y or Z and they plan to stop working with you once they’ve achieved those things. At least you know you’ve got them for that long at least you know you can motivate them to that point. At least you know when you need to start replacing them. This is the job of the managing partner, it doesn’t matter if you’re the managing partner of a solo law firm that’s $250,000, $500,000, a million dollars, multiple million dollars or if you have aspirations or maybe you’re already the managing partner of a 10, 20, 50-lawyer firm. This is one of the key functions of a managing partner and this is what leadership looks like.