Human Resources Tips for Law Firms

//Human Resources Tips for Law Firms

Human-Resources-Tips-for-Law-FirmsThe costs associated with hiring and maintaining an office of attorneys and support staff is typically a law firm’s biggest expense. For law firms that want to trim down their expense line, reducing those costs is a priority. Let’s take a look at some human resources tips for law firms.

Be Accurate, Honest, and Specific

The key to reducing human resources costs is hiring the right kind of talent but you can’t do that unless you are accurate, honest, and specific about the type of talent you need.

  • Be accurate about responsibilities. Be accurate about what the new hire will be responsible for in their job. Some law firm hiring managers may be tempted to underestimate the requirements of a job especially if they don’t want to face the reality of what it will cost to hire someone who is qualified to get the job done right. Don’t fall into this trap.  It is a lot cheaper to pay a new hire a fair wage for a job they’re qualified to do than it is to hire someone underqualified at a deep discount. The person who’s unqualified won’t stay, then you will be forced to go through the hiring process again until you’re willing to accurately describe the job’s requirements.
  • Be honest about your expectations. Expectations are deeply connected to a law firm’s culture. To the outside world expectations may seem odd or even unreasonable, but you can’t let that stop you from honestly stating those expectations to job candidates. Ask yourself some important questions about your expectations and answer them honestly and candidly. Do you expect your new hire to work long hours? Do you expect them to forgo vacations and weekends? Do you expect them to be a “self-starter” who needs very little direction? Do you expect them to follow your orders without question? Do you want a team player or someone who is more of a loner and willing to work on their own? Don’t worry about good talent overlooking your law firm because they’re put off by your expectations. There are always people willing to accept or even embrace a challenge.
  • Be specific. When you’re looking to hire a new attorney, be specific about what you’re looking for. Even if you don’t list every detailed “want” and “nice to have” on your job ad, have your specific desires written down somewhere where you and your entire team can access them, and measure the potential new hire against that list.  Knowing what you specifically want will help you avoid turnover in the open position. Remember, turnover will cost your law firm money.

Plan For Departure

Another important human resources tips for law firms is planning ahead. Even if you’re able to inexpensively keep high-quality employees at your law firm for decades, eventually they will leave.  It’s important that you’re always planning for the day that your excellent attorney or support staff person will depart your law firm either because they’ve found another job or because they’ve decided to retire from the field.

  • Cross-train other employees. No one person should be the key to getting anything done at your law firm. Make sure that at least one other person can do the job of your star employee if they get sick, quit, retire, or leave the law firm for any reason.
  • Systematize. Create a seamless and integrated system for as many parts of the job as possible. Simple things like creating a document should not be left up to the talents of a single employee. You should have in place systems for document creation, data entry, and invoicing that anyone can quickly learn and do effectively.
  • Implement a succession plan. Even before your star employee decides to depart for another career or retirement, you should have in place a succession plan. Who will replace them if/when they move on from your law firm? Having some type of succession plan in place will save your law firm money because it may eliminate the cost of hiring and bringing up to speed someone completely unfamiliar with your firm.

Reducing the costs associated with human resources is more about hiring high-quality talent, keeping them, and planning for their inevitable departure than it is about keeping salary costs low.

By |August 14th, 2017|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.