The 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 tips for the frugal law firm.
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
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.
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