It’s not easy running a law practice—especially for solo and small firm lawyers. One reason it’s so hard for lawyers to run their firms effectively and efficiently is because this is a topic that wasn’t covered in law school. As part of their legal training, lawyers learn primarily about substantive law, with very little attention given to the ins and outs of managing a law firm. This means that when lawyers make the decision to hang a shingle, they’re usually unprepared and often struggle with law practice management issues.
Fortunately, there are resources available to help you get a handle on running your law firm. No matter what topics you’d like to learn about, there are webinars, CLEs, and books available to get you on the path to success. If you just take the time, you can learn about all aspects of running your law firm, whether it’s choosing legal technology, bookkeeping and trust accounting, or even managing employees.
For example, if hiring the right employees is something you constantly struggle with, there are books that can help, such as the recently published second edition of Effectively Staffing Your Law Firm (ABA, 2017), edited by jennifer j. rose. This book covers everything you need to know about hiring and firing staff and everything in between. Each chapter is written by experts, most of whom are attorneys themselves, who guide you through the process of staffing your law firm for the long term.
This 250+ page book includes 24 chapters that cover a diverse range of topics, from choosing whether to hire part-time or full-time staff, deciding when and how to outsource work in lieu of hiring staff, tips on managing your employees effectively, advice on delegating effectively, a road map for disciplining and firing employees, and much, much more.
Editor jennifer j. rose sets the tone of the book in the forward by emphasizing the importance of law office staff and the vital role they play in the success of a law firm:
Every lawyer in a solo or small firm likes to think that only those who’ve taken the oath and been admitted to the bar are at the helm, but the reality is that the engine driving the office is the staff. The first point of contact many clients have with a lawyer can be the voice on the telephone or the receptionist—the face of the law office. The back-office toilers are who make it all happen.
From there she launches into the nuts and bold of the book, with Part I, which is directed at solo lawyers and provides advice on time management for law firms that have no staff at all. Part I also provides guidance on deciding when it’s time to either hire an employee or outsource some aspects of administrative work.
The concept of outsourcing is addressed more fully in Part II, and less permanent options such as renting, outsourcing, or sharing staff are discussed, including the factors to consider when making these decisions and then implementing them.
Next, Part III addresses the many challenges faced by small firm lawyers throughout the employee life cycle. This section makes up the bulk of the book and consists of nine chapters covering the ins and outs of managing law firm employees. Whether you need help with the hiring process, supervising and encouraging support staff, motivating employees, or delegating effectively, you’ll find it all in this section.
Then, in Part IV you’ll learn about issues unique to managing paralegals and legal assistants. From practicalities to the ethical conundrums, you’ll find a vast array of information on working with, and getting the most from, these employees.
In Part V, the more mundane, but nevertheless important, administrative issues are covered. You’ll read about the importance of technology policies, addressing workplace security issues, how to handle problem employees, when to make the difficult decision to fire employees, and more.
And, last but not least, in Part VI the always-important employment law issues are covered. Federal employment regulations are discussed in depth, as are wage and hour requirements.
The bottom line: This well-written, authoritative guide is a must-have for busy solos and small firm lawyers. It’s a great resource that fills the knowledge gap most lawyers have when it comes to hiring and managing employees. And, most importantly, knowing that you have the answers to every employment issue you might encounter right at your fingertips means you’ll have one less thing to worry about, which will let you focus on what you do best: representing your clients.
Edited by jennifer j. rose
2017, 296 pages, 6 x 9, paperback