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March 27, 2024 4 minutes to read ∙ 1000 words

Three Ways to Be the Best Boss Your Team Members Ever Had

Christopher Earley
A leader leads by example, not by force. —Sun Tzu

Law school falls short by not teaching and training future law firm owners enough about the business of law. In particular, law school does not focus nearly enough on teaching future law firm business owners how to be great bosses. There is no question that running a law firm is extremely hard and demanding. The modern lawyer-entrepreneur is constantly spinning many plates all at once. But, when the law firm owner is a great boss to the team, things become much easier and much less stressful. Both culture and team member retention strengthen when the attorney is a great boss. Here are three easy (and free) ways to be the very best boss your team members have ever had.

1. Give Team Members Specific Compliments

This is something that many law firm owners fail to do, which means they are taking their team members for granted. They think that because they are paying the person, they don’t need to do much more than that. Do this at your own peril. It is crucial that you compliment staff members when they have a “win.” Whether in a private or public setting, give random and specific compliments. Your team will love it. For example, instead of saying, “John, you did a great job,” try, “John, that motion for summary judgment was excellent. Your argument about the open and obvious defense was wonderful.” This is a small but important detail that hits harder than just a generic compliment ever could because it shows you are paying attention.

Also, telling someone individually (whether in person or through email) just how important the team member is to you and how much you appreciate him or her means a lot and goes a very long way. Every 30 days, I do this with each and every team member. I know how much they not only deserve this but also how much they really appreciate this very tiny gesture as well.

2. Make Sure They Know You Truly Care about Them

This takes time, but it is vital that your team knows that you really do care about them. This requires demonstrating it to them. Have genuine conversations with them. Ask them how they are doing—and truly listen. Always seek to talk less and listen more with them. When they have a “workiversary” or birthday, make a big deal out of it and recognize it. If they know you care about them, not only is it less likely they will leave you, but they will work harder for you and be more invested in the job. Additionally, show them you care by investing in their professional development and growth. Offer to pay for a class or course that can strengthen their skills. By putting your money where your mouth is, you are showing that you are literally invested in them and their continued growth.

Showing you care also means being really honest with them. Always be real and transparent with your team members. If someone is not working out, and you have tried everything to help the team member along, then you must do the right thing and let that team member go. You are doing the team member a disservice by keeping him or her on the bus. Showing you care often means doing things that are hard and painful; at times, that includes letting people go.

3. Be Careful How You Act Because Everyone Is Listening and Watching

The mindset of the law firm business owner cascades down and influences everyone at the law firm. Too many lawyers are not nearly sensitive enough to this. If you are having a bad day, your team members know it. If you are worried and freaked out, that worries and freaks out everyone else. Last year, we had two resignations back-to-back. That made many team members understandably concerned. However, even though I was worried myself, I projected calm and assured the team that change is just part of any business and that we were going to be just fine despite the resignations.

We ended up being stronger following the resignations. A team member told me months later the way I handled that change calmed her, as well as others on our team. That really stuck with me and reinforced for me that no matter the season, I must always remain calm and cool because that will impact everyone in the office.

Being a great boss means doing the little things consistently each and every day. Whether you employ one person or 50, always aim to be the boss that you yourself would want to work for. Do you have other ideas on how lawyers can be great bosses? If so, I would love to hear from you, so please email me at [email protected].

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Christopher Earley

Earley Law Group Injury Lawyers

Christopher Earley (www.chrisearley.com) is an author, entrepreneur, and personal injury attorney serving clients throughout Massachusetts. 

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 8, March 2024 . © 2024 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.