The truth is that law firms need great leaders in order to succeed.
Modern law firms often have multiple leaders under one roof. For example, many firms have managing partners, department heads, team leaders, and administrative managers, each of whom are responsible for different groups of people within the firm.
While the managing partner may be the “ultimate law boss,” the people-managers below that position are just as important to the overall function of the firm.
There’s such a thing as leading from the middle, too. Leadership skills are universal, and you don’t need a title to inspire your team to succeed.
We’ve compiled our top tips for becoming a great law boss — regardless of what leadership role you play within the firm.
Self-assess for bad leadership qualities
Before you can set out to be a great law boss, you should probably determine whether you are presently a terrible boss.
If you’ve ever worked for one, you absolutely know the signs. If you are one, however, you probably don’t have a clue.
So, ask yourself, do you exhibit any of these “leadership” qualities?
- Playing favorites
- Avoiding difficult discussions with employees
- Motivating by fear or embarrassment
- Taking credit for team successes
- Consistently failing to give clear direction
- Failing to deal with team-based problems
If so, you may be a terrible boss.
Fortunately, even if you are a bad law boss, there may still be hope for you yet. If you really want to change, read up on what effective law firm leaders look like. Then, start to put your new positive leadership skills into practice.
Be a great communicator
Now more than ever, it is critically important for law bosses to be great communicators.
Post-pandemic, everything has changed. Some employees are back in the office. Others still prefer working at home. Regardless of employee location, quality legal work still has to get done.
Remember that great communication isn’t just about you talking…and talking, and talking. Great communication also requires you to be a great listener.
This is especially true now when, as noted above, the workplace is in such a state of flux. Listening to your employees’ workplace problems and proposed solutions is likely to foster more respect from your subordinates than simply dictating how things will be done.
In a modern law firm, leadership also means that you facilitate communication between others, too. Make sure that your team has the tools and skills they need to keep information flowing.
Protect your employees
Sometimes, and especially within larger law firms, a team’s poor performance may be due to toxic forces coming from somewhere else within the firm.
Things like persistent technology failures, outlandish billable-hour requirements, or excessive social commitments may be creating resentments that negatively impact your team’s performance.
Remember that as an effective law boss, part of your job is to protect your employees from these negative influences.
If your employees are spending half of their day arguing with the IT department, for example, they’re not doing effective legal work. Lawyers and paralegals who are asked to represent the firm at industry and community events are sacrificing their billable time to do marketing work.
These are the types of situations where you can step up and handle problems on behalf of everyone who works beneath you. Not only will the team be more productive, they’re likely to trust you more because you went to bat for them.
While fostering creativity within a law firm may sound like an odd idea, hear us out.
We’re not suggesting that you allow your new associate to write a Motion for Summary Judgment as an epic poem. That’s not the type of creativity we’re talking about.
The truth is, employees who feel supported in communicating creative ideas can actually make your firm a better place to work.
What if, for example, your employees came up with a more effective way of tracking billable hours? Or what if someone else devised a way for the firm to most efficiently allow for remote work and in-office work?
That kind of creativity would likely bring more dollars through the door.
Moreover, professionals who aren’t traditionally considered to be creatives tend to be happier when they are allowed a degree of creativity at work. And we all know that happy employees are more productive employees.
So, the next time a problem arises within the firm, why not try a creative brainstorming session to see what solutions your team comes up with?
Accept that you also need to be a great remote boss
Finally, law firm leaders need to accept that the legal workplace as we once knew it is probably dead.
Despite all the horror it occasioned, the pandemic did teach us some positive things about employees working from home; namely, that they not only can do it, but that they can do it productively.
What’s more, if law firms want to hire and retain the best employees, they better get used to some sort of remote work policy. A recent survey found that 72% of workers prefer a hybrid model where both office work and remote work are allowed.
Poignantly, only 12% of workers prefer an office-only workplace policy.
Thus, it seems imperative that law bosses prepare to be great remote bosses.
So, how do they do that?
Things like understanding the necessary technology, setting consistent expectations, running effective video meetings, and regularly communicating with employees are all keys to becoming a great remote law boss.
Also, given that remote work can be isolating for some workers, great leaders should do deliberate check-ins to make sure no one is suffering with feelings of isolation, confusion, or depression.
At the end of the day, being the best law boss isn’t impossible. If you set the right intentions for yourself and your team, you just may find that the whole firm is better for your efforts.