Growing your law firm is an exhilarating journey. All that hard work is paying off, and your client list is expanding.
As your firm grows, suddenly your practice is not just about a scrappy team of hard-working lawyers who can seemingly do it all. Now, a multidisciplinary team is essential to handle the increasing demands and intricacies of running your highly-successful firm.
This article serves as a guide to the seven crucial people you’ll want to hire as your firm expands.
We’ll also briefly discuss the pros and cons of using freelancers as opposed to permanent employees in order to give your firm the very best chance to thrive during this period of growth.
What kind of staff does a growing law firm need?
Beyond lawyers, a growing law firm requires a blend of administrative, technical, financial, and marketing staff.
Think of it this way: lawyers make sure that cases are handled professionally. All of the other roles you hire help ensure that the business side of things runs smoothly, too.
Here are the people you can’t live without:
As a law firm grows, the volume of cases can rapidly increase, placing additional demands on your already-exhausted lawyers.
It’s here that paralegals become the backbone of a litigation firm.
Indeed, a paralegal’s ability to fluctuate between administrative and substantive tasks makes them the first category of hires your firm should consider.
Among other things, paralegals allow for a division of labor, taking on tasks such as organizing documents, filing, or scheduling.
Importantly, however, they often also have the training and skills to perform legal research, draft pleadings, and prepare discovery requests and responses. This accelerates the litigation process and ensures that attorneys have all the necessary information readily available.
As an added bonus, a paralegal’s hourly rates are generally lower than those of attorneys. By having paralegals manage tasks that don’t necessarily require a lawyer’s expertise, law firms can offer more competitive rates to clients while maintaining profitability.
Good paralegals also act as a bridge between the lawyer and the client.
By maintaining regular communication with clients, updating them about case progress, and addressing preliminary concerns, paralegals can enhance client satisfaction and trust while freeing up attorney time for things like strategy and negotiations.
#2: Administrative assistants
Don’t downplay the importance of having quality administrative assistants on your team. This pivotal role ensures smooth operations and client relationships.
They can take over time-consuming tasks like managing schedules, answering phones, keeping track of billing, and keeping paper and digital files well-organized and accessible.
While companies in many industries hire administrative assistants to help with day-to-day operations, you may want to consider hiring a specialized legal assistant with experience in things like calendaring and legal research.
Legal assistants are not paralegals. In growing firms, though, they can assist paralegals with some common tasks.
#3: Law office manager
As your firm grows, organizational challenges arise. A law office manager can oversee daily operations, manage supplies, coordinate with vendors, and streamline internal processes.
Your office manager also handles some HR tasks, which is crucial as you add new people to the team. The more you grow, the more time and attention it takes to manage the human side of your firm.
If you want to keep practicing law, you’re going to need someone to manage your office.
Your law office manager or legal administrator is likely to become the go-to team member for everything from negotiating your lease to organizing company events.
#4: In-house financial staff
Financial oversight is crucial. Adding a dedicated accountant or bookkeeper to handle billing, payroll, and financial reports can ensure that your firm remains financially healthy and compliant with regulations.
If you’ve been handling these tasks on your own, you know that this is another full-time job that only grows in scope and complexity as your firm grows.
More complexity means more risk.
Having a financial professional employed at your firm helps you prevent revenue leaks and handle sensitive areas like payroll and taxes with confidence.
#5: IT specialist
In today’s digital age, ensuring your technology works seamlessly is paramount.
From maintaining servers to ensuring cybersecurity, an in-house IT expert can address all kinds of tech concerns. They manage both hardware and software and can provide technical support to your whole team, even if you don’t have a centralized office.
You can also task this person with finding, evaluating, and helping to choose critical software, online service providers, and even the hardware that your staff will use to perform daily work.
Your legal practice is entirely built on technology. Issues with your technology — a password lockout or a malfunctioning computer, for example — work grinds to a halt until that problem is fixed. It’s a good move to have someone on your staff who can quickly address issues.
#6: Marketing specialist
Growing a firm is not just about great legal work; it’s also about attracting clients. You’re expanding, and you want to keep it that way, right?
A law firm marketing specialist can boost your firm’s visibility, manage your online reputation, and develop strategies for client acquisition.
And, let’s face it, you didn’t go to school for nearly twenty years to develop brochures, create websites, manage social media campaigns, or navigate the complicated world of paid digital advertising. If you want to do your own law firm marketing, there’s a lot to learn.
Let someone who actually did go to school for those things make your law firm look impeccably professional to the rest of the world.
#7: Human Resources (HR) manager
The more people you hire, the greater the need for a dedicated HR professional.
A law firm HR manager handles things like recruitment, hiring, and benefits.
This person will keep you compliant with employment laws, which is especially important if you decide to use freelancers or hire out-of-state employees for non-legal tasks. Keeping track of both federal and local requirements can be tricky to do on your own.
A human resources manager can also take the lead in resolving employee disputes, addressing grievances, and developing bonus structures or other reward systems.
The pros and cons of using freelancers
All of the roles mentioned in this article can be filled either by in-house hires or by freelancers.
These days, freelancers are easy to find and can typically start working on projects the moment you need them. With online freelance hubs like Upwork or Lawclerk, you can literally have thousands of qualified professionals vying for projects within moments.
Yet, as you know, independent contractors come with both risks and benefits. Let’s briefly explore the issues.
When you need them, they’re there.
When you don’t, they’re not burdening your payroll or costing your firm expensive benefits.
In other words, they can be hired for specific short-term projects and you don’t have to worry about keeping them busy for months on end. However, if you need them for months — or even years — you can still build that long-term relationship.
Freelancers can also be much more cost-effective than employees.
Because freelancers are typically competing for your work, they may offer their services at lower hourly rates than regular employees.
They also don’t expect bonuses, paid time off, or other perks that regular employees may receive.
Even if you do pay a higher hourly rate for a freelancer than you would for a full-time employee, you can still save money because you’re only paying for the work that gets done.
Often, people who freelance offer hard-to-find skills and expertise. A freelancer can afford to specialize in a specific type of law firm marketing, for example, where an employee usually needs to be more of a generalist.
A freelancer won’t have a deep understanding of your firm’s ethos and goals.
They’re not invested in your long-term success, nor are they worried about getting fired. Consequently, the quality of work may not be what you want, or you might have to spend extra time on feedback and revisions to get the results you’re after.
Moreover, the laws surrounding the use of independent contractors can be complicated, and violating those laws can be costly for your firm.
If you don’t have a good grasp of the specific laws in your state, relying on freelancers can be a trap for the unwary.
For firms that have clear working hours, it may be quite the adjustment to work with a freelancer.
Since they’re self-employed and probably working with other clients, freelancers work on their own time according to the deadlines you set. They generally don’t attend team meetings unless you negotiate that as part of their contract, and they may not be available for unscheduled calls throughout the day.
Navigating your law firm’s growth
Congratulations on your success!
As your law firm grows, so does the spectrum of your responsibilities.
Whether you use independent contractors or take the time to build a full-time staff, filling a diverse range of roles not only ensures operational efficiency but also frees up lawyers to focus on what they do best: practicing law.