In the past, law firms consisted of two or three attorneys, a records clerk, and perhaps a secretary. Compared to today, law firms were close-knit groups of a handful of employees. Advance forward a few decades, and the field has changed dramatically. Most law firms today are comprised of HR teams and HR managers/directors, Inclusion and Diversity managers, Heads of learning and development, IT directors, paralegals, law clerks, accountants, operations managers, legal secretaries, and social media/marketing/PR teams to name very a few. Today, healthy leadership in law firms is a must if the firm is to thrive and grow on both the business and employee level. Those interested in sustainable leadership and how it can transform your business may want to consider a consultation with Charlène Gisèle, Burnout Advisor and Coach- Consultant for Lawyers at Charlenegisele.com.
Differences Between Simply Managing People and Healthy Leadership
There are differences between managing people and healthy, sustainable leadership. Managing people does not always involve helping them feel good about their contributions and how they are developing their skills to a higher level. We all know that managers (even in the field of law) can be overly critical, demanding, and without compassion for their employees and co-workers. According to the Association of Legal Administrators, the number one reason for business failure in law firms was a lack of or poor leadership in a 2017 Dun & Bradstreet survey. Healthy leadership in law firms goes beyond managing people and involves:
- Support of and compassion for employees. Law firm managers should treat their co-workers well while helping them understand their purpose by engaging with them on a personal level.
- Recognition and gratitude. Co-workers and employees seek recognition for a job well done and deserve gratitude; they also appreciate knowing how their work supports the law firm’s value.
- Demonstrating empathy. It is important for the law firm manager to listen to workers, but more importantly understand them. Strong personal relationships are founded on empathy and promote teamwork productivity. Challenges, circumstances, and frustrations should be considered as strong leaders know their employees’ feelings and emotions are real – and that they are human.
- Implementing a work-balance lifestyle by suggesting a break. People often get burned out, regardless of their career field. This is true of law firm employees, who often work long hours, weekends, or at night. Law firm leaders who provide flexibility in the work schedule and do their best to limit weekend or overtime work contribute to employees’ mental and physical health.
Top Traits of Effective Law Firm Leaders
With effective sustainable leadership in law firms, employees and co-workers do not feel they are being led at all; instead, they feel accomplished and an important part of a great team. Some of the most important traits of a successful law firm leader include:
- Communication. Opportunities and issues relevant to the operation and strategy of the law firm should be clearly communicated and understood for it to be successful.
- Adaptability. In a market that is growing and changing at almost warp speed amidst a global economy, healthy leadership in law firms requires the ability to quickly adapt.
- The ability to make quick decisions. Law firm leaders must be able to evaluate benefits and risks quickly in order to make decisions regarding alternative solutions.
- The ability to delegate. Achieving success in a law firm requires delegation based on workers’ talents and abilities, resulting in teams that are incredibly proficient. Not one person in the law firm can do everything; the best leaders know this.
- Self-awareness. Effective leaders are aware of their strengths and weaknesses, fully comprehending their performance, how it impacts employees, what works, and what does not work. Self-awareness in the law firm leader is the basis of improvement.
Other traits often seen in successful law firm leaders include charisma, humility, experience as a leader, and honesty/integrity. Those who desire to learn more about how to create, develop and sustain healthy leadership in law firms are invited to schedule a consultation with Charlène Gisèle.
Managing Screen Time
Between laptop computers, Zoom meetings, cell phones, tablets, and other devices, it seems the law firm (along with the entire world) is constantly connected. There is little or no time to enjoy family, get away for the weekend, or just take time to yourself to decompress and rejuvenate.
Managing screen time should be a top priority in sustainable leadership. Not only do attorneys need time with family, friends, or just for much-needed rest, employees need time away from screens as well. Law firm leaders should encourage workers and fellow attorneys to take time away from phones, laptops, or other screens relevant to the workplace when at home. It is essential to good mental health.
Develop An Affinity for Technology
For some law firms staying up with technological advances is especially hard. In fact, only 20% of law firms’ competitive intelligence is proactive rather than reactive, and strategical instead of tactical according to the American Bar Association. This means 80% of law firms’ competitive intelligence is reactive and tactical – in other words, old school. Some, but not all of this may be attributed to technology. The law firm leader should understand that technology changes constantly, and it is vital to keep up. Consider:
- Mastering video conferencing, email, voice messaging systems, and other communications technology.
- Mastering a wide range of presentation, word processing, time and billing, and other software applications relevant to your practice.
- Developing skills with Internet research and legal research software
- Familiarizing yourself with document management software, computerized litigation support, and electronic discovery
Rapidly changing technology is where many law firms break down; sustainable leadership requires that managers and leaders stay on top of the latest changes and innovations in all aspects of their businesses.
Consider A Consultation with Law Firm Coach Charlène Gisèle
Regardless of the size of your law firm there are so many areas that directly impact its health and sustainability. Ultimately, law firms who do not have effective leaders will eventually fall by the wayside. Every person who works in the law firm is important to its function and goals; every person matters, and the way a manager leads has a “trickle down” effect that either supports the success and growth of the firm or leads to its demise. Healthy leadership in law firms requires the support and guidance of a renowned certified coach-consultant for law firms and lawyers, Charlène Gisèle at CharleneGisele.com