“Foolishness is rarely a matter of lack of intelligence or even lack of information.” – John McCarthy
As a law firm manager, part of the job is knowing who to hire and fire. Regardless of your practice area, whether you're a divorce lawyer, personal injury attorney, or bankruptcy attorney, you need to know enough about labor-employment rights and workers' compensation. At the same time, you also need to have sales knowledge to attract clients to your firm. How do you manage both your employees and your clients? Here’s what we have done and what I can share with small law firm owners like you.
Our Employment Best Practices
I believe we’re a fair and compassionate employer. Our clients have told us how they see the level of respect we give to labor rights. Here are some of the ways we ensure we get the right staff for our company and retain them:
- We do our level best to find the right person to fit each position and we attempt to hire nothing but thoroughbreds
- We value professionalism and tend to compensate at or above market-based wages
- Employee benefits are not disregarded
- We have rewards-based compensation plans in place
- We offer opportunities for self-education
- We celebrate when a team member outgrows us and moves on to bigger and better things.
We’re not Google but we do our best to create a warm inviting place to work. Mostly, we care. But we do have rules and we expect they are followed.
A Bad Hire Story
So why is it, with all the above-listed credits to our company’s HR department, we have to face a team member who, after a week off during the Christmas season, limped through New years’ week with barely made deadlines, barely showing in the office, and a few days later didn’t show up and simply sent a late email notice on the same saying he was sick and did not show up the next day? We followed up with emails and texts, even tried to stop by his house but got no reply. We would assume he quit, wouldn’t you? So long story short, we moved his desk.
Then, at the end of our weekly marketing meeting, when we walked into the office, he was sitting there, looking confused as to why his desk was gone. He must have been there for 30 minutes because we held our meeting off-premises. I looked at him and said, “What are you doing here, I thought you quit?” He had nothing to say other than “I didn’t quit”. I said “did you call off sick?” He said “no”. I said “did you let anyone know, on our team, in any way, that you wouldn’t be in, and did you receive all of our communications to you, worried about your well-being?” He said, “no, I didn’t let anyone know, I completely cut off communication and yes, did see everyone checked in with me”. He said it as if it was all okay, as if this was somehow a normal response and that his actions were without fault. Seriously?
I then went as far as to point out in the employee handbook that he signed the code of conduct breach and he admitted understanding that this behavior was unacceptable. I asked him if he was unhappy working for us, he said “no, he loved it here”. Seriously? I give up. We fired him, period. What can I blame it on, youth, nurture, laziness, society? It doesn’t matter. What does matter is, the world is rife with this type of behavior. It just reminds me, it’s so much easier to win today than ever before. For the record, this young man does not come from a position of means, he lives on his own with roommates and to my knowledge, we were his only form of income. Mind-boggling.
Next, now we have to replace this member. So, we posted a new ad to announce this. It has all my normal bells and whistles and hoops the prospective team member must jump through and at the end, we require them to call a phone number to give us an example of how they communicate. The ad ran for a week, we had over 50 applicants, and guess how many people followed the instructions? Two. Yep, two people who applied actually called the phone number. Seriously?
So, I figured there must be something wrong with the ad, so I changed it and I put this statement, just as it reads with asterisks and all at the top:
**You will have to call the number at the bottom of this ad to apply. In order to be considered for this position, we must hear how you communicate.***
I thought for sure this would do the trick, right? Well, about a dozen more people applied, and guess what, only ONE left a voicemail. Seriously? As a matter of fact, I just conducted his initial phone interview. He’s asking for about 50% more than we expected to pay and we’ll probably find some middle ground. He assured me, he’d show up for work…
The Cardinal Rule of Sales
Finally, I’m a fan of giving to the men and women who panhandle at the off-ramps in the Phoenix area. Rarely do I pass on one those who beg for their daily bread without giving them something, even if the only thing I have to give is the $20 in my wallet. But I have a confession to make. This week, I was about to dole out some cash when all of a sudden I saw the person doing the begging crack open a pack of cigarettes and light one up right there on the corner. I was outraged. Not because he smoked, not because I’m being judgmental of his habits or addictions, feel free to live your life as you see fit. I was outraged because he offended my marketing and sales sensibilities. If you’re going to ask me for money, don’t show me that you’ll be blowing it on a $9 pack of Marlboro’s. Seriously?
Why in the world would he do that? I just couldn’t give him any money. For me he broke the Cardinal rule of sales, you’re always on stage. This is the same as an attorney showing up to meet with a potential client in his sweaty gym shorts and tank top and talking rudely to his staff in front of the prospects. Who wants to hire that schmuck? We’re always on stage, we’re always selling. He would have been better off crossing the road, having a smoke with his buddy on his corner and screwing up his chances, and then coming back to his own corner where no one was the wiser.
How Do You Win Today?
Here’s the point folks, it’s easier to win than ever these days. Work hard, live right, find something to believe in and you’ll beat 90% of the people you compete against. As a law firm manager, you need to be both a human resource expert (hire and fire the right employee!) and an effective salesperson (show people why they need your legal services!). You might not think that attorneys don’t act in this manner but think again, they’re out there and you’re competing against them. Build your dream team, go out there this month, get new clients, and win!
If you need the help of a trusted business consultant to improve your practice, by all means, find out. Even the most respected and best lawyers in big law firms still consult from others and look back at their own experience. How about you? How are the employment practices in your small law firm? Do you think you have hired the right legal assistants to help you get where you want to be? Are you still struggling in terms of sales? As a legal systems expert who worked with many struggling clients in the past, I can help you achieve personal and financial freedom.
If you want to have your best month ever, become a professional salesperson. The rewards are ongoing. If you want to know how to become good in sales, contact our legal management consultant Richard James or schedule a 1-on-1 consulting to get your customized practice growth plan.