Reprinted with permission from The Legal Intelligencer, March 15, 2011
Copyright 2011 ALM Media Properties, LLC.
Want to Grow Your Revenues?
Talk to your associates and staff!
There once was a magical land where a king and the wealthy class owned all the
businesses and oversaw thousands of skilled workers. The king and his Court never
dared thank or speak to those toiling workers about their lives and how the various
businesses could be improved. Soon workers were despondent, uncaring and bad-
mouthing both the king and the land they used to love. Their work suffered and as a
result, businesses stopped growing and profits fell.
Sound like a fairy tale or dare I say it….your law firm!
Now more than ever, it is truly important to VALUE your non-equity employees and seek
their feedback. Law firms who do will quite simply, in my opinion, make more money.
Here is why:
- Your associates and staff are ambassadors for the firm. If they are happy and
involved in matters involving the firm, they will communicate that to others.
They will speak highly of the firm and put a positive spin on what is happening
- Happy employees do more high quality work than those who are disengaged and
see the hours at the firm as "just a job".
- Happy and involved employees are more likely to deliver outstanding service to
clients and go beyond what is expected.
These three reasons all add up to greater revenues.
So what should your firm do?
There are some "bare minimum" activities that each firm should engage in to help
insure the happiness of their workforce.
- The leaders of the firm should meet quarterly with both staff and
associates and thank them for their work and describe what is happening
at the firm (great victories, new personnel, new clients, new technology
- Feedback should be solicited. Some firms have suggestion boxes. Some
have scheduled all lawyer/all employee sessions with the Managing
Partner where concerns are raised-- and others have a 3rd party meet
with their staff and associates as I have done many times. What you
get from these sessions is amazing. At one I ran, associates pointed
out numerous ways to reduce non-billable time, deliver better service
to clients and gain better information on the firm's strengths which
they could convey to others. Firms need to be receptive to this kind of feedback and willing to make changes based on it.
- Involve non-equity owners. Associates WANT to be involved in firm
committees. They want to know the firm's strategic plan so they can help
push it along. Staff wants to have a regular voice and provide muscle to
new initiatives that can streamline client service.
- Look for and engage the special talents of your staff. One leading Chester
County firm recently made their terrific "File Manager" the chief writer
and publisher of the firm's brand spanking new internal newsletter. The
newsletter is filled with great information about the firm and cheerful
biographies of various staffers. It conveys great information and literally
makes employees smile.
- When big decisions or plans are being launched, tell your people about
them. It seems so simple but many firms do not solicit input from their
associates and staff –or inform them about changes in the billing system,
new technologies, visual identity standards, relocations or decisions
to expand their client base into new industries and markets. These
folks have great ideas and connections which can all help move the ball
forward for your firm. And yes, having a voice and being informed does
correlate with happier, more productive employees.
- Educate your attorneys and staff on things outside the practice of the
firm which can really help the firm grow revenues. For example, teach
associates how to network effectively. Teach staff the elements of a first
impression and their role as representatives of the firm. Ask them what
they would like continuing education on in the future.
- Mentor. Take associates to pitch meetings and client interviews (Tell
the client they are not being billed at all for the lawyers' time). Let them
see and be part of the marketing process. Enlist your staff's help in
identifying who they know at various target companies or industries.
Teach them how to use free databases to help with marketing research
tasks. Keep them posted on how the effort to grow a client or bring in a
new one is going.
- Spend time together. Schedule regular events which all attorneys and
staff must attend! It does not work if only the staff shows up and a
handful of lawyers. I have touted Hangley Aronchick in the past for
having weekly all personnel lunches where lawyers and staff break
bread together in their largest conference room and sample various
caterers' fare. It is part of their culture now. I am sure this simple event
has translated into a happier workplace—which in turn has created
greater client satisfaction there. I recently learned that they expanded
the conference room to accommodate more! I have suggested to several
firms that they select a charity or endeavor of great interest to one of
their key clients and engage all of their lawyers and staff to work with
the client's personnel to effectuate great change. These events work on
So when we look at different ways for a firm to grow its business and deliver
outstanding service, let's not neglect some of the easiest things to do.
Involve your employees—empower them. And you will reap the rewards of
Stacy West Clark has been helping Philadelphia lawyers and law firms expand their practices for more than 20 years. She is a former attorney with Morgan Lewis & Bockius and was the firm's first marketing director. She is president of Stacy Clark Marketing, www.stacyclarkmarketing.com, a firm that helps law firms grow their businesses.