Choosing when and how to grow a team is a critical business decision for legal entrepreneurs expanding an estate planning practice. Team members are typically the highest budget line item and the biggest investment attorneys make in their practice. They are also the biggest risk, often resulting in lost of time, prospects, and business growth if not selected and nurtured positively.
While there is always a bit of an unknown when dealing with personnel, taking the following factors into account as you grow a team can reduce risk, improve your chance for success, and avoid chaos in your firm.
Define Employee Roles
Effective interview questions and job listings are important aspects of the recruitment process. However, internal evaluation and honest assessment of responsibilities marks the first step toward improving firm performance. Before you run an ad for help, get clear on what roles you really need to grow and succeed.
Is new business slow? If so, you might feel compelled to jump in and hire a marketing person. First, look at your backlog of business. A large backlog may mean your slow growth isn’t for lack of prospects and effective marketing, but rather inability to get through all of the pending work in a timely matter.
Do you have a large backlog? Seeing all of the work that needs to be done may feel overwhelming and make you want to quickly bring on another attorney. Before jumping in and hiring another attorney to do the work, look at what work you have pending. Can you pull some of the drafting work off your plate by investing in better estate planning software or hiring a paralegal to do that work? At the same time, there’s no sense in hiring an impressive paralegal if what you really need is administrative help to set up appointments or organize your calendar.
It’s easy to get seduced by quick-fix solutions. Ask yourself what positions will make the biggest difference in your success. To use an NFL Draft analogy, pick the “position of need” not the “best available.”
Get Them to Care
One of your responsibilities as a leader is ensuring talented members of your team fire on all cylinders in the workplace. This requires creating an empowering office where your team is invested in the business. The foundation of a caring environment begins with sound hiring practices and requires ongoing, open communication about your business.
When employees understand what goes into your work and why clients are writing checks, they are more engaged in the services, and in helping you build up the practice. Encourage employees to ask questions to understand the reasons and purpose behind even small tasks.
Open communication makes their work less about checking off a ‘to-do’ item and more about understanding their impact on overall firm growth and success. As the level of ownership your employees feel increases, you’ll likely start to see improvements in the effort and time they allocate to the business.
Provide Sufficient Training
Remember that staying educated on estate planning best practices is an ongoing effort. You won't learn how to draft every document before selling your services so remember to set aside time for continuing legal education as you get the basics down.
This is an important guideline for employees too. Employees cite lack of adequate attention and training from supervisors as the main reason for leaving a place of work. Lack of understanding about the expectations of their job or inadequate resources to learn and grow makes employees feel unsure and uncomfortable. Set up employees for success by providing access to educational resources about estate planning and valuable estate planning software.