published July 17, 2012

By Harrison Barnes, CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left

Employee Productivity and Collaboration in Law Firms

Employee collaboration in law firms

According to CALAW reports, some lawyers may struggle with controlling environments. The Law is an adversarial process so lawyers may be more contentious than in other employment areas. Mostly, it is seen that contentious people become lawyers or like to become one. A number of attorneys have strong personalities which when provoked may disrupt natural rhythm of the employment environment. Some might say that the legal support staff provides a grounding presence to the "at times tumultuous practice" of law. Lawyers have a tendency to demand that the people they work with are of superior ability and intellect. And those who do not meet their intellectual standards are quickly dismissed.

The prominent question here is: How do you motivate strong and combating personalities who are also effective and efficient lawyers? These lawyers are often self-directed and any good intentioned attempt to provide motivation from an external source may be counterproductive. Self-motivation works well for a number of lawyers. The law firm management style may need to make room for the lawyers to express themselves freely and try to avoid over-aggressiveness and controlling behavior, which could be harmful for all those involved. It is necessary for the management to calm volatile temperaments rather than provoking unnecessary office conflict. But the self-motivation factor does not apply to all lawyers. Some associates might be struggling with the adjustment from the academic world or incredibly overwhelmed by the unfamiliar demands of the law. Some of these strong personalities may get away breaking the rules, but ultimately, the attorneys suffer, the paralegals suffer, the management suffers, and the organization suffers.

Most lawyers are said to perform effectively and efficiently if they are given the training and the opportunity to do so.

Additionally, periodic evaluations and performance reviews are essential for the growth of lawyers. Lawyers need freedom and latitude as much as possible which then drives self-motivated achievement in the budding associates. What is the manager supposed to do? How are terms such as promotion, salary adjustment and perks being awarded? Below are some ways which may boost self-motivation and in turn employee productivity in a law firm:
  • Lawyers need to be self-motivating and be able to identify with the firm's goals. The prime objective must be to create an atmosphere and attitude where everyone believes in a better growth of the firm.
  • Law professionals are extremely efficient and perform effectively in a secure environment. Threats do not work to motivate attorneys. Lawyers are expected to do better without having to worry about their next promotion or report card.
  • Some lawyers work best early morning while some like to work in the nights. Most of them like to get home on time while some like to express themselves through their distinct style and lifestyle. Many of the self-motivated people perform better without the confines of external discipline.
  • Appreciation is necessary to boost employee productivity and any acknowledgment of one' s effectiveness works wonders.
  • It is an often proven case that attorneys work and perform better after they are promoted because their self-confidence rises up and their self-esteem forces them to take up responsibilities.
  • On the other hand, using raises as a reward for accomplishment sometimes might become counterproductive. This sort of acknowledgement might stimulate negative internal competition which will prove harmful for the firm. The emphasis is changed to “me” from the ideal “we.” Some might even regard their “rewards” as lesser in comparison to others.
  • Some firms motivate associates to collaborate by separating the firm into separate teams and providing team with awards. However, this may also lead to negative internal competition and sabotaging tactics. Additionally, a productive associate could be recruitedby a different departments or teams thus overworking a particular associate into an early burn out. Both individual rewards and team rewards will often result in the “pass” the bad case or problem mentality, which often exacerbates problems. Problems, trouble cases, or complex matters begin floating around a firm without being adequately addressed until the problem develops into a major problem issue.

There are many types of lawyers that exist in various firms, but basic self-motivation is the key to get everyone associated with a law firm to perform effectively for themselves and for the interests of the firm.

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