Practice-area teams in law firms claim no shortage of philosophies and approaches. Practice groups and client-service teams need to be focused on generating revenue, so to get there, the connection between theory, reality and dollars must be solid. What are some tangible, proactive steps lawyers can take to be more effective leaders and make their teams successful?
Here are a few suggestions by David Freeman, JD, CEO of David Freeman Consulting:
- Get everyone on the same page. Groups as well as individuals need different styles of leadership to raise personal and team performance. If individuals are going off in different directions, arrange a planning meeting that reinforces common goals and defines steps for getting there. For groups that don’t work well together, collaborative planning and ongoing teambuilding activities can enhance personal connections and collegiality.
- Consider 1:1 coaching. If you have underperformers in your group, one-on-one coaching and goal setting can be extremely effective. Each lawyer has different aspirations, and personal coaching can support their goals, while also aligning with the needs of the group.
- Develop a tracking, measurement and reminder system. The biggest gap is not in the planning; it’s in the doing. It’s up to a team leader to keep business development top of mind within the group. Agree on the right activities to measure, and use meetings, e-mails, phone calls, random office drop-ins, and practice assistants to remind people of their commitments.
- Invest in a software-based tracking system. There are many options in software from free to paid that help teams be accountable to one another.
- Delegate, delegate, delegate. Leaders often take on more than they should. Effective leaders frequently develop lists of all group roles and responsibilities, determine which tasks they must do, and try to farm the rest to others. Leaders must be allowed time to think strategically, and to help others achieve group and personal goals. As much as possible, they should stay away from the “administrivia.”
- Open the internal communications pipeline. One of partners’ biggest gripes, especially in larger firms, is not knowing what others do. Leaders should arrange meetings between complementary practice groups to build personal relationships and to learn more about other practices.
- Get the juices flowing. If your culture permits, stimulate activity by creating contests and rewards. Develop appropriate goals and measures and offer incentives for reaching them. Think, for example, of increasing the number of on-site client visits, meeting with referral sources, or arranging follow-up appointments from attending conferences.
- Support high performing groups. While you shouldn’t ignore others groups, you should invest heavily in your best performers. Build on their strengths to gain greater competitive advantages, increase revenue, enhance market share, and attract top laterals.