Law Firm Employee Skills Needed for the Future

Law firms traditionally were a skill based work force but change has come.  As law firms  forced themselves into business models with the idea of making a profit (a novel idea) and having a good return on investment it became important to look at the firm member work force and how to control HR costs and still delivery a quality work product and extraordinary client service.   For over a decade we have been teaching that it is important to put the right person in the right seat on the bus.   We would find very highly skilled paralegals doing process based work.  We saw attorneys failing to take advantage of technology and recognize there were many things that an attorney didn’t need staff for.  And thus the question of what type of skills are neded for jobs within law firms.  Thus it was with delight that we watched Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News last night do a report that said the number one skill needed in tomorrow’s work force is reasoning.  For a firm to meet its goals and realize its vision and make a profit, firm members have to operate in a high performance culture.  And a high performance firm member needs to have ‘reasoning’ as a part of his or her skills.

The technical skills are important.  But more importanly are soft skills and thought processes that allow each firm member to be able to take the role of leadership, accept resposibility for the job, and apply reasoning to problems.  And smart law firm owners grant the authority to its firm members to make decisions.  Most law firm owners are afraid to let go of control for fear that decisions won’t be made correctly.   When a high performance work culture exists the growth of its firm members into a thought process involving reasoning and application of knowledge requires training, experience, and mentoring.  No one is exempt. From the file clerk to the senior associate, being a high performance employee is critical.  The firm is governed by desirable work traits (expectations).  It puts into place strong mentoring and training programs (giving the tools that are needed), it provides insight and foresight (feedback), and it holds its members accountable for the action (accountability). 

Implementing a high performance work culture requires two things.  The first is that the leadership at the top has to have a buy in and until that happens the firm as a whole cannot succeed.   The second is that the firm members have to have a buy in to the firm vision and the thought process of a high performance firm.  A well defined plan with the right preparation and delivery of expectations, tools, feedback and accountability allows firm members to see a better work environment.

We have been able to watch the firms we have worked with over a decade now and the ones who withstand the test of time seem to have figured this out.  It is not easy and it requires new thought.  But it is a magical delight to walk into a firm where each member has the skills for reasoning and responsibility, dedication to the firm vision, authority to handle the firm business within that job parameters, and a realization they are key and critical to the success of the firm.

For more information on high performance firm members or just to ask a question, contact