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Building Leadership Skills in Your Law Firm

The last few years have been challenging for the legal sector. Dealing with the fall out of the pandemic, increased workload, and the impact of overworking on employees’ wellbeing means that many firms also now need to uplevel their leadership skills alongside recruiting new lawyers into their team to lead their firm moving forward.

In turbulent times, everyone looks to great leaders for guidance. Leadership resonates throughout a business, and the quality of your leadership can be the difference between your firm’s ultimate success or failure.

Good leaders exhibit specific traits which allow them to inspire, motivate, engage, and boost the productivity of their legal team.

Today’s post shares five key leadership skills for today’s legal workplace to develop in your team and those to look out for as you recruit.

The Ability to Set Goals Based on a Vision

Great leaders have a vision. All successful law firms were started because the founder had a vision of what they could create.

As you build your legal team at every level, remember that employees often join firms because of the vision and direction shared during the interview, as well as fair pay and conditions, and the opportunity to work with great clients. Unequivocally, elements such as this should be communicated as part of the hiring process.

Innovating and reacting to change is part of a law firm’s growth and is necessary for development. So, it’s vital to deploy your strategy to manage challenges while considering that you need a solid business plan that indicates where you are adjusting and setting relevant goals.

Effective legal leaders ensure everyone is on board with the strategic plan and its ultimate objective – alignment across the firm will be key to success.

Greater leaders can tap into team creativity, developing a sense of purpose that develops an inspired team.

Setting goals in a S.M.A.R.T.  way can also increase performance – specific objectives that are challenging yet achievable are more likely to inspire your team and give them something to work towards collaboratively.

Clear Communication Skills

Part of sharing the vision is the ability to communicate both authentically and with authority.

Law firm leaders must develop the ability to communicate with people at every level, from a stressed-out client to every member of their wider legal team.

Effective leaders must be able to express ideas and information to the people they want to lead.

Successful communication also involves clarity of message, which happens when leaders ditch the jargon and listen to what is important to their team.

As human beings, before we mentally agree to follow someone, we need to feel listened to by our leaders.

Decision-Making Ability

It is easy to assume that everyone in the legal profession has good judgement alongside the ability to make decisions. This occurs as lawyers handle complex caseloads, though not always when addressing challenges in the team or performance managing a difficult employee.

Lawyers are generally confident individuals by nature. However, making decisions in a team setting isn’t always as black and white as it might first appear, as highlighted by Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize-winning professor who developed prospect theory which shifted opinions on decision making.

To make a good decision, you need to understand how different choices change the likelihood of various outcomes and how desirable each of those outcomes is. In other words, decision making requires both prediction and judgment.

Focus on listening and gathering data from your team as you would for any case you are handling, and you will notice how your decision-making ability improves.

Create a Learning and Development Culture

Here at Clayton Legal, we often ask candidates applying for roles whether the law firm hiring has a development culture and one where the team is encouraged to grow and develop. A stronger leader will make this part of the plan for their firm.

With advancements in digital platforms, online learning is easy to implement alongside more formal events in your firm.

Create a training program for your law firm’s team that allows them to engage at their own pace and with topics that interest them personally. These topics should be largely focused on the team member’s speciality and what your firm needs from them, but it’s also valuable to offer the opportunity to learn about areas outside of their speciality.

Being Accountable

Being accountable for both actions and results is the hallmark of a great legal recruit. This is even more vital when we consider the approach of our legal leaders.

Leadership accountability in your law firm is an essential component of a healthy culture. But what is an accountable leader, and how do they drive business results?

Being accountable suggests that leaders are ultimately responsible for outputs, which is true.
There are multiple layers of accountability, including business performance, company culture, client experience, and the legal workforce itself.

For leaders to be accountable, they need to be committed to the business and its people. They must take their role as people leaders seriously, building trust among team members. Accountable leaders clearly communicate their goals and objectives to their teams to foster alignment and team focus. They accept responsibility when things go wrong and give credit for success where it’s due.

What Next?

The legal sector experienced increased growth last year. Many firms are looking for new legal leaders and hires for their teams. This is where Clayton Legal can help. For a conversation about your legal talent growth plan, do not hesitate to contact one of our team.

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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Why Soft Skill Development Will Be A Success Factor In Your Growth This Year

  • March 8, 2022

Last week, I watched an old comedy re-run and interview featuring Joan Rivers, an iconic U.S. comedian.

During the interview, she shared a quote; “life doesn’t get better; you get better”.

Something to consider for lawyers but in a different context; let me explain.

Studying the law and gaining experience to then practice takes years. The shortest possible time is around seven. Unfortunately, it does not stop there to be truly successful in your legal role.

Enter the ability to develop your soft skills.

Soft Skills For Growth

Functional or hard skills are one skill area to develop. Yet, the skills that make the most difference to accelerating your legal career or growing your law firm are the ‘soft skills’ that will help you manage your mind, communicate well consistently, and influence your team to improve their performance.

Here at Clayton Legal, we help our clients craft role descriptions for candidates who are critical for their firm’s growth.

Alongside this, we assist legal candidates in developing their legal careers where we consistently share the softer skills that need to be developed.

Self-Awareness

One of the key challenges when managing and developing a team is a lack of self-awareness from the employee.

You will hear the term emotional intelligence shared in many circles. The term was defined as a person’s ability to manage their feelings and to express those feelings appropriately and effectively.

The original book on this topic is worth getting from Amazon by Daniel Goleman.

Who has not come across a colleague in the practice who has zero idea about their impact on others? Only last week, a paralegal candidate approached us looking for a new role because of the behaviour of a new partner in the firm; yes, managers can lack self-awareness too.

It appears that every morning the manager in question would appear with a sore head, grumbling and snapping at people. The individual had no idea how his behaviour affected the team.

Self-awareness also covers motivation, empathy, self-regulation, and appropriate social skills.

Communication Skills

The legal profession includes people with effective communication skills. Summing up a case or communicating options to a client jargon-free are all expected skills. However, talking over team members in a practice meeting does not demonstrate communication excellence.

A large part of being a great communicator is the ability to listen. We can all tell the difference when someone hears the words you are saying or when they are actively listening.

As an experiment, notice how often people have their phones open during conversations or look over your shoulder at other people and what’s going on when speaking with you; worse, they sit on the edge of their seat waiting to interrupt.

I hope I have not just described you.

Active listeners, meanwhile, pay close attention to meeting presenters, offer up clarifying questions or responses, and refer back to notes in future discussions. They do not need things repeated to them because they heard them the first time, making active listeners respectful legal colleagues.

Openness to Feedback

This might sound like a different soft skill, yet a lack of openness to feedback often indicates an individual stuck in a pattern and unwilling to learn.

The ability to accept developmental feedback is critical for all of us; otherwise, how will we improve? Think about it; constructive feedback will help you do the best job possible when it comes to your legal role, and yet often, people take it personally and react defensively; when this happens, feedback is not heard.

No one is ever perfect, no matter how long they have been in a role. Reflecting on this, when did you last ‘overreact’ to feedback?

Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset leads on from the ability to accept feedback. Individuals with a growth mindset see feedback as the gift that it is.

Their mind is focused on what is possible rather than what is not. No matter what role, you will encounter roadblocks, disappointments, and other situations that might frustrate you. A soft skill critical to your ability to persevere is having a growth mindset.

Dr Carol Dweck conducted the original work on this several years ago. Her book is well worth reading to identify if you have a growth or fixed mindset.

For instance, someone with a growth mindset who did not achieve their billable target would look at this as an opportunity to double down and focus on what they could do differently in the next quarter.

Whereas someone with a fixed mindset would see this differently, complaining that the target was too high, the clients they were working with were demanding, and the list of complaints goes on.

Adaptability and Flexibility

The last few years have been a challenge for many, yet certain employees have stood out above others; Two words describe them.

Adaptable and Flexible.

No matter your role in your law firm, the ability to adapt to change and a positive, flexible attitude about what is happening never go unnoticed.

Many people have no idea how negative they can be when something does not go their way. Worse still, they become a classic mood hoover.

Fact: Our business landscape is changing, and no matter what role you hold in an organisation, you have to be willing to adapt and change.

In summary, soft skills focus on developing a positive can-do attitude. A well-worn statement, I know, and yet developing abilities like this will help you navigate most things that are thrown your way while making you stand out as a potential new hire for a firm (as well as being areas to focus on if you are indeed in the hiring seat, and looking for a standout candidate to bring on board).

How Can We Help?

Here at Clayton Legal, we have multiple clients looking for skilled and ambitious candidates to join their teams. For a confidential conversation about your legal career goals and your next move, please contact one of our team here.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

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The Four Day Working Week: An Option For Law Firms?

The last few years have created a shift in how we work like never before. Working away from the office became the norm in 2020, with hybrid working being adopted by many last year.

New’ human centric’ ways of working have been a topic of conversation for some time. Iceland was one of the first counties in the world to trial the four-day week between 2015 and 2019.

This took place in trials run by the Reykjavík City Council in Iceland, between 2015 and 2019 to move workers to four-day weeks. Over 2,500 workers were involved across multiple industries.

The trial reports revealed less stressed workers and a lower level of burnout.

Many employees moved from a forty-hour week to thirty-five hours, working longer on the days they did work. Iceland’s working patterns are overseen by a significant union presence who have negotiated different working patterns for over 85% of the population.

Similar trials are now being held in various counties worldwide, including the U.K.

The U.K. Uptake of a Four Day Week

The four-day working week campaign started in earnest as this year began. The Guardian shared that several U.K. companies had signed up to a six-month trial to work a four-day week.

Other companies, including several law firms, have spontaneously changed their working hours.

The organisations in question spread across many sectors, training, telecoms, software, video games producers and medical imaging. All are moving from a forty-hour working week to thirty-two hours without loss of pay.

Academics will facilitate the trial at Oxford and Cambridge plus Boston College in the U.S. and the think tank ‘Autonomy’. The campaign group, 4 Day Week Global, oversees the research project.

Companies taking part in the U.K. study vary from twenty to over a hundred staff.

Let’s explore the rationale behind this move and discuss if this truly is an option for busy law firms across the U.K.

The Evidence For a Four Day Working Week

The four-day campaign cites many reasons why working four days is beneficial for all, and I’ll share them in a second.

However, surprisingly the campaigners haven’t shared that historically our ancestors didn’t work very hard at all. Before capitalism hit the world, we had a lot of leisure time, though, to be honest, not a lot of money!

Daylight drove our working hours alongside regular breaks and, drum roll, an afternoon nap. If you want to read more on this subject, look at this fascinating report on working hours from MIT.

Coming back to today, the four-day campaigners cite many logical reasons to shift the way we work in the U.K., not least the fact that we work longer hours than most of Europe.

In light of what has happened with remote and flexible working, is it time for a review?

The five-day working week was developed over a century ago here in the U.K. when John Boot was the chair of the Boots corporation.

He demonstrated that two days off each week reduced absenteeism and positively affected productivity. Therefore, the weekend became official Boots policy in 1934; maybe as we approach the 90th anniversary of this change, it is time to shift again.

Both employers and employees can experience the benefits of a shorter week.

We all get a better work-life balance. The four-day week can give us time to live happier, more fulfilled lives and allow for those non-work parts of life that often are neglected.

For example, spending time with friends and family, on fitness pursuits or time in nature.

Then, of course, there’s always that life admin that we all have to deal with, like; shopping, cleaning, sorting out the bank, along with the many parenting duties we can experience.

As an employer looks out for higher performance and profits, trials have demonstrated that a shorter working week can increase productivity. A Henley Business School study pre the pandemic found that 250 firms participating in a four-day week saved an estimated £92 billion a year because their employees were happier, less stressed, and took fewer sick days.

Our economy could benefit too, which is undoubtedly needed. Incredibly, the U.K. suffers simultaneously from overwork, unemployment, and underemployment. A four-day week could be an intuitively simple way to rebalance the economy and address many problems.

Productivity is a concern for many. Google how to improve productivity as a critical business driver, and you will find multiple research papers that reveal that working less could be the answer to achieving more.

The Four Day Working Week and Law Firms

We are currently in the grip of a skills shortage in many sectors, especially when it comes to finding legal talent.

We are receiving more role instructions than ever at Clayton legal, and many firms we work with are reviewing their EVP to make their role offer irresistible. If you want to attract dynamic lawyers, could a four-day week work?

A recent post in The Times also suggested that firms keen to embrace flexible working might even be persuaded to abandon the billable hour.

In a post on Legalfutures, the CEO of one law firm in Kent revealed that his 22 strong team had started working a four-day week at the end of 2020, except two customer service staff who worked Friday and took Monday off.

His underlying premise of the four-day week was that productivity gains could be found by reducing or eliminating unproductive time in the traditional five-day week.

He gave as examples “unproductive meetings”, meetings with “too many people who did not need to be there”, unnecessary social conversations or staff spending time sending personal messages or on social media.

All logical observations considering a U.K. study in 2018 had found that up to 40% of workers’ time in a traditional working week was unproductive.

Admittedly moving to a trial of a four-day week would also mean additional work for your firm, at least initially, as you outline the process, including delivering billable hours, customer service and other vital business drivers.

However, it is clear that the world of work is changing for all professional service sectors, including law. The pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated changes into where individuals work – is it time to review how, when and how often?

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability during that time. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal I.T. personnel to Practice Managers.

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Posted By

Laura Lissett

Marketing Consultant