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5 Ways You Can Create A Stress-Free Culture In Your Law Firm

  • May 10, 2019

A stressed employee is often an unhappy and unproductive employee. Yes, legal work is demanding. However, that doesn’t mean you have to neglect the emotional health of your legal team.

There’s a growing body of research that confirms the link between employee happiness and workplace productivity. A recent study at the University of Warwick revealed that happy employees work harder and are 12% more productive and motivated than those who are unhappy or stressed.

A lot of workplace stress can be alleviated simply by providing opportunities to fulfil basic human needs. In addition to being less stressed, employees who feel their needs are being met in the workplace, feel more comfortable, confident, and are motivated to work more productively.

Here are five simple practices that will help foster a stress-free culture in your law firm.

1. Develop a Wellness Programme

The firm that exercises together, stays together. This is something Japanese businesses have known for some time. Working out as an office will not only help build camaraderie; but research also shows that daily exercise is effective in helping to increase happiness (and lower stress) as anti-depression medication.

Workplace ‘workout’ can take many different forms; from a lunchtime yoga class, to organising an office sports team. You could even arrange to have monthly matches against other law firms. Working together to achieve a common goal on the field will translate to stronger relationships and improved teamwork in the office. It’s also a great way for people to get to know everyone in the law firm better.

In addition to providing opportunities for group exercise, you could bring in a wellness coach to speak to staff on ways they can fit daily exercise and proper nutrition into their busy professional lives. As well as reducing stress, a healthy diet and regular physical exercise will enable your employees to think more clearly, while having greater creativity and productivity.

2. Mentor Young Talent

Workplace mentoring programmes not only help new employees learn the ropes, but they also help them to build strong professional relationships with senior members of staff. In addition to helping them perform more effectively, mentorships give younger new team members a sense of belonging and worth. They are also an effective way for new employees to get answers quickly, allowing them to develop more quickly in their roles.

Research shows that employees who benefit from mentoring programmes have higher job satisfaction, which often correlates to increased productivity and reduced turnover. Frustration and stress over not knowing how to correctly do a job is one of the leading causes of staff turnover for many organisations. Therefore, providing new talent with the support and feedback necessary to carry out their work correctly and effectively will increase both workplace efficiency and retention.

3. Encourage Open Communication & Employee Feedback

Ineffective communication is one of the leading causes of workplace stress and discontent. One of the best ways to reduce uncertainty and anxiety in the workplace is to improve employer to employee communication channels by encouraging open communication between all team members. This will help to ensure that everyone is clear on their purpose and what their role is, which will help to develop a more cohesive community in your firm.

Another great way to help improve workplace culture and reduce stress is by implementing an employee feedback system, where all employees are able to provide feedback to the firm’s leadership team. An employee feedback system will give your employees a sense of importance, allowing them to feel understood by giving them an outlet to voice their opinions and concerns.

4. Focus On Work-Life Balance

The secret behind many highly successful companies is their promotion of work-life balance. In addition to encouraging staff to make the most of their personal time, there are many things your firm can do to promote a healthier work-life balance among your legal team.

You could adopt a flexible schedule, allowing employees to start/end work an hour or two later when needed. In addition to this, you could also implement a work-from-home scheme, where employees might be eligible to occasionally work at home in certain circumstances. Another option is to promote digital downtime by encouraging staff to go for a walk at lunchtime and take ‘digital breaks’.

Allowing your employees to take time off when they’re feeling worn out — or encouraging them to work from home when appropriate — can make a big difference in the health and satisfaction of your legal team.

5. Recognise and Reward Employee Achievements

Employees appreciate sincere and specific recognition of their contributions and achievements. Effectively recognising your team members will not only increase their sense of belonging in your law firm, it will simultaneously reduce any work-related anxiety, while increasing their commitment to their role, resulting in a happier and more productive employee.

However, it’s important that employee rewards are not forced or seem contrived. While there are many recognition-schemes your firm could adopt, it’s crucial to ensure that these acknowledgements do not become expectations or entitlements. Each recognition should be tailored to the individual employee and the nature of their contribution.

Implementing an employee recognition programme that effectively rewards the successes of your staff, will not only help you to reduce stress and engage your employees, it will also work to attract the top talent you want on your legal team.

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How to Manage that Challenging Manager in Your Law Firm

  • March 10, 2019

In a perfect world, every legal professional would have a great manager, dedicated to helping them pursue their career plans and overcoming business challenges. Unfortunately, while there are some fantastic and supportive managers out there, there are some individuals that can only be described as terrible.

It’s a well-documented fact that the key reason employees leave organisations is because of a challenging relationship with their first line manager, rather than their level of compensation or the culture of the organisation as a whole.

I am sure many of you reading this post will have experienced your own terrible boss from hell. No doubt it made it harder to thrive within the organisation. If you’ve ever had an ineffective manager before, then you’ll know how frequent scrutiny or disapproval can damage your confidence.

Whether the person you work for is a micromanager or simply doesn’t do enough to support you, it’s important that you know how to make the most of any situation.

Seek First To Understand

Remember, it’s not the easiest job in the world to manage a team or lead a company, and your manager will be under a great deal of pressure to keep the business running smoothly.

In Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he suggests that one of the most important things a successful employee can do is “seek first to understand, before being understood.” Let’s say you have arrived late for work on a number of occasions during the week because of roadworks and your manager is annoyed and frustrated. Instead of expecting them to understand that you were late to work because of the new road works; look at it from their perspective. If you know that traffic is now a challenge, it’s reasonable that you take responsibility and leave the house earlier rather than getting annoyed that your manager is frustrated at your behaviour. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes can and will save you a lot of heartache.

Identify Their Triggers

If the problem you have with your manager is that they’re frequently criticising your work, or as we like to call it ‘giving you developmental feedback’, then work out what is triggering their behaviour? Perhaps you aren’t following a specific process that is important? Being open to feedback from a boss is a great way to set the foundations for a stronger relationship and overcoming any personal hurdles that might be holding you back from success.

Prove Yourself

A micro-managing boss can be the most difficult to deal with. If someone frequently hovers over your shoulder, it can feel as though you have no room for creativity or expansion. A good way to reduce micromanagement is to conduct an audit of your work and skills. Think about how you can improve your performance in the role so that your manager has nothing to complain about. A friend of mine says “every day is a school day Lynn”. A learning mindset will help you excel and standout to your manager. Pretty soon you’ll find you are respected, and their micromanaging behaviour becomes a thing of the past.

Become Indispensable

Becoming an incredible employee is a great way to improve the relationship between you and your manager. If your manager often overlooks you, then making sure that you have the right skills to improve profitability for the business will certainly make you stand out to your boss in the right way; trust me, managers are always looking for employees that add value.

And If All Else Fails?

An ineffective boss doesn’t have to be harsh or insensitive. Some employees can struggle to perform well under a manager that simply doesn’t deliver frequent feedback or support to their staff. If your manager, despite all your best efforts isn’t helping your legal career or valuing your contribution It might be time to reconsider your career. First of all, read our comprehensive post on the subject here.Then once you have a plan in place get in contact with us here and let’s have a conversation.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT 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.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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Your guide to high-performing legal teams

  • September 21, 2018

A high-performing team is what any employer would want. A high-performing team of solicitors that is efficient, drives profits and gets results might not be as far off as you think.  It takes work and to build an attractive employer brand; writing compelling job descriptions and creating an excellent culture is only the beginning.

High-performing teams require excellent leadership, support in their development and constant engagement – even before your new recruits join the firm. Our guide to high-performing teams tells you everything that you need to build one successfully.

Successfully onboard legal professionals

Building a high-performing legal team requires careful onboarding. There are two stages to this process:

  1. Establish what you want to achieve. You need to decide when onboarding will begin, what impression you would like to give to new staff, the tools that will help them do the job and goals you’d like them to meet. The most important thing to think about is how you will measure success and get feedback on the process. If you don’t have the information to work with it’s hard to make future adjustments.
  2. Put systems in place to achieve what you want. Prepare the essentials like security cards, work emails and computer equipment in advance. Providing information around basic housekeeping points such as where the loos are, tea and coffee facilities as well as who to approach with questions will help put the new recruit’s mind at rest. And don’t forget that a warm welcome will ease nerves. Let the office know that a new colleague is joining and to welcome them to the team.

High-performing teams need a high-performing leader

According to the Adair International Institute, a three-pronged approach to leadership underpins successful teams. Leaders need to manage the task, the team and the individual in order to get the best results.

The task needs to be clearly set out and defined aims must be communicated to the group. Research by EY into high-performing teams indicates that 44% of team members believe that clear, achievable goals are the most important factor in what makes a successful team. The group needs to understand the task to perform it well and leaders must ensure this happens. Providing resources, establishing responsibilities and offering feedback are critical at this stage.

The team needs support to achieve its goal and leaders can do this effectively by: equipping team members to deal with conflict, ensure morale is high, establish standards of work, and develop leadership in team members. At an individual level, leaders must know all members of a high-performing team well. Awareness of strengths and weaknesses means leaders can effectively delegate and improve management of the high-performing team. This links closely to another key element of high-performing teams: how to manage support and training.

Support high-performing individuals, benefit the team

Awareness of individual weaknesses means that a leader can put in place measures to help them overcome issues and contribute to the team. Praise and recognition at the right time are beneficial in maintaining motivation.

Training is key to keeping the overall team on track. Seeing that an individual needs help in a certain area means training can be given to bring them up to speed. Managing the individual carefully benefits the team because each person has the skills to achieve the overall task aim. When new legal professionals come into the team, working with them to establish a plan for their development means you can cover all bases and fill in any gaps that might cause the team to fall short. section. In turn, you’ll get the very best from your employees.

Get the best from your employees

High-performing teams don’t happen by accident. Strong leadership from the top down keeps the team unified behind a common goal. Demonstrating integrity, inspiring others and problem-solving are among the top traits of an effective leader according to the Harvard Business Review.

There are three stages to getting the best from your employees:

  1. Clear expectations: Set out what you expect from the start. Provide definitive goals and milestones to keep the team on track. Decide how the goal will be measured and build deadlines into the process that break the goal down into smaller, manageable chunks.
  2. Consistent feedback: Feedback allows your team to keep adjusting and making continual improvements. Explain what you need as the task progresses and you can even encourage peer feedback, carried out in a constructive way.
  3. Motivation and empowerment: Show that you value your staff and their effort. Offer praise, reward and an all-important ‘thank you’ when targets are reached to keep employees motivated and focused on the task.

Employee engagement

Building a team of talented legal professionals means constantly engaging employees. Culture, employer branding, and effectively leading your high-performing team are all important. The crucial element is managing performance at an individual level.

This is where deep knowledge of the individuals that make up your high-performing team pays dividends. As soon as a new solicitor, paralegal or member of support staff joins your firm it’s essential to understand their objectives. Engaging them with the work, the team and the task integrates them firmly into the group. You can increase engagement through an ongoing system of performance management:

  1. Individual fit with the team: Know what you want to achieve and communicate it to everyone. Make sure all team members are aware of how the goal relates to their role.
  2. Conversations are powerful: Communication builds trust and relationships which are both vital to high-performing teams. Engage staff in conversation about your vision, their development and keep coming back to the subject. That way you’ll not only engage employees you’ll join up their development with the rest of the team and business, which will strengthen the team.
  3. Agree S.M.A.R.T objectives: Unite team members who share a similar role behind a common goal. Make the goal ‘S.M.A.R.T’ – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound. By making use of their knowledge experience on the job you can create something meaningful which engages individuals and enhances team performance.

High-performing legal teams take time to build and need a clear plan for success. Your efforts will be rewarded with a group of individuals that work in sync with efficiency and precision. Constant feedback, conversation, motivation and inspiring leadership ensure that your team move forward as one, performing highly along the way.

Interested in turning your firm’s staff into a high-performing team? Our ‘Ultimate Guide to a High-Performing Team’ has more and will explain in detail how to create a formidable force. Download your complimentary copy or call us on 01772 259121.

If you found this guide useful, please do take a look at our other blogs and guides and don’t forget you can register your vacancy online.

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Starting your new role in law?

  • September 15, 2018

The first 30 days are critical to any job. There’s a lot to take in, new names to remember and you’re still finding your feet and getting settled. On top of all of that, you’re keen to make a good impression, demonstrate your worth and integrate with colleagues. Not much to do then!

We’ve put together the essential tips to help any legal professional make it through their first thirty days. Follow our guide and you’ll not only survive the first month, you’ll be set up to thrive for a long time to come.

What to do in your first thirty days

The start of a new job is your chance to demonstrate to your new employer what a valuable asset you are. According to Forbes’ research, ‘professionalism’ is the number one trait that employers value. So how can you balance a high degree of professionalism with being focused, positive and enthusiastic?

There are three stages to bring all of these elements together:

1. Your first day: The most important thing you can do on your first day is to be on time. Lateness gives the impression of a lack of care. Be friendly and open when introduced to colleagues, but don’t overshare or be tempted to speak negatively about your former employer.

2. Your first week: Show enthusiasm when delegated work and don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s something that you don’t understand. Continue to meet with management and partners. Show an interest in what your new employer tells you about the department, the firm and its vision. If relevant, relate this vision to your own experience as this may well benefit the firm.

3. Your first month: A new role, a new firm and new colleagues all take a little adjustment. Be sure to attend one-to-one meetings arranged by your manager, and if these are not forthcoming then you can request them. Be open to feedback and give feedback in a thoughtful, constructive way. Make your development goals known and work on a development plan with your manager.

Being proactive will put you in the driving seat of your new career and will help you feel more settled and secure. It’ll leave a good impression on your new employer too!

How to make a good impression in your new law job

Making a good impression at the start of your new job sets you up for success. Some of the most important attributes listed by Aspiring Solicitors include things like motivation, integrity, and teamwork. And while those are particularly important for people at the beginning of their career, they don’t go amiss at any stage.

A good impression is about demonstrating your value. You want to reinforce in your employer’s mind that they were right to hire you. The ability to work in a team shows that you’re interested in the collective success of colleagues and the firm. Listening, enthusiasm and a willingness to get stuck in show that you’re a good fit while showing off your skills. When meeting management and partners be open to what they are saying, especially if they are communicating their vision of what the firm is working towards. Show an interest and bring your experience to bear: your experience is valuable and if you have skills or knowledge that will help the firm achieve what they want, share it. This will impress leaders and demonstrate your skills and commitment.

Making sense of the firm’s culture

Getting to grips with a new job is one thing, making sense of the culture of a firm is another. There are several simple things you can do to help you get familiar with your new workplace.

1. Make use of your mentor – If you’ve been partnered with a mentor, they can prove invaluable in helping you understand the firm. If you have questions about how things work, potential office politics, or anything that’s not necessarily related to the work but the everyday ticking over of the place, your mentor will be able to give you the insider’s view.

2. Attend orientation, meetings and introductions – This will give you a good overview of the firm and how it works. Meeting key players and observing them in action in meetings will give you a good idea of the leadership style and how this influences the firm.

3. Pay attention to feedback – Whether feedback is delivered as an everyday drip-feed or in more formal one-to-ones, it gives you a good idea as to the culture. Keep your ears open to what’s being said and learn to understand what is expected of you. Being told what to adjust and how to make it better, helps you understand the firm’s values in a tangible way.

How to integrate with co-workers

It’s likely that you spend more time with your colleagues than anyone else, so it makes sense to have good relationships with those you work with. In order to integrate with colleagues in the first thirty days of your new job, there are a few steps you can take.

On your first day, be friendly and open. A smile and a firm handshake convey trust and create a good first impression. Take time to introduce yourself to your mentor and make sure that you go to lunch! Chatting with people away from your desks is much more likely to see you get along on a personal level which helps to enhance working relationships. Just beware of oversharing and don’t be tempted to talk negatively about your former employer: you’ll quickly destroy trust and be viewed as a gossip.

Over the coming weeks is when you can start to build and solidify working relationships. If your manager hasn’t arranged it, ask to be introduced to the department head. Being aware of who’s who will help you understand your work and build positive relations. If you’re invited to events or networking make sure to go along. Avoiding these kinds of situations gives the impression that you’re not a team player and can damage relations with colleagues.

Hit the ground running

Joining a new firm can be a challenging process. But by going through things in a logical and proactive way, you can make the best of your first month. Ensure you tie up your own goals with the goals of the firm, demonstrate your value and your senior colleagues will be thrilled that a talented legal professional has joined their firm.

Our guide on ‘How to excel in your first 30 days’ will give you more hints and tips on settling into your new role – download your complimentary copy or contact us on 01772 259 121. We’ve decades of experience working with legal professionals to place them in their ideal careers and we’d be happy to help with whatever challenges you’re facing.

And if you found this blog interesting take a look at our other blogs; ‘Secured a new role? Top tips for your first weeks’ and ‘The secret of success – sheer hard work’. You can also register your CV with us online.

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What is your interviewer actually thinking?

  • July 3, 2018

It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous and slightly uneasy in an interview, after all, it’s an important process and one that could shape your career prospects for years to come. Getting a job,
as we all know, can change lives – particularly if it’s one you’re desperately keen to get – so it’s hardly surprising that for many people, interviewing can be highly stressful.

However, it helps to get inside the head of an interviewer and put yourself in their shoes. If you were hiring for your own company, what traits and skills would you look for?

Are they who they say they are?

This may sound obvious, but you’d be blown away by the number of people who openly lie on their CV. It’s easy to make yourself sound employable on your application if you just lie and any experienced hirer will likely want to run through your CV to clarify that you are who you say you are and that you’ve done what you’ve said you’ve done. They’ll probably want to throw a few open ended questions at you to allow you to talk through your CV in your own time and – as long as you are telling the truth – this should come naturally.
It’s important to remember to consider how your past experiences can help you carry out the role. So rather than simply stating what you did, try and use examples and make a link with what you’ve done in your past and how it could help you in the position you’re applying for.

Cultural fit

One of the hardest things for an interviewer to gauge is whether the person sitting opposite them will fit into their current line-up. There are two distinct schools of thought. Some people like building teams with ‘disruptive’ characters who can challenge the status quo and create results and innovation by being different. Others recognise the value of employing people who can get on with their current employees and won’t upset the apple cart. Unfortunately, there’s no golden solution to this and if the employer doesn’t think you’ll work at their company for
whatever reason, they’re unlikely to take you on. Your best bet is to be yourself. Your true personality will reveal itself further down the line and putting on a persona only raises the risk of you not actually being well suited to the organisation.

Are you up to the job?

Finally – and perhaps most obviously – the interviewer will want to know whether you’ve actually got the skills to do the job. This is where pinning examples to things you’ve done in
your past really becomes valuable. If you can actually highlight times when you’ve made a difference to your former employer it saves them the task of linking your skills with the job specification and working out whether you’re cut out for the role. Others will do it in their interview and if a hiring manager has an obvious fit for a role, they’re hardly likely to think about other candidates quite so much. It also doesn’t come down to what you just say. If the role involves a lot of interaction with senior partners or associates then you’ll want to consider your speech patterns and ways of communicating. In addition, you should consider any obvious reasons why the company wouldn’t hire you and don’t let the interviewer jump to their own conclusions (which they will). If your CV shows signs of job hopping, for example, then provide reasons for why you’ve done so ahead of being asked.

For other tips, check out our career advice pages

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