Law Practice Management
Law Firm Manager Writes Post Columnist About Clueless Associates
Posted Mar 30, 2009 8:44 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A middle manager at a small law firm is beefing about associates who struggle to meet billable goals and deadlines, bungling things to such an extent that they must be shown the exit.
The manager wrote to the Washington Post for advice. The letter reads: “I'm in middle management at a small law firm. Of every three associates we hire, we inevitably part with two within a year. The pattern is always the same: The associate is hired, struggles with his hours for the first few months, and then develops problems maintaining a responsible level of contact with clients. Then he struggles with deadlines, and finally when the partners and I are at our wits' end, the associate pretty much stops working, stops billing and becomes a liability. We offer training and performance plans, we have scheduled weekly meetings with the associates, and we're small so someone is always available for guidance. Is firing people just the way it is?”
The Post’s Lily Garcia sees several potential solutions. She writes that the law firm needs to:
• Give potential associates a good assessment of what the job entails.
• Figure out attributes of successful associates and ask interview questions that will help the firm decide which candidates can handle the job.
• Make sure subjective preferences don't influence hiring decisions. Instead, create a scoring system that awards points for each key factor needed for the position.
• Evaluate training programs and assign mentors to associates.
• Talk to fired employees to find out why they didn't succeed.
Editor's Note: You're invited to answer our related Question of the Week: Who’s to Blame When Turnover Is High?