With any law firm, there are policies and procedures that are essential. While employees generally do not like bright-line rules and would prefer to work where there are no rules at all, this isn’t an option. Without some policies and procedures, no law firm can do excellent work for the clients or remain financially solvent.
There are endless examples of rules that law firms adopt (and the list obviously can vary dramatically by law firm). However, below are some common examples of items where most law firms have bright-line policies and procedures:
1.) Employees at most law firms generally have to report to work and depart at set times. Lunch might be at set times as well. Otherwise, the clients will be dissatisfied if there is nobody to assist them when they need help and attention.
2.) Most law firms generally have some kind of billable hour requirements or else it’s hard to pay the bills and obligations of the firm. While most employees don’t like billable hour requirements, it is hard to be fiscally responsible as a firm (and meet payroll and other obligations) without being able to budget how much revenue is coming in each month.
3.) Law firms generally have a filing system to ensure that client documents and records are kept in an orderly manner. Otherwise, a law firm can run into ethical problems if the client records are not properly maintained for safekeeping.
4.) Teamwork (or a positive attitude) is also an essential part of a law firm. Law firms just do not work for the short or the long-term if the firm isn’t moving in one general direction.
5.) Law firms generally have some kind of dress code. Obviously, some firms might be more formal, while other firms might be more laid-back in the approach. But most law firms generally have some standards about what is acceptable and what isn’t acceptable in the law office.
6.) Law firms might have their own methods in terms of how cases are worked up at the firm to make sure overall client satisfaction and ethical compliance. Again, some law firms might be more rigid in their approach and some less rigid. But there are usually some standards to ensure ethical compliance with an attorney’s obligation to be diligent and competent.
Even with rules and guidelines like the ones mentioned above, many employees opt not to follow the rules. When confronted about the lack of adherence to the rule, a typical response that is uttered by many employees is they will “try” to do better.
In the words of Yoda to Luke Skywalk in Stars Wars: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Remarkably, these words of wisdom from Yoda are relevant in a law firm environment as well.
At the end of the day, any successful law firm has to have bright-line rules about certain matters. There might be some relatively unimportant matters where there can be flexibility. But any law firm that is to endure has to decide what is vital to the overall success of the law firm. On matters that are critical, the reality is trying isn’t good enough. As Yoda says, the employees have to “do,” not “try.”
The employees who choose to “do not” after being warned need to be let go. It might sound harsh. It might sound unappealing. It certainly isn’t easy to do if you are new to having a law firm. However, if you allow one employee to “try,” it will not be long before others start disregarding their job duties. Then, what you are left with is anarchy within your law firm.
If you have any other thoughts, feel free to mention them in the comments below