Do law firm employees feel as if they rent or own their job duties?

Rent or own job duties in law firmFor any law firm employee, there is a job description for their position.  No matter whether they are a lawyer, paralegal or administrative staff member of some kind, there are job duties law firms want their employees to fulfill.

Hopefully, you have spelled out these duties in an employment manual of some kind.  This way, employees know generally what is expected from them.

As it relates to these duties, do your employees feel as if they own or rent these job duties?  The answer to this question can make a big difference as to the outlook of your employees and the success of your law firm.

In other areas of life, if you own something, it is very important.  People generally take care of things they own.  They attend to them.  They treat them with care.  They aren’t negligent or reckless with things that they own.  No matter whether what the item is, for most people, if you own something, it has very special meaning and significance because the relationship is permanent or long-term.  They bear ultimate responsibility.

On the other hand, when somebody rents something, it is temporary.  It isn’t likely a permanent relationship.  At some point, the item is going to be given back to the owner. Sure, people don’t generally do purposefully bad things to things they rent. But, for the most part, items that somebody owns is treated better than things that somebody is renting because they do not bear ultimate responsibility.

As it relates to job duties, how do your employees think of their job duties?  Do they rent them or do they own them?

In a lot of ways, this is a state of mind.  But if you can make your employees feel like they own what they do, it can go a long way toward improving the performance of employees at the firm — and the success of the law firm as a whole.

How do you do this?  For every firm and position, there is going to be variance.  Hopefully, legal staff understands that they have to own what they do for clients because they are professionals affecting the lives of real people.  This professional relationship requires that they own their job duties to provide competent, diligent and communicative representation to clients.

But in other areas, a law firm can do a lot to instill this mentality regularly within the firm by holding employees to high standards.  This can include not having an unrestricted open door policy where employees do not investigate and problem solve on their own in an appropriate way.  It can involve having regular performance evaluations, incentive based pay and performance based promotions.  It can also involve getting over the temptation to do it yourself.  But past that, it  certainly involves the law firm carefully screening and hiring law firm employees who want to work for the law firm for the long-term or for an indefinite period at least.

In law firms that succeed, employees know that they own their job duties versus renting them.  What are you doing to ensure that your law firm employees have this mentality?

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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