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Small Firm Tip: How Do You Run a Law Firm Like a Family? Caring.

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Take a moment. Think of your all-time favorite boss. It doesn't have to be a lawyer, or even a "professional" type. It could be the guy who managed the toy store where you had your first job.

What was it about that boss that motivated you? What could you do to be more like that person? The answer can improve the way you run your law firm.

One of the trickier aspects of running your own firm is managing personnel. Whether you're a first-time manager, or a seasoned pro, you need to create an environment that motivates your staff to work hard and stay put. According to a recent article in Inc., the secret to success may be treating your employees like family.

The article outlines "three basic family principles that you can use to lead your team:" Open communication, "family" time, and care. We're going to tackle these topics in reverse order. Today, we're talking about care.

Small law might not offer as much entry-level compensation as BigLaw, but it certainly can provide a better work-life balance. BigLaw has to care about the bottom line. Small law can care about people.

So how do you show that you care? A few ideas:

  • Give Your Employees a Break. That whole "arrive before the boss, and leave after the boss" mantra that new attorneys swear by is absurd, especially with the remote work options we have now. Does it really matter when/where your employees work, if they are getting their work done? As long as there isn't a pressing matter that needs attention, encourage people to leave at a reasonable hour, go to their kids' soccer games and recitals, and enjoy a hobby or two.
  • Understand. If your employees have little ones at home, they are going to need sick days -- both to fight off whatever illness their kids bring home and to take care of their sick kids. You need to be cool with that. If you cap paid time off days, consider a  work from home option that allows employees to keep plugging away on days when they have to stay home with a cold or with a little one.
  • Listen. Inc. suggests that "managers who take time to listen to their employees, understand their career objectives, and show that they care enough to help are likely to see better employee engagement and retention rates."

So how will this affect the office? Keep in mind: You're the boss, not the best friend. "Caring" doesn't mean that you have to be a pushover and over-emphasize how every employee is a special snowflake. But it's possible to run a law firm efficiently while still treating your staff like you like them. And they in return will like you enough to do all you ask, and maybe more.

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