HR Mastery Part One: Right People, Right Roles

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For many lawyers, the people part of building a law practice or firm is the most challenging. In this, part one of this series on HR, I will outline your first and most important two steps; get the right people, and then get them in the right roles. Your name is on the door. That means something. And I understand what it means when it’s time to expand and bring people on. I have seen firm owners panic and hire just about anyone they can find. Or the opposite, avoid hiring for fear of not being able to control quality. Neither approach works out so well. So, why not try the following approach?

Right People

Don’t just bring anyone on. As Jim Collins says in his book, Good to Great, “Get the right people on the bus.” Don’t get fixated on job titles. First, conduct a SWOT analysis of yourself, and the firm overall. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. This exercise will provide you with a strategic look at what roles and tasks need to be filled. It’s your firm. Build it around you, and your strengths!


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A note about SWOT. Previous wisdom would say that you should focus on your weaknesses and look for ways to improve them. I must admit, back in the ’90s when I was starting my first business, I thought that made sense. But then along came Steve Jobs. He turned that logic upside down. His thinking is and was that you focus on your strengths, and that of your organization or in this case, firm. Master them. Master your skills as a lawyer and leader. And then look to build your team around that and fill in the holes left by your weaknesses. It may seem simple, and it is. It’s also brilliant! Build your team around you based on complementary skills that fill the holes you or your firm face.

Not only that, look for people who thoroughly enjoy those tasks and are great at them. That will ensure they are happy and likely stay with you long term. It’s a win-win scenario. You get more off your plate – the things you don’t like or aren’t good at and you find people who are great in those areas and really enjoy the work.

And look at the math – you’re good at that. The difference between what you charge for your services, and what you will pay someone to do it for you, it’s blatantly obvious. This is where I’ve seen several people leave growth and profits on the table.


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Another consideration when looking for the right people is their attitude. It is my experience that ATTITUDE accounts for over 95% of EVERYTHING. So, in my mind, skills, and attitude trump experience. I am not saying experience is not good to have, I am saying that when someone has the right attitude, they will do whatever it takes to learn and grow. They will work hard, go above and beyond, and remain loyal,

Freedom for you and your staff, more efficient client service, and higher profits? That sounds like a plan.

Again, it’s worth mentioning. This approach works whether you are out on your own and using outside sources or VAs or building your team within a firm. So, let’s say you follow my advice and hire the right people. What’s next?

Right Roles!

The next step in this winning HR formula is to get the people you just hired in the right roles. Now that you have the right people on the bus, as Jim Collins says, “Get them in the right seats.”


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I like to use the analogy of a puzzle. Building your team is like putting a puzzle together. No two pieces are the same shape or size. It may seem complicated or overwhelming, but it’s quite simple actually. Remember I said to look at your role. Use the same formula with the rest of your team. Have them focus on their greatest strengths and skills, and then round out your team by filling the holes remaining. This is a lot easier than trying to fit a square peg in a round hole or vice versa.

This will not only produce more efficiency and profits, but it will also support retention by having a happy team and workplace.

When you follow this advice, you are on the right path to creating an amazing team for your practice or firm.

Stay tuned. In part two of this series, I will talk about your next steps to success with HR, onboarding, reviews and reward.

Gary Mitchell

Gary has tailored his coaching practice exclusively to lawyers since 2005. He has been named by two independent organizations among the top 10 business coaches for lawyers and law firms in North America. Gary has three books published and recently launched, The Law Practice Builder App, to help lawyers grow their practices. While a pioneer in lawyer coaching, Gary continues to innovate and bring more value to his clients. He hosts "The LawBiz Podcast" discussing various business issues lawyers face and sharing inspirational stories of growth and success.

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