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Law firms have every incentive to get the absolute most out of their employees. Of course, this is easier said than done. Legal staff are motivated by a host of factors that go far deeper than financial remuneration. So how can you ensure both individual employees, and your team as a whole are performing at their peak? Here are six ways to facilitate superlative legal staff performance, drawing on emotional, experiential and financial triggers.

1. Be Fair and Flexible When It Comes to Leave

Hands down, being a lawyer can be stressful. That’s why when it comes to annual leave, it pays to be fair and flexible. We’re not saying employees should holiday as they please, but an open and employee-friendly approach to time off can be an incredibly valuable tool.

Just ask British law firm Ashton KCJ. After implementing a policy that allows all 320 of its employees to take holidays as and when they need, the firm reported a significant improvement in productivity over the nine-month trial period.

Need loftier proof that ‘all you can eat’ leave switches employees into top gear? The likes of Reed Hastings and Richard Branson are also on-board, with both Netflix and Virgin empowering employees with total control over their calendars.

2. Set Clear Guidelines

Ambiguity can be extremely frustrating for employees, and it’s all too common in law firms fronted by multiple partners and personnel. Put your people in a position to succeed by setting clear guidelines, and eliminating ambiguity from all day-to-day tasks.

From small duties like systemising and filing to major responsibilities like distributing project workloads and billing clients, make sure expectations are predefined, and transparent.

3. Opportunities for Salary Advancement

In Australia, the average cost of graduating with a Bachelor of Laws sits at around $34,827. It’s not an inexpensive venture, which is why opportunities for salary advancement always serve as powerful motivation for legal staff.

4. Create a Dynamic Social Scene

As university graduates, it’s highly likely that your handpicked team spent at least four to five years enjoying the tight knit social cliques that go hand in hand with law school. While you don’t need to replicate wild campus parties, it is important to offer your employees some form of corporate social life.

From organising Friday night drinks to throwing end-of-financial-year lunches, giving your staff a chance to socialise and let their hair down will create a sense of solidarity. This boosts morale, strengthens team cohesion and ultimately, augments the productivity of your entire firm.

5. Offer Constant Feedback

In any niche, vertical, ongoing feedback is a crucial part of improving employee performance. Human beings thrive on recognition and approval, so if a member of your team shines bright, be sure to reward them with positive feedback for a job well done. Similarly, performance can be elevated by pulling employees up on lacklustre work, and offering constructive, practical criticism that helps them improve.

Google’s even adopted an ‘avant garde’ policy that sees employees rewarded for failure, in the right circumstances. Note, the former should never mean lowering your standards in order to give employees the all-important pat on the back. Demand high performance, hold employees accountable for their achievements (and failures), and be sure to offer praise (or criticism) where due.

6. Vanguard with Strong Leadership

From a partner’s perspective, it’s all too easy to blame complacency, lack of initiative and underperformance on the staff themselves. But it’s important to remember that often, the place to start searching for answers and solutions is the behaviour of keynote persons themselves.

As leaders, partners and members of the management team should set best practice paradigms by looking at, and learning from their own actions. What’s being done to motivate employees? Do staff have the necessary tools, guidance and mentorship to excel? Are firm leaders contributing to the creation of a positive workplace experience? Lead by example, and you’ll see productivity soar.

While a handsome salary can spur employees into acme, a holistic approach to motivation is the absolute best way to improve staff performance.


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