Lawyers, Get Back To The “Shop Floor”

Over the last couple of months, as we’ve been putting together our Management Mastery Workshop which takes place next month, I’ve been thinking more about the management side of running a law practice.I’ve also published a number of articles about having the right mindset and approach to signing new clients.

One of the important factors that runs through each of those articles is the need for a law firm owner to actually understand what’s going on in their business.

Or, put another way, you need to discover the unassailable benefits of the law practice owner spending some time on the shop floor of their law firm.

How to Manage A Law Practice

Having appropriate systems, procedures, scripting, training and manuals in your law practice is essential for your firm to grow and succeed. But that doesn’t mean you can abdicate all responsibility to your systems and managers.

You still have an essential role to play in managing your law practice.

So in a moment, I’ll explain why getting back to the shop floor is so important. But first, before I get onto this week’s topic in more detail, I just want to remind you about those articles:

How I Made My First Million – Part 1: My Marketing Strategy

How I Made My First Million – Part 2: The Missing Piece – My Law Firm Administrator

10 Steps To More Personal Injury Clients

Want More Clients For Your Law Practice? Think Like A Salesman

How To Turn Law Firm Website Visitors Into Leads

Why Your Law Firm Needs To Follow Up Better Than A Car Salesman

Unleash Your Law Firm’s Growth: Hiring Key Staff

The Perfect Law Firm Has A System For Bathroom Visits?

Law Firm Systems: Busting The Objections

Get Back To The Shop Floor

You’ve probably already heard of Management By Walking Around (MBWA), pioneered by the founders of Hewlett Packard. I’ve written about MBWA and also in the same article, about the phenomenon of Undercover Boss, enabling business owners to see what goes on in their businesses when their employees think they’re not looking.

Getting back to the shop floor is a little different from Management By Walking Around and from Undercover Boss.

When you go back to the shop floor, you’re choosing to spend time working alongside your employees. You’re making the decision to see what the front-line jobs (and other positions, too) really entail for the employees. And they know you’re there. No disguises.

We’re not talking 15 minutes working the conveyor belt in a cookie factory, or 15 minutes answering the phone with your intake team.

Getting back to the floor means spending perhaps at least a half day just working as an intake team member.

You’re never going to understand what your intake team goes through and the challenges they face in a typical week, if you’re only going to spend 15 minutes with them.

What’s worse is telling them that you want to understand their experience, and how you can improve how they work – and then spend just 15 minutes with them. It’s insulting, and just paying lip-service to the idea that you care.

Why Go Back To The Floor?

Why should you, as the law firm owner, go and spend time doing the activities you’ve hired other people to perform?

I’ll tell you why.

Because even with the very best managers, management systems and proactive employees, sometimes there is just no substitute for seeing something for yourself.

Imagine your office phone system has an occasional problem. Let’s say that just one in a hundred inbound calls get mysteriously terminated after 10 minutes. The potential client gets cut off, mid-way through the intake process.

In a well-run law firm, I’d expect that the employee that happened to would tell their line manager.

That line manager would then pass it up the chain, to the office manager. And maybe even the law firm administrator.

“One call in a hundred gets dropped? It’s ten grand for a new phone system. We’ll just cope with the problem for the time being. The boss won’t sign off on $10k for a new system right now.”

That is a perfectly reasonable conversation.

That is, it’s reasonable, right up until I – the law firm owner – experience that dropped intake call – for myself.

Let’s say I spend a day with the intake team. I answer an inbound call. It’s from somebody who urgently needs legal representation after their child suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident with an 18-wheeler.

As an experienced personal injury attorney, when I hear that potential client explain the situation, I know that’s going to be a multi-million dollar payout. It’s going to make the law firm a very healthy six-figure fee, if we get the case.

And then, just as I’m about to lock in the potential client, the call is dropped.

One in a hundred.

D’oh!

My employees can make all the explanations and excuses they want about why they think I’m not going to replace our phone system.

But when I see this for myself, and I know that we just dumped a 6-figure fee – because we didn’t spend $10,000 on a new phone system – I know I’m going to decide right there, on the spot, that it’s time for a new phone system.

Comments are closed