Quick Attorney Self-Audit: Supervising Staff
Most of us are pretty good at judging others…actually we’re downright expert at doing so IF we’re being brutally honest that is…..whether inwardly or out loud to others, we judge others’ looks, their work habits, their personalities, their decisions and the list goes on. What is not so easy to do, however, is to look inward…to look into that often painful mirror of brutal honesty about ourselves.
The self-audit below is by no means intended as all-inclusive, but is intended to help anyone who supervises others to take a quick look at how they are doing…what can we improve, what should we stop doing ASAP and what things are we doing well and should make sure we keep doing??!?
Remember, the two critical elements in any self-audit process are:
- Being brutally and thoroughly honest with ourselves; and
- Having the self-discipline and commitment to convert needed changes into reality sooner than later
Well, here we go…let me know what questions you’d add, delete or change….always appreciate your feedback …even when painful!
- Are regular lawyer-staff meetings held for legal support teams?
- Are staff members kept informed of and given an opportunity to offer input regarding matters affecting them?
- Is appreciation frequently expressed for work well done, and is any necessary criticism shared privately, constructively, and sooner than later?
- Are staff members given clear and complete instructions regarding work assigned?
- Are reasonable completion priority dates given with work assignments?
- Are assistants kept informed about the whereabouts and schedules of the persons for whom they work?
- Do lawyers stay in tune with office morale taking any necessary steps to investigate and redirect low periods back to a positive working environment for all?
- Is timely and appropriate support offered staff members with disrespectful, rude, and otherwise out-of-line clients?
- Are staff members encouraged to maintain a reasonable and healthy balance between their professional and personal lives, or are they made to feel guilty over taking earned vacation days, staying home with a sick child, etc.?
- Are all members of the legal vdteam introduced to clients by the responsible lawyer at the onset of representation and during which time the lawyer reminds clients that staff members cannot and will not ever give the clients legal advice?
- Do the lawyers and other management personnel set good examples for the staff by providing and faithfully utilizing the firm’s risk management policies and systems (e.g., email, internet and social media policies and parameters, docket/work control, conflicts of interest, good documentation, file management, etc.)?
- Are staff members ever asked to be a party to unethical conduct or to participate in any other uncomfortable and unprofessional situations?
- Do you have planned, fair, and good staff evaluation policies and procedures while ensuring that all staff members receive frequent feedback regarding the quality of their work product, their overall performance, and their other contributions to the firm?
- Have the “how to’s” of guarding lawyer-client confidentiality been thoroughly explained to and discussed with all staff members?
- Have all firm employees signed a confidentiality form acknowledging their understanding of the importance of safeguarding client information and property?
- Are all lawyers and others in supervisory positions kept informed about how to manage, hire, train, and supervise associates and staff properly?
- Have all staff members been provided with a copy and told to read your jurisdiction’s ethics rules, the informative comment sections and related guidelines/articles/checklists?
- Have meetings been held for the purpose of teaching and discussing the rules of ethics?
- Are quality control systems for checking the quality and timeliness of staff’s work product utilized (i.e., random file reviews to check on such things is the use of appropriate, error-reducing checklists, organized and complete file documentation, etc.)?
- Is there a comprehensive, up-to-date office policy and procedures manual that is readily accessible to and used by all employees?
- Does the office manual include clear, detailed how-to sections (e.g., Risk Management How To’s, How to Check for Conflicts of Interest, How to Open a File, How to Handle Disgruntled Clients)?
- Have the firm’s telephone policies and procedures been clearly established and thoroughly explained to all employees, with an emphasis on the critical importance of handling all calls with professional courtesy (explaining that each and everyone also carries the unwritten title of “Marketers of 1st and Last Impression” for the firm)?
- If for some reason a person’s supervisor is an inappropriate resource, do employees know to whom they should report problems such as office bullying, sexual harassment, unethical actions or omissions, suspected substance abuse, and other concerns on a confidential basis without fear of retaliation?
- Are appropriate interpersonal skills, conflict resolution skills, staff management policies and procedures taught to all supervisory personnel?
- If jobs were reversed and you were a staff member, would you want to work for someone with your same work habits, work ethic, and interpersonal skills? Why or why not?
AND…IF YOU ARE STILL READING, PLEASE SEE THE NOTE BELOW FROM NANCY RE HER SELF-AUDIT LIBRARY:
- Can’t or don’t want to pay consulting fees?
- Prefer to take a hard look at what’s working and what’s not on your own?
- If your answer is “Yes or Maybe” and you’re interested in purchasing one of my self-audit e-books* then please send me an email and I’ll notify you when the newest versions are available for purchase on-line.
- NBJ’s Self-Audit Library includes such topics as Self-Audits for Law Offices Big & Small, for Professional Firms, for Conflict Resolution, for Career Building, Risk Management, and many more.
- Or, want a customized self-audit developed by Nancy for your firm or office? Great…please contact us so we can get started sooner than later.
*($35 each or $100 with forms, checklists and NBJ articles included, or $150 to include the extra materials plus a call with Nancy to discuss how to get started and how to maximize your self-auditing efforts)
……and last, but not least, many thanks for your interest….your courage and wisdom to stay in touch with the realities of your office’s strengths and weakness is admirable.
P.S. Here’s a what a former section chair of the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section had to say after he reviewed my first nationwide book of self-audits waaaay back in 1999:
“…[Easy Self-Audits…] one of the most valuable books I have read in 20 years on practice management”
(J. Bennett, Attorney, District of Columbia Bar Association Book Review, August-September 1999)
(Self-Audits for the Busy Law Office, by Nancy Byerly Jones, Pub’d by ABA, 1999…and still being requested and sold by the ABA!)