Building a profitable estate planning and elder law firm is difficult if you have a revolving door of support staff, paralegals or associates. And unless you were fortunate to work at a very progressive law firm, chances are good that you have never experienced any kind of team building. A great team doesn’t just happen by luck, and it doesn’t just happen during the hiring process. It takes effort, time and sometimes, the help of an outside consultant whose focus is team building.
Before you hire anyone to help with team building, make sure that they understand the very specific culture of an estate planning and elder law firm. The dynamics of your office, regardless of the number of personnel, are not the same as a commercial litigation firm.
You’ll need to lose the lawyer’s natural orientation towards advocacy. You may be able to out-reason your associates like no one else, but that’s not going to help your team bond and grow.
Team building does not end when the team building retreat ends. That’s just the beginning. Team building is an on-going process, much the same as marketing. Almost every day provides a new opportunity for team building and reinforcing the firm’s values. For example, do you have weekly staff meetings and do they actually take place? Weekly meetings are a great way to reinforce successes and explore how to solve challenges. A small firm might have a short team meeting every morning.
Building a strong team includes a shared vision for the firm. Do your team members know that your intent is to build a small, high quality practice or that you want to create a multi-office practice that focuses on a particular segment of the population? You have a vision. Your team needs to know what that vision is and they need to be on board with you.
Do you have a mission statement, and if so, do your team members understand it? Do you understand it? And if it is the same mission statement that you created ten years ago, does it need to be updated to reflect where you are right now?
Successful teams have clear goals. Do your team members know what you expect from them on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Clear goals will help you and them measure success.
Offsite meetings are best for team building. Groups bond better when they are away from the day to day tasks and scenery. Besides, who will answer the phone when you’re in the middle of an intense discussion?
Don’t forget to have some fun. A happy team is a successful team.