Rethinking Law Firm Staffing Strategies

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If you hire a software development, marketing, public relations, or search engine optimization firm for a project, you are likely to have a kick off meeting to introduce their team. This group will most likely include three distinct roles — account manager, project manager, and a technician. The account manager is responsible for maintaining the client relationship, handling billing, and ensuring that the client is satisfied with the services. Additionally, the account manager will likely engage in selling new services after the project is completed. The project manager is responsible for ensuring that the project is completed on time, within budget, and consistent with the firm’s brand standards. One or more technicians lend technical specialties to get the work done. Like any professional service business, law firms need to serve the roles of account manager, project manager, and technician. However, they tend not to recognize those roles explicitly, but prefer a hierarchical structure of senior partner, partner, and associate/paralegal.

A challenge with the hierarchical structure arises when the personality traits of the team do not match the pairing of each role to the hierarchy: account manager to senior partner; project manager to partner/senior associate, and technician to associate or paralegal. For example, an associate with the “people person” personality needed for the account manager role is often viewed as subordinate to the project and task managing partner in charge of the matter.

One possible solution is to change the paradigm of hierarchy replacing it with “swim lanes” of responsibility that are all on the same level. The account manager (regardless of title or position in the firm) is responsible for initiating the project, following up during its progress to ensure client satisfaction, and perform an after action review when the project is complete before attempting to sell another project. The project manager’s and technician’s swim lanes provide for responsibility in between the account manager’s end caps. This allows for a more flexible staffing solution to providing legal services and hopefully client satisfaction.

Read more blogs by author: Darin M. Klemchuk


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