Staffing as a Cultural Foundation in a Law Firm with Andrew Wilcox

Choosing the right people for the job is a difficult — yet necessary — task, most especially in a law firm. Human capital is one of the most important growth factors for a business. Oftentimes, employees are hired for their education and training but rarely do companies get to assess an individual’s personality, which can say a lot about how they communicate with colleagues and potential clients. We cannot just hire attorneys for their skills; we need employees that are good for our firm’s culture. 

In this episode, Andrew Wilcox joins us to talk about his experience in growing a legal search and consulting firm. He discusses the importance of quality staffing, along with the challenges law firms face when it comes to employee retention. Andrew also highlights the need for a skilled leader to keep teams intact.

If you want to know more about selecting the right people for your firm, then this episode is for you.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to this episode

  1. Learn more about the hiring process in small firms.
  2. Discover how one employee can affect the direction of a whole firm.
  3. Understand the importance of good leadership in maintaining people. 

Resources

Episode Highlights

The Main Challenge of Staffing in Law Firms 

  • Creating opportunities for professional growth for both younger and senior attorneys is a challenge.
  • Some attorneys would rather belong to a larger community than work for top-performing firms.

Andrew: “I think so, for them to have a firm that they could grow in, that they could be with for the long term, and to be part of a larger culture, part of a larger community.”

  • Finding the common ground between practicing law and wanting to settle in a new environment can be a struggle for some.

Hiring Process for a Small Firm

  • All law firms, even the larger ones, have difficulty finding quality candidates.
  • The competition with big law firms is tough.
  • Small firms have to consider how much pay they can give to associates.
  • A collegial atmosphere is Andrew’s most important buy-in to overcoming competing offers of doubled salaries.

Andrew: “The biggest thing that they have to sell to younger associates is that collegial atmosphere and really just enjoying the people that you work with.”

Where Law Firms Should Focus

  • Andrew highlights the importance of personality in a law firm.
  • Larger firms, with their number of employees, can afford to keep a lawyer with good skills but doesn’t empathize well with others.
  • Smaller firms can take a huge hit from working with bad people.
  • How an employee treats his co-workers says a lot about his personality.
  • A collegial atmosphere is a great foundation for small law firms.

How Law Firms Can do a Better Job with Retention

  • Addressing the problem by raising rates is a short-term fix.

Andrew: “You're going to raise your rates, and you're going to pay associates higher than what you believe that you feel comfortable doing, to maintain them. But that, to me, is a short-term fix.”

  • Loyalty is a two-way street between an employee and his employer.
  • Open communication is the key to retention.
  • Andrew shared his experience with attorneys dealing with the mental health side of practicing law.

Andrew: “The pain of making a move over to a large firm or to another firm just isn't worth it to them. Because you know what, I'm working with really good people, they invest in me, they take the time with me, if I need anything, they enabled me to have it. Work with good attorneys and just generally good character people.”

  • The owner plays an important role in succession planning by communicating the values and direction of the firm.

Moshe: “[Give] your employees an opportunity to be heard and to really listen to them and understand what's important to them. Because it's not all about the money.”

What Consulting Looks Like

  • Andrew shares his background in client development consulting before starting his firm.
  • Some attorneys lack experience in engaging in business conversations with clients.
  • Understanding the case development in a client-based approach is a potential aspect to discover for law firms.

Andrew: “Walking them through, engaging with them, and asking questions of potential clients, and really finding out what their overall goals are, and getting all of this out and trying to identify not just, ‘Okay, well, how could I do your legal work in this narrow area,’ but ‘Let me understand your entire organization.’”

  • Part of client development is identifying the customer’s needs outside of the problem and how you can help by directing them to the right people.
  • Generating business relies on maximizing your employee’s skills.

How Productivity is Measured

  • Productivity is measured in six-minute increments. Andrew further elaborated by saying firms are much more satisfied when they collect more than the bill.
  • Other firms can have a different take on gaining profit.
  • The attitude of a practice leader matters in how a group is handled.
  • Culture is relatively important in business.

Andrew: “Once you know what your culture is — and firms actually spend a lot of time identifying what their values and their culture are — you just have to make an understanding or that's not going to be deviated from, and that includes people that are there already.”

Ways to Effect Change

  • Taking care of yourself is the best way to get effective work done.

Andrew: “If you're taking care of yourself and taking care of your health mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and you will benefit your family, you'll benefit the people that you work with but more importantly benefit yourself.”

  • Imbibing a healthy mindset is an important aspect of practicing law.

About Andrew

Andrew Wilcox is the founder and owner of Wilcox and Hackett LLC, a legal search and client development consulting firm with offices in Florida and Georgia. His firm was awarded as one of the top 100 businesses for Florida State University where he graduated from business school in 1996. 

Throughout his career, he has worked with companies and law firms. He implements a sales and client development process alongside training thousands of employees. His background in client development has paved the way for opportunities to work with a range of firms, from smaller ones to firms in the AM Law Top 5. Andrew helps place shareholders in law firms and works extensively on firm mergers to develop business plans for training partners and associates. 

If you wish to get in touch with Andrew, you may send him an email at [email protected] or call him at (850) 274-7849. 

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