A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

7 strategies for building a high performance culture

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

By Fiona Crawford, GM Human Resources, InfoTrack



‘High performance’ gets thrown around a lot these days as a new buzz word, but few businesses know what it is or how to define it. Everyone seems to be striving for it but many find it hard to articulate what exactly it means for their business. It is not as complicated as it seems – here are some simple steps to cultivate a high performance culture in your firm.

Define what high performance means for your business


High performance is something that should have a unique definition for every firm. What are your firm’s values and how do you expect your employees to fulfil them? What do you want to drive and motivate your employees? How will you define their success? Take the time to map this out – what are the characteristics you would expect from a high performance employee at your firm?

At InfoTrack, we have developed an employee value proposition defined by ‘effort over obligation’ – we expect our employees to come into work with a motivation and effort that overshadows any feeling of obligation. If employees are thinking about obligation, they’re missing out on opportunity - we are always thinking about opportunity and where it can next come from. We don’t dwell on what we are obliged to do and that’s why our workforce is brimming with ideas and innovation, and opportunities never pass us by.

Recruit the right people

Once you’ve defined what high performance means to you, you need to recruit the right people. A robust recruitment process should include clearly defined roles and expectations and be run by someone who understands your firm and its values. It should include multiple interviews with different people within your firm, and interviews should be designed to screen for high performance indicators that you are looking for. At InfoTrack, myself and our CEO take time to interview as many potential candidates as we can because we understand how important it is to our business to hire the right people.

Be transparent about your strategy

Being transparent about your firm’s strategy and goals helps foster a sense of trust and mutual understanding. The more employees understand what you’re working towards, the more enthusiastic and involved they will be. When employees can clearly see how their work is adding to the end goals of the firm as a whole they have a greater sense of purpose. At InfoTrack we have companywide update each 4 months to detail our new strategy to our employees across Australia so everyone knows what part they’re playing to reach our goals.

Don’t underestimate the importance of succession planning

Succession planning is key - be open and honest about opportunities for growth and ensure that you speak to employees about their careers and where they see themselves in the future. The clearer vision an employee has about the future of your firm and their place in it, the more dedicated and motivated they will be. It’s important to ensure there are no single points of failure to keep a business running at top performance.

Track employee engagement

Engagement occurs when employees feel an emotional connection to your firm and its goals. Employees essentially want three things; a meaningful vision of the future, a sense of purpose and great relationships. The more engaged employees feel, the more productive they are, the better service they provide and the longer they stay in their jobs. Engagement fosters a collaborative, empowered, innovative, productive and overall positive environment.

There are a number of ways to track engagement – ensuring open communication with employees along with regular reviews and opportunities for feedback is key. Having a formal system in place such as employee engagement surveys helps to hold you accountable and creates a measuring stick. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to give feedback and will feel that they are being listened to.

Seek out diversity

Diversity should be seen as a necessity in any modern firm. Employing people with a wide range of backgrounds brings a unique mix of talents, perspectives and experiences to your workforce. Having a variety of different viewpoints challenges people to think outside the box and encourages creativity and innovation. Diversity helps to ensure your firm will continue to evolve and can be a significant differentiator in today’s competitive market. It can not only help attract and retain the right employees, but also the right clients.

Recognise achievements

The power of reward and recognition should never be underestimated. Achievements of all kinds should be celebrated, from individual milestones to team and firm-wide efforts. Whether it’s a work anniversary or winning a big case, make sure employees feel acknowledged and appreciated. This doesn’t mean you have to break out the cake for every achievement, sometimes a thoughtful email will do and other times a real celebration will be in order –just make sure you take the time give kudos when they’re due.

Always remember that your employees are your most important asset; they are the face of your firm, they are the ones interacting with your clients every day and they will define your firm’s future. A high performing firm requires a high performance workforce.


About our Guest Blogger


Fiona Crawford
Fiona Crawford is GM of Human Resources at InfoTrack, proud principal partner of the 2016 ALPMA Legal Management Summit.

Fiona has been driving the strategic people agenda to keep pace with the growth at InfoTrack since September 2015. InfoTrack recently won an Australian Business Award for Employer of Choice 2016, and has also been among the Best Places to Work in Australia for 3 years running.

Fiona has a wide range of experience with over 15 years’ human resources, training and coaching across a range of industries including sport, fitness, finance, hospitality and automotive. She has operated her own HR consulting business and worked on start-up HR functions, transformational cultural change programs, mergers and acquisitions, and strategic and operational HR initiatives. Her uncompromising commitment to high performance and continual improvement stems from her sporting background - a two-time medal winning Olympian in softball (Silver 2004 and Bronze 2000).


ALPMA Member Q and A with Jane Ritchard, Finance Director - Wotton+Kearney

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

In this ALPMA Member Q&A, we interview Jane Ritchard, the Finance Director at Wotton + Kearney, ALPMA NSW Chair and recently appointed ALPMA Board Member about her inspiration, career development and experience as a leader in the NSW legal industry.

1.       What has inspired you this year?

Fortunately there have been a few things that have inspired me both professionally and personally this year.  It actually feels like it's been a particularly tough year for many; I've heard quite a few people saying they are looking forward to this year finishing and hoping 2017 will be a better one.  

Professionally, my biggest inspiration this year has been watching the firm continue to grow and mature.  It's been great to be part of a management team that is helping guide the firm through its journey of development and change.  We turn fifteen early next year, which is a great milestone.   The firm is always looking for ways to improve and innovate.

The corporate social responsibility programme at Wotton + Kearney is a real source of inspiration for me.  We choose a new charity to support and partner with every year.  This year it's been So They Can.  They do amazing work in Africa; providing education and housing to try to break the poverty cycle.  There were some great fund raising events during the year, including some of the team going to Kenya to see the programmes on the ground and to run a half marathon in the Masai Mara.  We're partnering with OzHarvest in 2017 which I'm very much looking forward to.  The concept of reusing perfectly good food (that would otherwise have found itself in landfill) for people in need, is so elegantly simple and effective.

On a somewhat micro level and specifically in my area of the business, I'm excited about going paperless in our accounts payable process.  It might not sound like a big thing, but will make a huge difference both to my team and the wider business.  We'll be able to process accounts payable invoices more quickly - without printing anything out and have approval done through online workflows.  That means there won't be any more lost bits of paper, we won't have to file paper invoices and we won't have to archive them and pay for storage for seven years.  

Personally, I've been inspired by the amazing Australian track cyclist Anna Meares.  She announced her retirement a little while ago, after an extraordinary career as our most successful cyclist.  Anna came back from a potentially life threatening accident in a race in 2008.  She went on to win more medals and set more records.  What an awesome role model.

 2.       How did you become the Finance Director at Wotton+Kearney?


Interestingly it was through ALPMA!  I was approached about the position by a colleague that I knew through the NSW committee.  So many roles at this level are filled through network contacts, rather than through more traditional recruitment channels.  

3.       What do you think is the biggest issue facing senior finance professionals in law 

I think the biggest issue we face is keeping up with the pace of technological change.  We need to make sure that we have the best technology; to ensure our finance teams can give fast, reliable and relevant information to the business.  That includes practice management, business intelligence and other ancillary systems (such as expense management, budgeting and accounts payable systems).  We have to make sure that our systems allow everyone in the business to perform the financial aspects of their roles with the least amount of effort.   It can be challenging to build the business case that asks for the commitment of time and resources to implement new or upgraded software.  We are all competing with our IT, HR and BD colleagues for finite funds allocated to technological investment.

It can also be interesting trying to work out what is best for our firms.  We all have subtly different businesses, so what may work really well for one firm, might not be the best for our firms.   Then, once we've worked out what we need, it's important to set up the best resourcing for the project team.  It's very rare to find anyone with much excess capacity in a finance team; so it becomes a juggling act to keep the wheels turning on normal operations whilst an implementation is underway.

4.       What do you think the big challenge for law firms will be in 2017?

For a long time we've been hearing that the ball is firmly in our clients' court when it comes to the provision of legal services.  I think that's certainly the case and I can't see that changing in the short term.  Our clients are becoming more sophisticated in the way they  run their procurement processes and are demanding more for less.  Coming up with appropriate fee arrangements continues to challenge our ingenuity. It's also difficult trying to work out where the next possible disruption may come from.  Sometimes we won't know what it looks like until it's here, so it's tricky to plan for that kind of eventuality.  The challenge is to stay nimble; to be able to respond quickly to threats to our business models.

5.       How has your ALPMA membership contributed to your professional development?


Being an ALPMA member has made my life as a finance professional in the legal industry so much easier.  It has contributed to my professional development in so many ways.  Initially, it provided me with great networking opportunities; giving me access to people who could answer the questions I had about how things worked in law from a financial perspective.  Once I was settled in, I went to the regular lunch time practice management seminars and the annual Summit which helped me learn more about the legal industry as a whole.  I've developed a deeper understanding about the HR, IT and BD aspects of our industry along the way.  It's been great to be able to give back to the ALPMA community by being involved with both the NSW committee and more recently the ALPMA Board.

Editor's Note


Watch the video learn more about Jane's experiences as an ALPMA member.  

If you are inspired by Jane's story and are considering joining the ALPMA community, now is a great time to get on-board.  From 1 December, membership until 30 June, 2017 is just $250 (ex GST) if are a law firm leader or manager working in an Australian capital city - even less if you are based in a region, live in New Zealand or your firm supports multiple members.  

Learn more about becoming a member.  


About our Guest Blogger

Jane RitchardJane Ritchard has nearly 30 years’ experience as an accounting professional. Jane is the Finance Director at Wotton + Kearney, a specialist insurance law firm.  She has also worked in senior finance roles at Curwood Lawyers and Clayton Utz. 

Prior to this, when not travelling, working in the UK or doing contract work, Jane spent 12 years working on and off at Deloitte, progressing from office junior to auditor, to small business practitioner and then to internal finance manager and consultant. 

She is member of the ALPMA Board and Chair of the ALPMA NSW Committee. 






Forging new ground requires a commitment to technology

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

By Jacqueline Keddie, Business Manager, Nexus Law Group


Developing a business in unchartered territory can be a little daunting – there are no rules to follow, no paths that have already been forged. The success or failure of an innovative business often comes down to a commitment to investing in technology.

When Nexus Law Group was first established we knew we had a great idea. But great ideas don’t translate to success, unless you can put in place the infrastructure required to make them work. Traditional law firms have their pick of practice management software. Nexus did not.

As a dispersed (embedded contractor) law firm, cutting a path in the ‘NewLaw’ space we had to create everything from scratch. Frankly, it hasn’t been easy.

It was out of necessity that the OpenLaw system was born - a unique practice management and remuneration system that connects independent senior specialist lawyers, allowing them to work together seamlessly and operate as a unified firm, fully supported and resourced by a central office hub. This innovative initiative was recently recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards.


To create such a system and address the challenges identified, we invested heavily in the customisation of a new, cloud-based practice management software from New Zealand, the only software available internationally that allowed for extensive practice based customisation.

The software was revised to build a silo structure that allows independent lawyers to work in isolation or together in matter based teams when needed. It also allowed the formation of group based precedents systems, knowledge banks, billing systems and customised report building.

Beauty in simplicity

The power of the OpenLaw system is beautiful in its simplicity, when you seamlessly connect a pool of independent senior skill (as opposed to a pool of leveraged employees) and deliver to the market in this fashion, not only do previously discontented lawyers become highly engaged with far better remuneration benchmarks, you have a strong platform to compete with large national firms on their own turf. At the same time, through the low overhead structure, clients benefit from a direct access model and flexibility of service and pricing options and less relative fees. 

The rapidly growing Nexus team has been working with OpenLaw for several years and in the last 12 months we have been working hard to bring OpenLaw to market. This means that other dispersed law firms don’t have to start from scratch, like we did. As the saying goes – why reinvent the wheel?!

Introducing OpenLaw to the marketplace has significant potential to shift the industry as a whole to the Nexus style of practice, which is arguably better than traditionally structured firms for both lawyers and clients on a number of levels and, for once, represents truly positive industry disruption.

A new category of legal practice


Whilst others have focused on marketing strategies masquerading as ‘NewLaw’, with the OpenLaw system, Nexus has quietly been restructuring the law firm itself, creating an entirely new category of practice for lawyers.

The fixed remuneration model of OpenLaw emulates the incentive of a partnership without the need to be in an actual (outdated) partnership structure. This unique and innovative, solution enables independent practitioners to truly operate together as a unified law firm without the competitive tension that would otherwise exist.

The structure allows otherwise disconnected expertise to come together under one service platform, allowing effective competition with traditional ‘BigLaw’ firms, and providing a real practice alternative in a market sitting between the large firm model and sole practice, combining the best aspects of both worlds without the deficiencies of either (practice freedom with large firm resources and collegiate support).

With the low overhead OpenLaw model, we connect clients directly with some of the best lawyers in the industry - at up to half the cost of engaging the same lawyers in their former traditionally structured large firms. It is, in essence, an extremely efficient specialist lawyer delivery system for corporate clientele and we believe, the best option for the practice of modern law.

We believe that unless something produces a positive evolution for all participants in the legal process, then it does not represent true innovation. With this in mind, I know that Nexus is a true innovator and an industry disrupter with a difference.

Using OpenLaw, I am proud to say that we are now operating successfully in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia, with its growth increasing exponentially across Australia.


About our Guest Blogger


Jacqueline KeddieJacqui is a Nexus Law Group’s Business Manager. Having practiced as a lawyer for many years before entering the world of legal recruitment, Jacqui is uniquely placed to understand why it is so important to help lawyers structure their career and realise their professional and personal aspirations and, hence, why alternate practice models are so critical to the profession. It was this understanding which led her to join Nexus where she now works with a wonderful team striving to make a difference within the legal industry.

Nexus Law Group has inverted the traditional law firm structure to reflect modern practice needs. It offers lawyers are more rewarding practice environment and clients a more efficient and cost effective service delivery.

Its unique OpenLaw practice model, based on cloud based software, is specifically designed to join together a collective of senior legal experts under a single, unified practice platform, enabling it to deliver high-end, specialist expertise under a ‘direct access model’. The system incentivises effective collaboration between experts, which results in better outcomes for clients.

The 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards were presented at the recent ALPMA Summit Gala dinner at the Medallion Club, Etihad Stadium.


An innovative approach to flexible working

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

By Catherine Dunlop, Partner, Maddocks 


Law firms have long struggled with the issue of high turnover rates of its employees.

This stems from a combination of intense competition for talent, the demands made of lawyers, the increasing reluctance of younger lawyers to stay at the one firm for their career and the difficulties that many lawyers have in advancing their careers while accommodating the needs of their families.

In a bid to tackle these issues, the Maddocks Employment, Safety & People (ES&P) team formally started an initiative during FY15-16 to successfully improve its flexible working arrangements. The objective was to retain the talent of our staff by improving their access to a sustainable work-life balance and to actively manage how flexible work occurred in the team. 

Our team's innovative approach to flexible working was recognised when it was selected as the winner of the 2016 ALPMA/Lexis Nexis Thought Leadership Awards at the 2016 ALPMA Summit Gala Dinner at the Medallion Club, Etihad Stadium, Melbourne last week, ahead of finalists Hall & Wilcox, Bytherules Conveyancing and the Nexus Law Group.

Changing infrastructure and culture

To make this initiative successful, the Melbourne ES&P team made a number of significant changes to its infrastructure and culture.

We adapted our policies to ensure flexible working arrangements were accessible and transparent to the entire team.

We introduced a flexibility committee, which met regularly to discuss issues and suggestions for improvement. The team realised that it wasn’t enough to simply ‘allow’ people to work flexibly and that a genuine commitment to ‘encourage’ people to work flexibly while having a rewarding career was a way to keep all in the team engaged and happy at work.

We made two guides for staff. One is a one-page guide on preferences and availability of our team members working flexibly. The second is a more detailed guide on what best suits people based on their availability when out of the office. These guides are intended to maximise their time out of the office, so they don’t feel they need to spend their day tied to their phone and computer, but still keeps them available for client matters and urgent calls. Having these guides allows for transparency about when people are in the office, what suits them and when. It is particularly important for those with carer responsibilities, so that they can genuinely prioritise their time when they are away from work.

Removing barriers to change

To support this initiative, the team have also tackled other issues, which we believed may have posed a barrier to change. This included changing our model of work from time spent in the office to the tangible work achieved. We have also created quality control policies for work handovers, to ensure work is completed on time and there is no competition amongst staff or decrease in quality. We are ensuring the right coverage is available and they have implemented procedures to ensure clear and transparent communications around work responsibilities.

The team implemented formal one-to-one review arrangements for all staff, whether they worked flexibly or not, to see how they were finding the initiative. Staff were invited to talk about how they were working, if they had carer issues, and if they would like the opportunity to work flexibly. This also provided an opportunity for everyone to voice any issues that may have arisen out of other people working flexibly in the team, in a safe, confidential environment.

While the initiative sought to change the infrastructure for existing work practices, the team acknowledged that making a small change in someone’s availability can make a big difference to them and the people in their personal lives. One of the softer aspects of this initiative was to encourage and support everyone to take advantage of flexible working, even if they didn’t need to.

One male lawyer made a small adjustment to his hours so he could drop his child off at school one day a week and come in late. Similarly, one of the senior male partners made a preference to leave early once a week so he could cook dinner for his family on a designated night. Because this was formally acknowledged by a flexible working policy, it made people want to help him. Staff junior to him often encouraged him to leave early because they knew that Tuesday night was his night with his kids.

While this is a nice example of the soft benefits of this initiative, it demonstrates how adopting small changes affected the teams overall cohesion and comradery.

Leading from the top

The leadership shown by the team’s three Melbourne partners has also played a large role in the successful implementation of this initiative. Two out of three partners in the ES&P team have led by example, and work four days a week. We have also encouraged staff to have an email footer and an out of office that clearly indicates their availability. This has normalised flexible working practices and allows for the different arrangements people have on their days out of the office. 

As one partner describes it: 

‘We don’t have people sneaking out of the office and leaving their jacket draped over their chair as if they are still at work. All too often it is easy for people working flexibly to (mistakenly) feel guilty. We wanted to change that mindset and celebrate it.’


The results

Of the 28 people in the team, 13 of those are now working flexibly. This includes two partners, two special counsel, one senior associate, one associate, four team admins and one practice support lawyer. We also now have a male lawyer, who has child care responsibilities, working a nine-day fortnight to support his wife returning to full-time work. We have two job share arrangements.

More importantly, our employees are now thinking strategically about their work-life options within the firm and there is greater awareness of the options available to them, should they need it.

This initiative has led to immediate results.

The most striking is that not one lawyer has left the team in order to take a role either in-house or at a contracting firm (where the demands on a lawyer’s time can be less than those at a large law firm) and the ES&P team has recently seen a 100% success rate of women coming back from parental leave.

Our people are working from home, and from our clients' offices. Clear communication channels exist between staff and there is greater transparency around, and accessibility to, flexible working options. Flexible working is no longer perceived within the team as exclusively for women returning from parental leave.

Offering flexible work arrangements has allowed the firm to create a culture where people feel their skills and knowledge are valued over their availability. Our staff are encouraged to peruse meaningful and enjoyable lives both inside and outside work, without worrying about one taking priority over another. This in turn has seen our staff come to work happier, healthier and more productive.

The benefits of this initiative have helped us build stronger relationships with our clients. Many of our clients are senior in-house lawyers who work flexibly themselves. Recognising their work arrangements through our own experiences demonstrates to clients that our firm's values match their own. Lawyers who now work flexibly are able to better understand and adapt to the availability requirements of their clients, which has fostered greater trust and respect between clients and lawyers.

The successful implementation of this initiative has changed the culture of flexible working in our firm. Our lawyers know that working flexibly will not stop their career advancement and they are still encouraged to take on challenging and rewarding work.

Editor's Note:

Interested readers can learn more about Maddock's innovative approach to flexible working arrangements reading the media release announcing their win "Flexible working is the new normal in law" or by watching the video below:

WATCH VIDEO

 

About our Guest Blogger

Catherine DunlopCatherine Dunlop is a partner in the Maddocks Employment People & Safety Team and was the practice team leader of the Melbourne ESP Team in 2015-6. Catherine practices in work health and safety, inquests and inquiries, and safety and discrimination related employment matters including bullying. Catherine has acted in a number of high profile safety prosecutions and inquests and inquiries in Melbourne and Canberra. She was named Best Lawyers/Australian Financial Review’s Lawyer of the Year in OHS for Melbourne for 2017.

Catherine has a particular interest in flexible work arrangements and helps clients manage the challenges and opportunities of such arrangements. She enjoys mentoring younger lawyers and staff at Maddocks, particularly when they are returning from parental leave and/or are considering flexible work arrangements themselves. Catherine works 4 days a week at work most weeks and has a three year old son who keeps her busy the rest of her time.




Replacing the Annual Appraisal Agony

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

By Ron Baker, Founder, VeraSage Institute 


Appraisal is not the system that drives pay, careers, and status; it is an incidental effect of those dynamic systems. Appraisal is primarily the paper-shuffling that sanctifies decisions already made.  ––Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins, Abolishing Performance Appraisals

Human capital determines the performance capacity of any organisation. Today’s knowledge workers, unlike the factory workers of the Industrial Revolution, own the means of production. Ultimately, knowledge workers are volunteers, since whether they return to work is completely based on their volition.

Consequently, it is difficult to understand the continued reliance on the “annual agony”—the performance-appraisal apparatus. According to Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins, in their seminal book Abolishing Performance Appraisals, over 50 years of academic studies reveal scant empirical evidence of the effectiveness of performance appraisals at actually improving performance.

Despite these facts, firms cling to it an uninformed belief that there is no suitable replacement. Where did this ritual come from?

The Origins of Performance Appraisals


The modern antecedent of the appraisal process was explained by Peter Drucker in his book, The Effective Executive:

“Appraisals, as they are now being used in the great majority of organisations, were designed by the clinical and abnormal psychologists for their own purposes. He is legitimately concerned with what is wrong, rather than with what is right with the patient. The clinical psychologist or the abnormal psychologist, therefore, very properly looks upon appraisals as a process of diagnosing the weaknesses of a man.”

The appraisal tends to focus on weaknesses, not strengths—what psychologists call the “presenting problem.” But good leaders—like good coaches—design performance processes and tasks around a person’s strengths, and ignore—or make irrelevant—their weaknesses.

Deleterious Effects of Performance Appraisals


Performance appraisals have become, to borrow a term from the medical profession, an iatrogenic illness—that is, a disease caused by the doctor. An estimated ten percent of all hospital patients suffer from this type of disease. We need to apply the Hippocratic principle of primum non nocere (“first, do no harm”) to the performance appraisal process.

The following are some of the more serious negative effects of the performance appraisal (PA):

  • PAs are counterproductive to “driving out fear,” the one emotion that Dr. Edwards Deming believed needed to be eliminated to improve human performance;
  • PAs focus on the weaknesses of the worker rather than his or her strengths;
  • Learning is overshadowed by the evaluation and judgment inherent in the PA;
  • Even if PAs convey both strengths and weaknesses, it is human nature for negative feedback to drown out positive feedback;
  • Effective feedback should occur as needed, not on an arbitrary date on a calendar;
  • PAs are a symbol of a paternalistic boss-subordinate relationship based on command and control rather than the knowledge worker being responsible for his or her own development;
  • PAs impose a one-size-fits-all approach that impedes relevant, authentic feedback to different individuals;
  • Too much “noise” surrounds the PA process: discipline or termination, pay raises, bonuses, promotions, and the like, lessening the focus on performance improvement;
  • Ranking people against each other does not help them do a better job. Ranking people, also, by definition, creates “bottom performers,” regardless of the absolute value of their work;
  • PAs devote far too much scarce leadership attention to underperforming employees rather than top performers;
  • PAs are extremely costly to administer relative to their meagre benefits;
  • PAs provide no effective method for holding people accountable for future results, since they focus on the past;
  • Any self-acknowledged weakness by a team member can be used against them, deterring learning and self-development;
  • PAs confuse delivering effective feedback with filling out bureaucratic forms and check-the-box administrative activities that have no connection to strategic purpose or value creation;
  • PAs reinforce a requirement for human-resources departments to keep KGB-like dossiers on team members;
  • PAs create a false impression that a scientific and objective process is being applied to measure individual performance. Yet all PAs, in the final analysis, are subjective and based on judgment;
  • PAs obscure the fact that a firm is an interdependent system, and what matters is the performance of the whole, which is not merely the sum of its components;
  • PAs provide the illusion of protection from lawsuits and allegations of wrongful termination, when in fact they rarely offer that protection—and often backfire in litigation.
  • According to author Daniel Pink in “Think Tank: Fix the workplace, not the workers” (November 6, 2010), “Performance reviews are rarely authentic conversations. More often, they are the West’s form of kabuki theatre—highly stylized rituals in which people recite predictable lines in a formulaic way and hope the experience ends very quickly.”

Replacing the Performance Appraisal


It is time to move to a model where courage is valued over caution, and command and control is replaced with connect and cultivate. Ultimately, it is the intensity of interactions with intelligent people, along with great ideas, that attracts and develops talent—not the efficiency of a firm’s administrative processes.

Three strategic resources replace the performance appraisal system:

  • Key Predictive Indicators for Knowledge Workers
  •  The Manager’s Letter
  • After-Action Reviews

Key Predictive Indicators for Knowledge Workers


A critical distinction is being made between a key performance indicator and a key predictive indicator. The former is merely a measurement—such as the number of patents filed, or new clients—but lacks a falsifiable theory. The latter, by contrast, is a measurement, or judgment, guided by a theory, which can be tested and refined, in order to explain, prescribe, or predict. It is the search for cause and effect.

Knowledge work is not defined by quantity, but quality; not by its costs, but results. The traditional tools of measurement need to be replaced by judgment. And there is a difference between a measurement and a judgment: a measurement requires only a scale; a judgment requires wisdom.

So many firm leaders worry that if they get rid of objective measures, they will introduce subjective bias into the decision-making process. So what? To get rid of bias we would have to give up emotions and discernment, which is too high a price to pay. Neurologist Antonio Damasio has studied brain-damaged patients, demonstrating that without emotion it is impossible to make decisions.

Admittedly, the following KPIs raise rather than answer questions, but at least they raise the right questions. Better to be approximately relevant rather than precisely irrelevant. Enlightened organisations allow their team members to decide which of the following KPIs are most important to track and develop.

Client Feedback


What are the customers saying—good and bad—about the team member? Would you trade some efficiency for a team member who was absolutely loved by your customers? How does the firm solicit feedback from its customers on team-member performance?


Effective Listening and Communication Skills


It is easier to teach reading and writing, which are solitary undertakings, than to teach listening and speaking, which always involve human interactions. But how do you measure listening and communication skills?

Risk Taking, Innovation, and Creativity


How often do employees take risks or innovate new ways of doing things for customers or the company? Do they engage in creative thinking in approaching their work?

Knowledge Elicitation


Aristotle said, “Teaching is the highest form of understanding.” Knowledge elicitation is the process of assisting others to generate their own knowledge. Note that this encompasses more than simply learning new things; it involves educating others so that they are able to generate their own knowledge.

One of the most effective techniques for knowledge workers to learn any subject—especially at a very deep level—is to teach it. How often do the team members facilitate a “lunch and learn” about an article or book they have read or seminar they have attended? How good are they at educating their customers and colleagues?

Continuous Learning


What do team members know this year that they did not know last year that makes them more valuable? This is more than simply logging hours in educational courses; it would actually require an attempt to judge what they learned. How many books have they read this year? More important, what did they learn from them?

One of the objections we hear to investing more in people’s education is “they will leave, and possibly become an even stronger competitor.” This is no doubt true, although a company faces the risk of their leaving anyway. But what if you do not invest in their education and they stay?

Effective Delegator


Peter Drucker believed that up to one-quarter of the demands on an executive’s time could be consigned to the wastebasket without anyone noticing. Does your organisation encourage its knowledge workers to become effective delegators?

Pride, Passion, Attitude, and Commitment


If you thought some of these other KPIs were hard to measure, how would you measure pride? Although not a substitute for actual talent, pride in one’s work, customers, colleagues, employer, and values are critical to operate with passion and commitment.

High-Satisfaction Day


I am indebted to John Heymann, CEO, and his Team at NewLevel Group, a consulting firm located in Napa, California, for this KPI. An HSD is one of those days that convinces you, beyond doubt, why you do what you do. It could mean landing a new customer, achieving a breakthrough on an existing project, or receiving a heartfelt thank-you from a customer. Sound touchy-feely? John admits that it is. But he also says that the number of HSDs logged into the firm’s calendar is a leading indicator—and a barometer—of his firm’s morale, culture, and profitability.

We can’t measure a doctor’s beside manner—it has to be experienced. Efficiency metrics cannot count all the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment that employees decide not to contribute.


The Manager’s Letter


Another practical suggestion to hold people accountable for their future contribution is what Peter Drucker called the manager’s letter, as explained in John Flaherty’s book, Peter Drucker: Shaping the Managerial Mind:

[Setting objectives] is so important that some of the most effective managers I know go one step further. They have each of their subordinates write a “manager’s letter” twice a year. In this letter to his superior, each manager first defines the objectives of his superior’s job and of his own job as he sees them. He then sets down the performance standards that he believes are being applied to him. Next, he lists the things he must do himself to attain these goals––and the things within his own unit he considers the major obstacles. He lists the things his superior and the company do that help him and the things that hamper him. Finally, he outlines what he proposes to do during the next year to reach his goals. If his superior accepts this statement, the “manager’s letter” becomes the charter under which the manager operates.

Procter & Gamble utilizes what it calls the Work and Development Plan, in lieu of performance appraisals, which lays out the work to be achieved in the upcoming year, how it links to the business plan, the measures and timing for success, and expected results.

What makes the manager’s letter so valuable is its focus on opportunities, results, output, and value, rather than problems, inputs, costs, and activities. Performance appraisals can only report on the past, revealing problems, never opportunities.

After-Action Reviews (AARs)



The U.S. Army’s use of AARs began in 1973, not as a knowledge-management tool but as a method to restore the values, integrity, and accountability that had diminished during the Vietnam War.

Reflection without action is passive, but action without reflection is thoughtlessness. Combine experience with reflection, and learning that lasts is the result. What percent of your firm’s time is devoted to improving the work, not just doing the work?

The objective is not just to correct things, but to correct thinking, as the Army has learned that flawed assumptions are the largest factor in flawed execution.

But perfectionist cultures, however, resist this type of candid introspection, as they tend to be intolerant of errors, and they associate mistakes with career risk, not continuous learning. The medical world has an appropriate axiom for mistakes made: forgive and remember. AARs should not be used for promotions, salary increases, or performance appraisals.

Confronting People with Their Freedom


You can’t keep on doing things the old way and still get the benefits of the new way.  ––Thomas Sowell

Because knowledge workers are volunteers, we could learn a lot from the not-for-profit sector. They know how to leverage people’s gifts, whereas performance appraisals are more concerned with people’s weaknesses.

Management thinker Charles Handy has spent his career arguing that organisations are living communities of individuals, not machines. He offers a splendid metaphor in his autobiography, Myself and Other More Important Matters, which I believe is applicable to knowledge workers and the performance appraisal process: the theater.

“There’s no talk of “human resources,” everyone is listed on the playbill, and managers are for things (stage, lighting, etc.), not people. The talent is directed, not managed, by someone who departs after the project commences. The audience feedback is immediate, not one year after the performance.”

Author and consultant Peter Block says, “The real task of leadership is to confront people with their freedom.” Performance appraisals inhibit autonomy and responsibility; they are the buggy whip of the knowledge era—an example of yesterday holding tomorrow hostage. Do we have the courage to replace such an ineffective process?

Performance appraisals are, after all, an iatrogenic illness, which means: physician, heal thyself.


Editor's Note

ALPMA Summit


Ron Baker is the inspirational and challenging Master of Ceremonies for the 2016 ALPMA Summit ‘A Blueprint for Change’ held from 7 – 9 September at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, together with ALPMA Life Member and CEO of Coleman Greig Lawyers, Warrick McLean. Ron is also chairing a panel session on ‘Reinventing Performance Management’ which also features Jane Lewis, HR Director at Allens and Stephanie Beard, HR Manager, Harwood Andrews Lawyers, and helping delegates pull together the key take-aways from Summit in the final session “Creating Your Blueprint for Change”.


About our Guest blogger


Ron BakerRonald J. Baker started his CPA career in 1984 with KPMG’s Private Business Advisory Services in San Francisco. Today, he is the founder of VeraSage Institute—the leading think tank dedicated to educating professionals internationally—and a radio talk-show host on the www.VoiceAmerica.com show: The Soul of Enterprise: Business in the Knowledge Economy.

As a frequent speaker, writer, and educator, his work takes him around the world. He has been an instructor with the California CPA Education Foundation since 1995 and has authored fifteen courses for them, including: You Are What You Charge For: Success in Today’s Emerging Experience Economy (with Daniel Morris); Alternatives to the Federal Income Tax; Trashing the Timesheet: A Declaration of Independence; Everyday Economics; Everyday Ethics: Doing Well by Doing Good; and The Best Business Books You Should Read.




The How-to and Science of Optimism

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

By Dr Bob Murray, Principal, Fortinberry Murray

Gosh the world is a terrible place! Law firms are losing money, partners are in danger of being laid off, and digitisation, offshoring and in-housing are decimating the ranks of support staff. And on top of all that the world is over-populated, inequality is rampant, the natural world is ravaged and jobs are getting scarcer. Populist strong men (or women) and ideologues are either running countries or running for the top jobs. I could go on—it can get worse. No wonder the rates of pessimism and depression are on the increase.

Being pessimistic has even become fashionable. It wins votes, people can relate to it. But the extent of it in today’s environment is damaging. Pessimism about people’s individual and social future is behind many, if not most, of the terrorist attacks and the failure of some pretty big law firms. It also contributes to the rising stress levels and the pandemic of mood disorders in the workplace generally and in law firms in particular.

The problem is, of course, that effective strategic planning, BD and a whole range of other things in the business of law depend on a healthy and realistic optimism for optimal success.

But it’s possible to create an optimistic team, an optimistic firm, as well as an optimistic family, even while recognising that the larger picture of the world as a whole is not that cheerful. It’s that kind of limited, but very useful, optimism that I want to outline here.

The science of optimism

Let me start with a bit of science—I am, after all, a scientist (both a behavioural neurogeneticist and a clinical psychologist if you must know). 

Human beings are born optimistic. Young children are generally incredibly optimistic. Like self-esteem, life satisfaction and other individual attributes, optimism is in our genes. However life experience teaches us to taper this optimism with a degree of realism, or even pessimism. Also not everybody is born with the same genetic balance: some of us are naturally more optimistic or pessimistic than others. The profession of law seems both to attract and engender pessimists. But the general rule still applies—even lawyers were born optimistic.

One of the other things that we now know about optimism is that it is both contextual and catching. In fact pessimism and optimism are both highly contagious. If you surround yourself with optimistic (or pessimistic) people you will almost inevitably catch their mood. Some researchers say that since you choose the people you surround yourself with, perhaps your level of optimism or pessimism is also a matter of choice.  However if you are in a pessimistic profession, that choice might not always be possible.

We have also found out over the last few years that stress, particularly workplace stress, is an optimism killer. Yet, according to research conducted five years ago by the futurist think-tank the Hudson Institute in the US, workstress was projected to increase by 200 percent between then and 2020.

The good news revealed by science is that with a few rather simple changes we can enormously reduce the level of workplace stress.

How can you increase optimism in your team?

Okay, so what can a law-leader do now to increase the level of optimism in his or her team or his or her firm?

There are five necessities for the successful creation of an optimistic team or firm and they can be conveniently remembered by the acronym PACTS. My partner, Dr Alicia Fortinberry, and I came up with these as a result of our research into optimism and the resulting programs for the public we ran at the University of South Florida. We published our findings in our book Creating Optimism (McGraw-Hill, 2005). Since then we have successfully helped many firms and corporations create optimistic forward- looking teams

Not surprisingly PACTS holds true for families as well. They are the basis on which all well-adjusted children are brought up.

PACTS stands for:

  • Purpose: To be optimistic we need to feel that our work has a socially meaningful purpose. If we’re just in it for the money we may just get more pessimistic.
  • Autonomy: We need to feel that we have a measure of control over our working conditions.
  • Collegiality: We need to feel that we are part of a small mutually supportive group.
  • Trust: If we don’t trust those we work for and with only pessimism is possible.
  • Strengths: A culture of effective praise and looking for what people do well is essential to an optimistic team or firm.ix

A leader who is able to get all of these right will create a team, or firm, which will outshine and outcompete all the others. 

Editor's Note 


Interested in learning more on how to build optimism at your firm?  Dr Bob Murray is a keynote speaker at the 2016 ALPMA Summit 'A Blueprint for Change' which will be held at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne from September 7 - 9.  His fun-filled and lively presentation "Building Optimistic Teams and Firms" will guide you through the steps that will lead to optimism and resilience in individuals, teams and firms. 

Early bird registration closes at midnight tonight so register now to secure great savings on your 2016 ALPMA Summit registration!




About our Guest Blogger


Dr Bob MurrayDr Bob Murray is an internationally recognised corporate consultant with over 20 years’ experience. He has worked for a wide variety of major and mid-sized Australian professional service firms and Global 500 corporations. Clients include premier Australian and overseas law firms such as Allens Linklaters, Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills, K & L Gates and other top tier companies such as KPMG, Macquarie Bank, PwC, Ford, Caterpillar, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, BHP Billiton, Wesfarmers and Stockland.

He is also a noted scientist in the field of behavioural neurogenetics, having won the prestigious 2012 American Science Achievement Award for his work on personality and motivation. He is regularly interviewed on TV and radio and is quoted in such newspapers and magazines as The Sydney Morning Herald, the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, The Australian and Time Magazine (which ran a feature article about him and his work).

As well as the above he has worked for Hill Samuel Bank in the UK in the area of mergers and corporate restructuring for which he was made a Fellow of the British Institute of Management.

Bob has an MBA as well as a PhD in clinical psychology. He coaches CEOs and corporate and firm leaders in Australia, China, the US and Britain. As an ex-actor, he is an entertaining and inspiring speaker as well as being deeply knowledgeable in his field.  He was voted 'Best Speaker' at the 2015 ALPMA Summit.



The prioritisation crisis in BigLaw business model firms

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

By Dr George Beaton, Partner, beaton 


In some ways I wish I had read Zone to Win: Organizing to Compete in an Age of Disruption, Geoffrey Moore’s most recent book (2015) while researching the content for my new book Remaking Law Firms: Why & How, co-authored with Dr Imme Kaschner.

On the other hand, it’s pleasing to have come to much the same conclusions as Moore about the urgency in resolving the prioritisation crisis, in our case the crisis faced by BigLaw business model firms. Chapter One of Moore’s book is titled 'A Crisis in Prioritization'. His first paragraph is masterful in succinctly capturing the essence the crisis, which applies as much to BigLaw firms, as it does to all businesses.

“What makes a modern business different? Simply put, speed plus disruption. Wave after wave of next generation technology is continually transforming the landscape of business, both inside the tech sector, where new offers are germinated, and everywhere else outside it (emphasis added), where they are largely consumed.

“This results in two imperatives for any established enterprise (in other words 99.9% of law firms built on the BigLaw business model – click here for an explanation of the BigLaw business model and its implications). In markets where you want to be the disruptor, where you want to play offense, you must catch the next wave. At the same time, in those markets where your current franchise is the incumbent and myself under disruptive attack, you have to play defense in order to prevent the next wave from catching you.”


Which way should BigLaw firms be looking to resolve the prioritisation crisis?


In the first instance, for the vast majority of firms, the answer is to play defence, that is avoid being swamped in the tsunami of change. I say this because incumbent law firms are risk-averse partnerships with no balance sheets, at least to speak of. This means the first priority is to survive in ways that assure their continued capacity to serve clients profitably.

My colleagues and I, as well as a growing number of others, Bruce MacEwen for example, have documented the reasons the environment of BigLaw is now an irreversible buyers’ market – see this post for an explanation. As little as a decade ago, all forces affecting the ability of law firms to extract superior profits for their work were benign, i.e. it was a sellers’ market. Now the there is hyper-competition, substitutes are growing in number, types and influence, clients’ have the power in setting prices, and lawyers willing to work in the tournament for partnership are becoming fewer and fewer.

Job #1: Remake your firm


We interviewed 40 people around the world in researching our forthcoming book. One of these is Stuart Fuller, Global Managing Partner of King & Wood Mallesons. Stuart used a memorable metaphor in explaining the challenge of preventing the next wave from catching you. Here’s an extract of what he said: “We are rebuilding it (the business model of King & Wood Mallesons) as we speak. I like to use an aero plane analogy; it’s like rebuilding a 787 mid-flight as we continue to fly the plane and that creates challenges”.

So it’s not just the media, advertising, travel, hospitality, retail, automotive and transport industries that are being disrupted by Netflix, Google, Airbnb, Amazon, Uber and Tesla. It’s law too with Axiom, IBM’s Watson, Riverview Law, and Neota Logic – to name just a few of the 100s of substitutes for law firms and lawyers.

Substitutes are not always competitors. Many are also complements for those firms that see the opportunity and grasp it. For example, read this article ‘An industrial revolution is coming to law‘ by Michael Mills. And this analysis I wrote last year ‘10 reasons BigLaw managing partners are not sleeping very well‘ setting out the opportunities and threats.

How much time do BigLaw firms have?


For globalising firms, Stuart Fuller suggested it was no more than five years in our interview, positing that there were only 15-20 firms likely to achieve leading global status and scale. 

For BigLaw firms taken as an industry, I think the answer is ‘It depends on what your expect to achieve before your firm is severely affected’. By ‘severely affected‘ I mean a halving or more of the profit per point of equity that the firm currently enjoys. The reasons for this assertion that profits are likely to halve in the majority of firms are set out in my September 2012 post ‘PPEP levels are doomed without re-invention‘ (note the year this was written!).

The realpolitik prioritisation crisis for BigLaw


This is how I see the realpolitik prioritisation crisis for BigLaw. Changing a firm’s business (aka operating) model is not hard in theory. Yes, it’s a massive task, but the real challenge is managing the investment required. As Moore puts it on page 25 “Not only is this going to be expensive to undertake, but also the ROI will come entitle out years, making a highly unattractive dent in the current years’ performance“.

There’s the rub for firms whose partners expect every feasible dollar of profit (and sometimes more) to be distributed every year. That means virtually every firm, with a handful of notable exceptions.

Some BigLaw firms are showing the way


It’s not that all BigLaw firms are sitting on their hands and waiting for the tsunami. Thankfully there are publicly acknowledged pathfinders such as Seyfarth Shaw, Allen & Overy and Gowlings WLG.  And there are perhaps less well-publicised examples of smaller firms, ranging from Inksters (Scotland) to Valorem (Chicago) to Hive Legal, McInnes Wilson and more in Australia.

The prioritisation crisis in BigLaw firms can be avoided. It takes an acute understanding of the environment, clarity of vision, leadership, and change management competence.

Editor's Note

Interested in learning more? Dr George Beaton is a keynote speaker at the 2016 ALPMA Summit, 'A Blueprint for Change' which will be held at Etihad Stadium, Melbourne from 7 - 9 September. His presentation, 'Why it's time to remake your firm's business model' will elaborate on this theme and provide compelling insight on how to tackle this challenge.

Register now for fantastic early bird savings!


About our Guest Blogger


George BeatonDr George Beaton is a partner in beaton.  George is a Senior Fellow, Melbourne Law School in the University of Melbourne. His book, “Remaking Law Firms:Why and How" was published by the American Bar Association in March 2016.

Dr George Beaton has guided clients through a wide variety of strategic decisions in his 25 years as an advisor and consultant. Today his practice is focused on corporate advisory, performance improvement and problem-solving assignments for Boards and CEOs of professional services firms.

He is widely regarded as a leading independent authority on professional services industries and their firms. His work covers Australia, Asia, USA, Canada, and UK. He has a particular interest in the imperative for professional services firms to remake their business models. His thought leadership is published regularly and he is a regular keynote speaker in Australia, UK, Canada, and USA. George tweets at @grbeaton_law and @NewLawNewRules.

A World of Change Management for Law Firm Leaders

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

By Steve Wingert, Principal, Nesso Strategies


John Kotter, a professor at Harvard University in the United States, noted that up to 70% of change initiatives do not achieve the planned results. This suggests a poor return on investment. And if your experience is similar to mine, law firms struggle mightily with change leadership and change management.

Our world is one of change. Some good, some not so good. Consider what law firms continue to experience:

  • Increased competition as new entrants appear in the market, and Big Law gets bigger
  • Mergers and lateral movement at many firms
  • Decreased or flattened demand for legal services
  • Greater expectations from clients for value relative to cost
  • Bidding wars for work and challenges to price legal services
  • Technological and digital advances at astonishing speed
  • Data security pressures
  • Social change as we now have five generations in the work place

A 2015 study of U.S. businesses and technology by McKinnsey & Company found 69% of the tasks paralegals and legal assistants perform can be automated using existing technologies, while 26% of attorney tasks can be automated. Is there any reason to believe these figures would differ greatly in the Australian legal market? And while many legal tasks are now “automated,” has the integration of people-process-technology truly achieved the efficiency and savings projected? So how do firms prepare to leverage these change opportunities and prepare for the shifts needed to maintain and protect margins, and potentially create competitive advantage?

Change often seems rational and straightforward until an initiative is launched, at which time organizational behavior tells us differently. I often ask participants in my programs about the typical response of their firm’s attorneys and staff to a change initiative, and terms they share include fear, resistance, anger, conflict, distrust and sadness. Clearly these suggest change is emotional, not just rational. Poorly planned change can lead to lack of trust, disengagement and turnover, plus time and effort invested and wasted. Each of these directly affects profitability and undermines the return on investment sought through change.

Are there methodologies we can use to mitigate resistance to change? Absolutely. Leadership and management focused on change are now essential, along with the knowledge and skill to shape and leverage organizational behavior through effective engagement, collaboration and culture development, laser sharp strategy formulation and implementation, the ability to be more agile and innovative, and thoughtful execution. The organizations and firms which we lead and manage require constant diligence to anticipate, recognize and respond to change in a timely and an efficient manner. How do we do this, and do it well?

At the heart of successful change is leadership and management of the goals and process. This requires leaders to engage in self-awareness of their motivations, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and to develop a greater understanding of the drivers and process of change. With this knowledge and skill, leaders will be better positioned to build guiding coalitions and create vision fundamental to the foundation of a change initiative. Embedded in this process is the necessity of collaboration, engagement and buy-in through communication, empowerment and short-term wins, with the long term vision in mind.

Leaders and managers who invest in their knowledge and skills, can be agents of successful change. It requires time and effort, but given what we know about the cost of failed change, it seems a worthy investment, and one law firm leaders cannot afford to take for granted.

Editor's Note


Steve Wingert is an international keynote presenter at the 2016 ALPMA Summit ‘A Blueprint for Change’, held from 7-9 September at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. Check out the full Summit program and take advantage of the early bird savings by registering now!

Steve is also leading an optional half-day Pre-Summit Masterclass Workshop ‘A Process for Change and the Leader's Role’ on Wednesday 7 September that designed to help you become a skilled leader of change at your law firm. You do not have to be attending Summit to attend to this workshop. The workshop costs $395 for ALPMA members or $495 for eligible non-members. Places for these workshops are strictly limited so register now!

About our Guest Blogger

Steve WingertSteve Wingert, CLM, is a 20 year veteran of law firm administration, past president of the Association of Legal Administrators, principal of Nesso Strategies, and co-founder of the Legal Leadership Institute. Steve works with law firms and non-profit associations on leadership and management challenges, including strategic planning, change management, process improvement, client service, succession planning, and team development. He develops leadership talent, assesses needs and issues, and facilitates collaborative and successful solutions. Steve holds a BA in psychology from Creighton University, a MA in human resources management from Truman State University, an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, and is currently working on doctorate (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership at Creighton University.

The Importance of an Employer Brand

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

By Marianna Tuccia, Legal Recruiter, empire group 


"Finding good people" remains the number one challenge facing Australian law firms, in a sneak peak of results from the 2016 ALPMA/empire Group Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey results, which will be publicly released on Friday.  Attracting talent and retaining quality employees is becoming increasingly difficult for most organisations. This is due to a shortage of skilled candidates, the lack of employee loyalty as well as the many opportunities that exist for lawyers to work overseas.

The question becomes how does a law firm position themselves and make themselves more desirable to future employees? In order to attract, retain and develop talent, the recruitment function should be viewed as an extension of the marketing function. Organisations (and law firms included) must have clear strategies regarding marketing their brand to existing and future employees. This is because your employees are the organisation’s best advertising.

What is an employer brand? An employer brand communicates the organisations culture, vision, reputation and value system. Therefore, anything that an organisation does e.g. how management communicates internally and how an organisations services are perceived in the marketplace, impacts on the employer brand. For an employer brand to be successful, the entire employment life-cycle (e.g. the interview process, on-boarding, induction, performance reviews, exit interviews) needs to be scrutinised and where necessary improved and enhanced. It must always be remembered that quality candidates will always have several options to choose from.

When attracting the talent, the first interview is crucial in communicating the employer brand. Interviews are always crucial in communicating the employer brand. Interviews are always a two-way street and talented candidates do not move purely for an increase in remuneration. Candidates want to know about an organisations culture and philosophy and whether it is in line with their own value system, objectives and career goals.

It is very clear that in today’s mobile workforce, retaining talented employees is just as challenging as attracting new talent. Therefore, an organisations leadership, the way it communicates to its staff and the opportunities within the organisation to develop and [progress all impact on whether an employee will stay or jump to a competitor. The lack of training and development opportunities are the main motivators in employees leaving, not necessarily reward and remuneration. Keeping your staff motivated is one of the keys to low turnover as well as offering a workplace that is flexible and a management that is transparent in their decision-making.

There are many ways for an employer to improve their employer brand. Here are just a few practical tips:

  • Undertake research (both internally and externally) regarding the way current future employees perceive the experience of working at the firm;

  • If you make a job offer and it is declined, find out why the candidate was not interested in working for the organisation;

  • Conduct an audit of your organisations values and vision statement. It may be worthwhile to conduct a survey within the organisation to compare the value statement with the employees reality;

  • Always ensure that your values, vision and philosophy are conveyed at every step of the recruitment process;

  • Conduct an annual review of your employer brand and where necessary make changes to your organisations vision statement. This is where your staffs feedback is useful.

The aim of every organisation is to be “”Employer of Choice” and a strong employer brand will help a law firm or any organisation, attract and retain the best talent.

Editor's Note 

The ALPMA Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey provides a comprehensive, independent review of salaries paid for legal, management and administrative positions in legal firms, and reveals the hottest HR issues and challenges for the legal industry in Australia and New Zealand.  

252 firms completed the 2016 Australian survey, proudly supported by the empire group,  while 69 firms completed the New Zealand survey, proudly supported by McLeod Duminy Legal Recruiters. All participants will receive their complimentary copy of the report on Monday, May 9.

If you didn't participate, and would like to understand more about law firm compensation strategies for FY17 and how your firm compares, then you can purchase the relevant report for $A550 (including GST) if you are an ALPMA member who did not participate in the research or for $A2,200 (including GST) for all non-members who did not participate in the research.  Please contact Connie Finestone if you have any questions about purchasing the report.


About our Guest Blogger

Marianna Tuscia
Marianna is a specialist professional legal recruiter at the empire group, with an in-depth understanding of the legal industry. Marianna is focused on recruiting lawyers (at all levels from NQ to Partner level) for the Australian, the UK and the Asian private practice sector.

Marianna’s track record includes sourcing senior practitioners for law firms as well as sourcing lawyers from overseas jurisdictions for Australian based private practice firms. Marianna also has experience in sourcing Australian lawyers for law firms across the UK and Asia.

Marianna consults clients regarding market trends, remuneration and salary benefits and assists lawyers at all levels to help them make an informed career choice. Marianna qualified as a lawyer and worked as a commercial litigator before embarking on a career in legal recruitment.









Stop cutting costs! Motivate people instead.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

By Louisa Vanderkruk, CEO, Peoplepie 


High performing firms focus attention on their people, whilst low performing firms focus attention on cost cutting. 

This is the message coming from multiple studies here* and overseas into management best practice.

It is a message that is easy to understand but not so easy to implement. Finding ways to cut practice costs is often a lot simpler than finding ways to motivate and develop your many diverse employees.

The practical first step is to understand what human motivation is and how it operates in a work context.

Intrinsic or extrinsic?


Broadly there are two ways of looking at human motivation. One view is that motivation is triggered externally by reward or punishment (extrinsic motivation) whilst another view has motivation triggered internally by the impulse to satisfy human needs (intrinsic motivation). 
 
Economists tend to see humans as primarily rational and thus responsive to tangible rewards like pay and bonuses, whereas psychologists, sociologists, people managers and even lawyers! know that humans are very rarely entirely rational and will react dramatically to internal emotions, needs or desires.

It is now widely accepted that intrinsic motivation models are the most useful for looking at employee energy, commitment and engagement. So a basic understanding of how intrinsic motivation operates is absolutely vital for practice managers who are charged with the responsibility of motivating their teams.

Motivation and needs


Intrinsic motivation theories talk about human ‘needs and drives' and most mainstream theories classify our needs into three groups. Confusion can arise because each theorist uses different labels and descriptions for these needs. So trying to understand motivation is often a challenge of semantics rather than theory.

Prominent thinkers who agree that motivation is derived from human needs include Freud, Maslow, McClelland, Deci & Ryan, Pink and Hinds. Most theories are based on qualitative empirical research and some, like the work of Deci & Ryan, and Hinds are founded in both qualitative and quantitative research which lends greater scientific validity and weight to their conclusions.

The Hinds Tripartite Motivation Theory is the easiest for managers to use. It summarises motivation as occurring when an individual’s need for affiliation (We), achievement (Me) and actualisation (It) are satisfied. In the context of work, this means employees have sufficient:

  • We: teamwork, bonding, collaboration, and sense of belonging (affiliation)
  • Me: opportunities to achieve, exercise skills and capabilities, succeed and learn (achievement)
  • It: alignment of personal values, self-expression, a sense of purpose, and meaning (actualisation)
people pie image  This model acknowledges and accommodates individual difference. 

For example, my need for teamwork and interaction with others may be substantially higher than your need. Thus I will embrace and enjoy work opportunities that involve teamwork and cooperation and by so doing will experience affiliation. You on the hand, may prefer to work autonomously and have a very low need for collegiate interactions. As long as we can both satisfy our differing level of need, we can both experience affiliation at work. This is true for each of the three needs – affiliation, achievement and actualisation. The challenge is for firms to provide circumstances that will suit different people and their preferences.

Need satisfaction will vary from person to person and this is what makes motivating others so difficult because we cannot apply a ‘one size fits all’ solution. 
 

Motivation's Secret Sauce


So what is the secret to motivation? What are its organisational drivers? What can leaders and managers do to make sure their employees experience enough positive We, Me and It, to be motivated?

According to Deci & Ryan the conditions that support motivation are freedom, choice and autonomy. These ideas are echoed by Hinds who emphasises creating an optimal balance of ‘freedom’ with ‘order’. This means providing people with the freedom and autonomy they need to express themselves, make choices, provide input, participate and be creative; within an environment and leadership that provides order, safety, structure, sensible processes, systems and a purpose that is reliable and valued.

  • Rules without explanation do not support motivation - whilst mutually agreed and well understood rules motivate.
  • Meetings where nobody other than the manager talks do not support motivation - whilst meetings where people feel free to have their say and provide input motivate.
  • Managers who only delegate, monitor and discipline do not support motivation - whilst managers who listen, coach, empathise and support individual learning motivate.
Research applying the tripartite motivation model identified seven potent motivation drivers: with each driver containing a set of related dimensions that operate in unison around a central theme. The seven potent motivation drivers in the workplace are:

  • Job: enjoyable work that uses employee skills and abilities. Give people roles they find interesting and challenging.
  • Employer: a positive and supportive work environment. Provide an equitable, congenial workplace culture.
  • Influence: respect for individual needs, input and opinions. Enable and encourage people to speak up and speak out.
  • Development: recognition with opportunity for learning and development. Place a priority on personal and professional growth.
  • Alignment: understanding and participating in the organisation direction. Explain and ensure people know where the firm is going and why.
  • Leadership: integrity, effectiveness and communication of the leadership team. Offer communicative leadership that is worthy of respect and admiration.
  • Manager: daily manager effectiveness, accessibility and style. Have managers who are effective at managing not just subject matter experts.
These are the seven areas that firms should focus on for motivation. And when people are motivated they will tend to stay where they are and focus their energies towards firm growth and performance.

REFERENCES
* 2015 Macquarie Legal Benchmarking Survey
Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (2000). The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227-268.
Hinds, J-M., (1994) 'New Directions in Management', McGraw-Hill, Australia edited by A. Kouzmin and L.V. Still. Chapter: Employee boredom in the workplace: a contribution to motivational theory and organisational productivity.


Editor's Note:

Peoplepie has partnered with ALPMA to offer members discounted access to employee motivation and driver surveys. See more information about this offer at ALPMA Member-Only deals.


About our Guest Blogger

Louisa Vanderkruk
Louisa Vanderkruk is CEO and founder of Peoplepie.
 
Louisa Vanderkruk has been a consultant for over 25 years to business and government on employee and organisational culture research. Her motivation insights are based on research projects she has completed for legal and professional services firms and legal practitioners in the Australian public sector.






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