Teach to nurture talented lawyers

The best law firm managers are great teachers. What sets them apart is their willingness to actively engage in one to one tutoring of their direct reports during the course of their work. This approach encourages the personal development of skills, and independence of thought and action.

Unfortunately, most managers rely on more traditional approaches to developing and managing employees, such as formal reviews, personal development plans, external courses and business networking. Whilst some law firm managers may impart the odd nugget of wisdom, many do not consider teaching to be a core part of their job, expecting their reports to learn from other sources.

Even a little bit of one to one teaching can produce great benefits. Employees look up to the boss to lead by example, and the lessons and advice that the law firm manager can impart will be more personalised and relevant than any external traditional management training programme.

Teaching should be an integral responsibility of law firm managers. Embracing the role of teacher as a daily management responsibility builds trust, loyalty, competence, employee performance, and ultimately increases job satisfaction for both manager and employee.

Successful managers don’t wait for employee performance reviews, or client file review meetings to share knowledge and experience. They seize opportunities to teach others, in the knowledge that if you’re not teaching you’re not really managing.

This doesn’t mean that managers need to constantly pummel their colleagues with unsolicited advice and guidance. Targeted teaching is more meaningful and effective than generalised pontification. However, a key skill of a good manager is the ability to adapt their teaching style to suit the unique needs of the individuals in their team, and this includes an awareness of when and how to create teaching moments so that employees are receptive to being taught.

Law firm managers want employees who are highly skilled, effective at meeting client’s needs, and accountable for their actions. Encouraging lawyers to regard teaching as a core competency for career development and advancement will help to create a culture of continuous improvement and needs to be reflected in reward schemes so that spending time teaching others is truly valued.

Whilst technical legal skills can be taught, above all else, employees learn more from modelling the behaviours of those who lead and manage them, so it is a given that managers should share and demonstrate not just legal knowledge, but the behaviours they expect of others to make sure that talented people reach their highest potential.

If you require assistance with any law firm management issue, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Kimberley Williams

©Williams Wroe

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