Being a great lawyer doesn’t automatically mean you’re a great manager.
But once you’ve climbed the ranks to become a managing lawyer, your leadership skills become extremely important. Think about it this way: Having a good—or not so good—managing lawyer is a big part of why talented employees elect to stay with or leave a firm.
Of course, management skills aren’t developed overnight. Being a good manager and a good lawyer takes time, effort, and commitment. With that in mind, here are 10 of the top management tips you can begin to implement right away.
- Don’t Micromanage
Certainly, lawyers spend a lot of time focused on (and attempting to mitigate) risk. But that’s not an excuse to micromanage projects you’ve delegated to more junior lawyers. Resist the urge to over-involve yourself and allow your team members autonomy in their work.
- Be a Motivator
Your team will be stronger and perform better if they like you and feel that you appreciate the work they do. It can help to set clear expectations with work you assign, and then allow your team flexibility in how they accomplish that work. Research shows this is one of the best ways a manager can motivate.
- Be Available and Approachable
Make sure you’re engaged in the work your team is doing without being over-engaged. Be available to give advice and insight or review work without being intimidating or making your team feel like they’re burdening you any time they knock on your office door.
- Actively Listen
Listen beyond just the exact words your team is using when they speak to you. Put your concerns, attitudes, and thoughts aside as you listen, and do your best to notice and read verbal and non-verbal signs so you can understand what they’re really trying to say.
- Know Your People
As mentioned above, your team will do better work if they feel appreciated. The best managers put an effort into getting to know those they work with, both to understand them as people and to understand their strengths on the job so they can be better delegated to.
- Trust Your People
Similarly, it’s critical that you trust your team members to successfully complete any work you assign to them, and to do so on time. If you don’t trust them, ask yourself why: Is it because your firm has hired the wrong people, or because you need to work on your ability to delegate?
- Be Transparent
Poor communication is a frequent employee complaint—in law firms and in all types of businesses. Share as much information as you can with your team, which will help them feel more invested in your firm as well as in their own work.
- Don’t Play Favorites
We’re only human; it can be easy to gravitate toward those with whom we feel a kinship. However, as a manager, it’s important that you recognize this tendency and resist the urge to play favorites. Do not always give the best projects to the people you like the most. The rest of your team will notice, and they won’t be happy.
- Give Helpful Feedback
As someone who has climbed the ranks at your firm, you likely already understand the importance of constructive criticism when it comes to learning, growing, and advancing your career. Provide both positive and negative feedback, and do your best to make sure it’s well received and fully understood. If you need to say something difficult, choose your words carefully.
- Appreciate Your Team
Everyone wants to know their hard work is appreciated. Think back to when you were a junior associate: Chances are, you remember the ways in which your managers appreciated you … or didn’t. The best managers celebrate their teams’ successes—whether with small gifts, awards, or a get-together outside of the firm. Simply saying “thank you” on a regular basis can go a long way.