This is the last post of the series Developing and Funding a Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Practice. The last challenge in starting your own firm is ensuring you have the best resources available. People.
When John McLeish and I started our firm in 1999 we had one other lawyer who worked with us and 7 staff members. We have made a point of not growing the firm simply for the sake of growth. Despite this approach, we now have a firm of 11 lawyers, 3 articling students and 50 support staff. We currently employ an excellent office manager and receptionist, in addition to a host of excellent accident benefit clerks, law clerks and legal assistants. All of these people are absolutely essential to the success of our law practice, but this growth hasn’t come without its share of problems. There is truth to the saying “good people are hard to find” and we have had our share of mistakes.
It is important that the people that work for me are dedicated, hard working, intelligent and honest, but this is only a starting point. For me, one of the most important aspects of our firm is the atmosphere. It isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. For almost everyone in the workforce, you spend the majority of your waking hours with the people that you work with. You can pay people well and they will show up for work, but if you want them to go the extra mile, work has to be a place that they enjoy going. They have to like the people that they work with and they have to like you. If your employees like and respect you, they will put their hearts and souls into the success of your operation. You can’t force people to like and respect you, but if you respect them, treat them fairly and take an honest interest in their well being, you will find that they can’t help but reciprocate. I’m not suggesting that you should be afraid to point out peoples mistakes or take appropriate action to correct behaviour that is detrimental to the office so long as it is done the right way. However, once you realize that you have made a bad hiring decision, you should move as quickly as you can to undue the mistake by letting the person go. It doesn’t take long for one person’s bad attitude to fester and create division within an office. You will spend a great deal of time and money fostering goodwill with your employees. You don’t want to let your efforts be undone by a bad apple. Continue reading