There is a lot written about how the job of a lawyer is a constant juggling act with the need to balance complex client requirements (where everything is urgent) to upwardly managing your supervisors; and then to add to this there is the potential of having to manage subordinates and having to effectively manage yourself too.
So how does understanding people make a lawyer’s job easier? More importantly, why does it matter? Read through these examples of a typical day to see if you can find out why and how effective management can make you a more successful lawyer in the eyes of many key stakeholders.
Typical day 1
It’s 9am. Walking into the office, you’re pleased to notice that all the trainees assigned to you are working at their desks. You approach your desk to find a coffee already placed on the desk waiting for you – all you have to do is drink it.
On opening your computer you find you have no emails at all; moving on, you have time to complete the drafting of a document for your client and send to them in advance of the midday deadline. Then you talk to your team; spending time with each and responding positively to their questions.
And so your day continues and ends without cause for stress or hassle…
Typical day 2
Its 7am. You’re picking up a triple expresso on the way and you arrive at work to find that no one else is there.
Your team arrive at 8am.Before they have had chance to sit down, settle and check their emails, you provide them with their orders for the day.
You then follow up with an email of what’s needed, explaining that all tasks are required by 1pm; even though there are various other deadlines, including one for tomorrow. Getting the information out is key.
It’s now mid-morning and you can now finally move on to your own to do list. After 20 minutes or so you notice a discussion taking place between two trainees in your team; much to your surprise they seem to be jovial. Picking up the phone you dial their extension; there follows a short outburst, where neither person listens – however, the ensuing quietness indicates that your message has come across.
And so the day continues and ends filled with disruptions, distractions and outbursts…
It’s clear from the above that neither day is typical; in fact, from our own experience we could positively say that they are atypical. So, with that realisation, how can we guarantee that we able to not only prepare ourselves to be an effective manager but also prepare to be managed ourselves?
Communication – an understanding of how to use appropriate language would have helped the trainees in day 2 to grasp the tasks that were given and more importantly would make them feel more comfortable in asking their manager to help with a problem.
Conflict resolution – gaining an appreciation of why a dispute may arise, such as the outburst on the phone, provides a manager (and team worker) with the negotiation and listening skills to come to the best form of resolution.
Team working – in day 1 we have no real understanding of why the team are already at their desks ready to work; the manager is likely to have set clear objectives the previous day; the team is well balanced in terms of roles/responsibilities and each member knows what is expected of them.
Time management – in both typical days there are clear extremes of how to manage time; however setting priorities helps to manage not only time but stress; the latter example would leave the team all working frantically to the deadline with no care over quality.
As a fee earner within a firm being able to effectively manage others and/or yourself is key to success. Balancing or juggling all of these requirements can be done with a little insight as to how manage people effectively; and certainly people matter.
The management of others is a key skill that is relevant for personal development and career enhancement; so investing time to gain an understanding of the management competences required to supervise line reports is a requisite for any professional in a modern firm.
For even more tips on how to become an effective and pro-active manager, register your place in our free ‘Managing people and why does it matter?’ webinar.