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Manage Your Law Clerk Practice and Practice as a Legal Professional

Law firms are under pressure to reduce the cost of legal services and provide more competitive legal fees and cost-effective, alternative fee arrangements.  Law firm clients are demanding lower legal costs. As a result, the way legal services are processed and delivered is changing.

Legal teams with blended rates are being employed which means more work is being moved down the legal food chain to the law clerks.  Delegation is essential in order to provide cost-effective and efficient delivery of legal services.

Law firms and companies are closely examining the cost of legal services.  Law firms are looking at creating efficiencies through technologies, systems and processes to deliver cost-effective legal services to their clients.  Corporations are looking at the cost-effectiveness of staffing an internal legal team and technology to save on outsourcing legal services to law firms.  In both scenarios, law firms and companies are looking at law clerk services as an integral part of reducing legal service costs.

You may ask, “How does this affect the law clerk practice?”  First, with more work moving to the law clerk level, you must ensure that you have the technical and substantive skills to manage your practice efficiently.   Secondly, you must ensure you are part of the team of legal professionals.

Practicing as a Legal Professional

What is a “Legal Professional”?  A Legal Professional is an expert with specialized knowledge in the area of practice, has excellent literary skills, high quality work product, a high standard of professional ethics, behaviour and work activities and displays excellent work morale and motivation while carrying out one’s practice.

Are you part of the team of legal professionals? How do you maintain or insert yourself into the team of legal professionals?  Are you viewed in your firm or company as a “Legal Professional”?  In order to be viewed as a legal professional, you need to practice as a legal profession.  Some examples follow.

  • Legal writing – ensure that your written communication, whether by email, memo, correspondence or reports are written professionally.  Save your personal communication style for your friends and family.
  • Verbal Communication— ensure your verbal communication at all times is appropriate to a law firm practice, whether you are speaking with a peer, lawyer, or client.  Save your personal communication style for your friends and family.
  • Dress as a professional – ensure that you look like a professional visually, even on “dress down” days.  You never know when you might be called into a team meeting or a client meeting.  Look ready to meet any challenge.
  • Define your role as a member of the legal team – ensure your team knows the value, knowledge and skill you bring to the team.
  • Create confidence in your performance/work – ensure that you “get it right the first time” and get the work done on time!

Managing your Practice

Managing your practice is vital in order to be a cost-effective resource and an important part of the legal team.  By successfully managing your practice, you will create confidence in others for your work, you will have less stress, you will be more productive and profitable and you will enjoy better performance reviews and compensation.

Plan how you are going to accomplish your goals and targets for the year.   Break it down into yearly, monthly, weekly and daily increments.

The TOP 10 time wasters:

  1. Telephone interruptions
  2. Procrastination
  3. Not organized
  4. Not setting priorities
  5. People interruptions
  6. Socializing
  7. Fatigue
  8. Failure to delegate
  9. Looking for precedents

Management Strategies:

  • Be organized – use technology, charts, lists to stay organized without becoming a slave to preparing and updating lists.Keep it simple.
  • Monitor your work. Manage your workload by not waiting until you run out of work before seeking new work and by not taking on more work than you can deliver.
  • Negotiate and manage deadlines – You want to ensure you are available and when you are not, offer an alternative deadline or law clerk to do the work within the required deadline.
  • Manage your time
    • Plan – daily, weekly, monthly, annually and monitor your progress and adjust as necessary.
    • Delegate – create a team for overflow, vacation, illness (ensure you are a reciprocal teammate)
    • Work Efficiently – One Touch System, use technology
    • Manage Communication – Set aside time to deal with communication (emails, correspondence, phone calls, voicemail.)

In summary, ACT! DON’T REACT.  Don’t scatter your energy, invest time in long range planning, daily planning, a task list, One Touch Rule and prioritizing.

I read an interesting article entitled,” The Coming Collapse of Average Managers and Employees”, written by Michael Schrage.  The article discusses the trends in the industry with respect to the value/productivity of retaining and recruiting the top employees rather than investing time and money into mediocre employees.

The article states:  “Getting 10% improvement from your top 25% means you\'ve increased organizational value creation by 7.5%. Not bad. Your remaining 75% would have to boost their collective productivity by 30% — 3X the elite group’s rate — to match that 7.5% net increase.

What\'s the better and more rational bet? That top management can get a 10% spike from their top people? Or that they can get the demonstrably less talented, less capable, less productive three-quarters of their enterprise to dramatically increase their value outputs by almost a third? Which group would you invest in? I know where I\'d put my money. Jack Welch was no fool.”

…….

” There\'s arguably never been a worse time to be a mediocre, average or typical employee. For most firms today, mediocrity is a cost to be managed and a burden to be borne, not a potential to cultivate or a resource worthy of serious investment. Indeed, if an app, web service or an outsourcer can deliver 80% of typical or average performance at 35% to 60% of the cost, then why pay for average employees? These days, no organization can afford to pay a premium for mediocrity.”

Don’t be the mediocre employee.  Ensure that you Manage Your Practice and Practice as a Legal Professional and you will be recognized as one of the top law clerks and enjoy a busy, challenging practice in a team of legal professionals!

About Catherine D'Aversa

As President of Legal Resource Consulting Inc. (“LRC”) Catherine D’Aversa is engaged by law firms, government legal departments and corporate in-house law departments to improve paraprofessional skills and services using extensive skills developed over more than 32 years in the legal industry. LRC analyses and assesses paraprofessional services within its clients’ organization and provides recommendations on structure, technology, systems, processes and management to improve services standards, productivity and profitability. LRC acts as Project Manager to implement recommendations to enhance paraprofessional skills and services to better meet lawyer and client needs while increasing revenue. LRC delivers professional development workshops on topics such as Docketing Strategies, Practice Management, Practice Development, Project Management, Strategies for Productivity & Profitability, Working as a Legal Professional and Legal Writing and Reporting. Catherine is a contributing author of several legal books and a regular speaker and commentator at business seminars and conferences.