Hiring a Legal Administrator
Oftentimes a legal administrator’s responsibilities are similar
to those of a corporate Chief Operating Officer. The administrator
should have responsibility for the overall day-to-day operations
of the firm, including supervision of support staff, but specific
duties and tasks may vary from one firm to the next. Likewise, the
administrator’s role will continue to change as the firm allows him
or her to assume additional responsibilities. Refer to the sample
job description in this brochure for an idea of the traditional
responsibilities of a legal administrator. It can be used as a
template for crafting a more tailored description for your
administrator based on your firm’s philosophy, organizational
structure and goals. Ideally, the job description will be developed
before the search process begins and can, therefore, be provided
to final-round interview candidates.
Remember: Industry consultants and experts agree the success of a
firm’s administrator hinges, in part, on establishing and adhering to
a clearly defined job description. Therefore, this document is an
important piece of the overall process.
Once a hire is made, be sure to provide the administrator with a
sufficient amount of time to get acquainted with the lawyers and staff,
and to get acclimated to the culture and tone of your office. While there
isn’t a specific benchmark for this “settling in” period, anywhere from
four to eight months should be sufficient. In the long run, the time allowed
for this will be time well spent. Also, keep in mind that the administrator,
especially in those early months of employment, will need frequent interaction
with the lawyers who previously administered the firm.
In order for your administrator to operate effectively, the chain of
command must be clearly identified. This will avoid unnecessary confusion
and frustration for the administrator, lawyers and staff.
Due to the confidential nature of the firm’s business and personnel
administration, the administrator requires a private office. The need for
an assistant or secretary is subject to firm size and the scope of the
The management or executive committee and all lawyers in your firm must
accept the legal administrator – both the position and the person – and
view that role as vital to the firm’s success. If lawyer support is lacking,
there will be a corresponding lack of support from the staff. The partners or
shareholders of a firm must also be willing to accept the notion of someone
other than a partner or shareholder making recommendations, participating in
their meetings and contributing to the agenda.
As mentioned earlier, don’t forget the value of constructive feedback
to your new administrator. The better understanding he or she has of what
you want and how well those expectations are being met, the more the overall
relationship will benefit your firm and its operations.