5 Ways to Boost Job Satisfaction Among Legal Staff

By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD

Smart legal managers know the importance of keeping their staff satisfied and engaged. After all, the value of a firm or department is measured by the quality of employees’ work, and attorneys and legal support professionals who are happy with their jobs are better at their jobs — and more productive — than those who feel ho-hum about what they do.  

Employee job satisfaction also helps with your recruitment and retention. People who dislike their work or workplace are unlikely to stay or to recommend the employer to their professional network, whereas satisfied legal professionals are loyal and burnish your company’s reputation as a great place to work. 


How do you boost job satisfaction among your staff? What can you do to build and sustain an engaged and productive legal team? Here are five tips, gleaned from the Robert Half Legal 2018 Salary Guide and our research on workplace satisfaction 


1. Hire for cultural fit as well as legal skills 


As a hiring manager, it’s up to you to bring in new employees who will complement the existing team. Beware of the gifted legal mind who grates on everyone’s nerves. To minimize the risk of hiring a brilliant jerk, include a small group of staff on the interview team. They’ll let you know if something’s amiss. Also consider implementing a temp-to-hire strategy so you can see how prospective full-timers play with others over several months.  


2. Be your employees’ biggest fan 


Everyone wants recognition when they do something well, and it’s demoralizing to be ignored or overlooked. Too often, managers are so busy with the day-to-day that they forget to praise their staff. Look for ways big and small you can show employees your appreciation, from calling out kudos during meetings to handing out gift cards for exceptional achievement. Let workers know you’re paying attention and are thankful they’re part of the team. In addition to lifting morale, you’ll be boosting productivity — as your team is more likely to pull out all the stops if they know you value their efforts. 


3. Don’t be a helicopter manager 


Do you hover over your employees’ shoulders, dip your fingers into their projects or outline every action item of their assignment? Micromanaging is a major workplace fail because it stresses out your team members and makes them feel as if you doubt their competence and reliability. Be a macromanager instead. Show employees you trust them by giving them full ownership of projects you’ve delegated. Have them tell you how they’ll tackle tasks rather than the other way around. But don’t go overboard and be an absentee boss. Let them know you’re always available to offer guidance or if they want to bounce ideas off you. 


4. Make staff aware of their impact 


Few legal professionals find career satisfaction in going through the motions, and it’s hard to be content in a job when you feel like your work isn’t meaningful. Counter this possibility by making sure everyone — from your rising stars to senior staff nearing retirement — understands their role is crucial to the firm’s bottom line. Explain how each team member’s responsibilities factor into the organization’s bigger picture, and you’ll instill in them a sense of pride. 


5. Foster collaboration 


To achieve a common goal, everyone in a law firm or legal department needs to pull together. This means they need to know one another well. Management plays a large role in promoting teamwork. Create a cozy common lounge area where a small group can collaborate. Hold ideation sessions on topics such as increasing client satisfaction, and give everyone the opportunity to speak. Take advantage of virtual chat rooms so remote workers feel connected. A cohesive team typically is more engaged and more innovative than talented individuals who work in their own bubbles. 


To get more out of your legal staff, take steps to increase their level of workplace satisfaction. When they’re happy with their work, chances are your clients will be happy, too — and that’s definitely good for your bottom line.