How to Assemble and Manage a Legal Team
Jamy J. Sullivan, J.D., Robert Half
Managing a team of legal professionals goes beyond recruiting top-tier professionals. Whether it’s for a one-off case or ongoing legal operations, the team needs its manager to focus on strategic planning and building in the agility to adapt to changing circumstances. From assembling the right team to fostering collaboration, here are some tips for success.
Establishing the legal team
When assembling your team, first make a list of the types of legal and administrative skills that align with your needs. Consider the legal knowledge required for the case or project, of course, but don’t overlook soft skills, such as communication, conflict resolution and teamwork. A blend of skills and personalities not only creates a balanced team but can also spark creativity and improve problem-solving. What you don’t want is a group of people who all think alike.
Revisit with each participant their assessment of their strengths, weaknesses and professional passions, especially the latter. That will help you delegate tasks and make it more likely people will contribute their best work since they’ll be doing the things they love. For instance, a team member with strong legal research skills might not be best suited to drafting a final report or brief. Assigning them to uncover relevant case law could be just the ticket, though, while someone who’s excited about writing could handle the draft.
Defining objectives and setting expectations
Objectives should be specific, relevant, achievable, measurable and time bound. By aligning your team’s goals with the broader organizational or case objectives, you create a unified direction that helps prevent misunderstandings and keeps everyone on track.
If you’re assembling a team for a one-off project, set expectations early on and make sure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. You can do this at a kick-off meeting, discussing everything from the project’s scope, timelines, desired outcomes and individual tasks. Having open communication channels encourages people to ask questions and provide suggestions.
Managing performance and giving feedback
Regular check-ins ensure tasks are being completed promptly and to the required standard. It also allows team members to discuss challenges and receive the necessary support.
Feedback should be constructive, specific and timely. Recognize and praise good work to boost morale and encourage high performance. If a team member falls short, provide feedback privately, focusing on the issue rather than the individual.
In the legal world, maintaining confidentiality and meeting deadlines are critical. Performance management should, therefore, take these factors into account. It might be helpful to introduce key performance indicators (KPIs) related to these elements, such as the punctual filing of documents or maintaining case files properly.
Fostering a collaborative environment
Having diverse perspectives on board does little good unless you create an environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing ideas and asking for help. This is especially vital in law, given the complexity of many issues typically involved in legal projects. Regular team meetings can clarify matters and spark brainstorming and collaborative problem-solving.
Promoting continuous learning and development
Effective team leaders keep one eye on the future, always scouting for ways to equip their team to thrive in the evolving landscape of legal work. Improving their skills in areas like new technology, legal research or regulatory compliance can boost both the quantity and quality of your team’s output, giving you a strategic advantage over other firms. Stay alert for new learning opportunities for your people, including industry workshops, specialized online courses or personalized mentoring sessions with legal experts.
Harnessing the power of project professionals
From tackling one-off projects to fostering adaptability in the face of evolving operations, effective team building requires a flexible staffing management plan. Utilizing a mix of permanent employees and contract professionals allows you to adapt to the ebb and flow of legal cases and operational demands. And by partnering with a talent solutions firm
that specializes in placing legal talent, you can more easily find experts that match your needs.
Staffing and managing a legal team depends on your ability to assemble people who bring different things to the table. It requires adapting your management style and strategies to meet the evolving needs of your people.
Jamy J. Sullivan is executive director of the legal practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized talent solutions firm. Robert Half offers contract, temporary and permanent placement solutions, and is the parent company of Protiviti®, a global consulting firm. Visit RobertHalf.com.