Hiring a Legal Management Professional
Defining The Administrator's Role
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 these sample job descriptions for an idea of the traditional responsibilities of a legal administrator and other legal support staff positions. They 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 administrator’s duties.
Acceptance and Feedback: The Keys to Success
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.