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The difficult things in life have a way of becoming easy. The easy things only become more difficult. While choosing the best candidate for a position and evaluating his or her performance and future promise has always been a difficult task for law firm managers, the equation for management’s involvement in balancing the competing interests of an employee’s life has always been simple�stay out. As society continues to be more prosperous, despite the state of the economy at any given moment, the desire of professionals to create a balance among professional life, home life, social obligations and other interests becomes very significant. In order to recruit top-level professionals effectively and to manage the business of a law firm, law firm managers must become increasingly aware and sensitive to the multiple personal interests that lawyers, paralegals and support staff desire to pursue outside the workplace. The age-old advice to a young lawyer that if you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother to come in on Monday is no longer a wise way of managing people committed to having a “real life.” While there always will be a small number of professionals who are obsessed with the work, by and large management has learned over the past 10 years from outside the legal profession that a well-rounded employee is more likely to produce high-quality work, remain longer in the professional environment and make a more meaningful contribution to the clients he or she represents. How to nourish an environment that is conducive to well-rounded professional and social lives has only recently become a concern of wise law firm managers. Those managers now recognize that techniques must be developed to provide the work-intensive high-quality services clients expect by the kind of well-rounded lawyers that most of us want to be. “Team practice” may well be one of the most effective techniques to accomplish the varied goals of lawyer and client. Team practice is an organizational structure whereby the same group of two or more partners and associates practice law exclusively with each other in all matters. The team meets and exchanges ideas and information on a daily basis. Team members accommodate the varied personal needs of each other and provide clients with input on their matters from various perspectives. The team may, but need not, be multidiscipline-joining transactional lawyers with litigators. The team eliminates the need for a learning curve should a matter be passed on to another member of the team. Through team practice, the benefits can flow to the lawyers and to the clients. But what of the law firm itself? What kind of management problems does a team approach present and what kind of an opportunity does it afford? Does team practice advance the institutional goals of the firm? Benefits of team practice There are four areas that demonstrate how team practice can benefit the institutional firm. Economics. Well-rounded employees will work harder and smarter. While their gross number of hours as compared with their compensation will be lower, their product will often be better. It will likely require less editing. It may well provide more insight and should justify a higher hourly rate. Thus, well-rounded employees can produce the same number of dollars to the bottom line by a rate adjustment and yet still be able to live a real life. A shift of 10% in the hourly rate has a corresponding reduction in the required number of hours to be worked to produce the same revenue. The side effect for the firm may be a zero change in revenues. Yet the firm may choose the wiser approach of not changing the billing rate. The perceptible change in lifestyle will bring a different attitude at work. An employee is more likely to be willing to give his or her last measure to a firm that understands and accommodates his or her personal life. It will frequently result in a better attitude, something readily perceptible to clients. The marketing efforts of the well-rounded person will most likely be more productive than those of the drone. Indeed, more time is spent in “relationship nonworking” environments by lawyers when they pursue a full life. In sum, the result will probably be more business. Motivation. What really motivates young professionals? It is often more than just money. Providing professionals with a real opportunity to be a major participant in significant matters without surrendering their whole life to the demands of the client may well provide the single most significant motivator. In this type of endeavor, the professional will continue to produce at the highest levels without jeopardizing his or her long-term professional goals. However, there is undoubtedly a burnout factor. There is a level of effort that these matters require that cannot be sustained forever. Thus a combination of lifestyle and interesting work must be melded to ensure that the professional flourishes. The most important result of the law firm creating the appropriate balance is motivation. Loyalty and motivation are born of the belief that one’s work is being appreciated. If law firm managers want a barometer of their success, it is in this area that they should look. A more loyal professional By providing a comprehensive program to manage employees and balance their social and personal commitments with their professional obligations, firm managers will motivate and acquire a more loyal professional. Simply grinding the lawyer into the ground by maximizing billable hours is a form of motivational decay. While there may be some professionals whose lifestyle is such that their compulsive work habits are a source of pleasure for them, the overwhelming bulk of new young professionals will be motivated to be loyal to the organization that accommodates their more universal needs. Training. Training is not a part of the work effort. It is part of the professional growth of an individual. Law firm management can acquire a broader significant participation by young professionals in the training process by making these young professionals recognize the differences between hours worked for clients and training hours, which are done for their best interest. When professionals accept this shift in concept, the training hours participation tends to become more active and meaningful and not just another way to clock more hours. By combining training programs with “family oriented or other social activities” the law firm can enrich the experience. Some firms today combine training programs with programs for spouses at the same time. Some firm managers have built Saturday programs for families, which are better attended and involve more active participation when tied to a social endeavor. Regional and national offices with multiple locations are very well suited to provide this type of programs. However, law firm management should recognize that training should be a part of motivation and promoted as part of true professional growth and not as part of hours worked. Esprit de corps. The implementation of a true team approach to the practice of law requires a commitment by senior and junior lawyers to work together and to balance each other’s professional interests as well as to accommodate each other’s personal lives. In this way, implementation forces a closer relationship among the lawyers working on the matter, which has the professional side product of more effective communication among the members of the client’s team. A delicate balance Balancing the interests of the professional is not an end in itself; it is the beginning of the development of a relationship among firm management, senior lawyers and junior lawyers to manage their competing interests effectively. All these individuals have real lifestyle as well as productivity goals. Firm management can use the team approach to help everyone accomplish both goals. Harold J. Ruvoldt is the partner in charge of the New York office of Edwards & Angell. He co-heads a team in the area of complex civil and white-collar criminal litigation.

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