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Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC of Edward Poll & Associates, Inc. (http://www.lawbiz.com/) will moderate a law.com online seminar, “Law Practice Management: Managing People First,” scheduled for December 4-8. For more information on this program and other law.com seminar offerings, please visit http://www.law.com/seminars. “Eat what you kill!” is a common phrase in law firms today. Essentially, this means that the lawyer is an entrepreneur. His/her compensation in the firm will be determined by the number and quality of the clients that he/she brings to the firm and the total collected billings that are received from those clients. This method of compensation is in direct contrast to the “corporate mentality” where one is paid in accordance with the performance of the total organization and his/her standing and seniority within the firm. Swings in compensation are generally much smaller in this environment. Lawyers frequently want their staff and employees to act much like them when it comes to compensation. In other words, many lawyers become agitated when they think of their staff as an overhead expense rather than as a revenue generator. Lawyers forget that without their staff, they would not be able to perform the functions necessary to serve the client who is paying “the big bucks” and generating the revenue in the first place. Lawyers generally see the gross revenue and forget that there are steps/tasks and people required to perform the work … and the balance is called “net revenue” or net income that then can be distributed to the lawyers. The following question has been posed recently by several lawyers: “How can we motivate our staff to be more effective and more efficient so that there will be more net income for us?” People work for more than just money. But, as a starter, the financial compensation that is paid to staff and others must be competitive. That means that the amount of money to be paid must be in the general range of money received by people doing comparable work in other firms of like nature. Notice that we didn’t say that you must pay the most in order to get the best. Assuming that one’s financial compensation is relatively close to others, what makes the final difference. There are many factors to this issue. Paraphrasing Napoleon, medals and rewards can cause people to do extraordinary tasks that they would not do for money alone. In other words, the work environment is a significant factor in one’s happiness and job performance. Consider the impact of some of the following factors: � Employee morale � Respect and genuine pleasure in being with colleagues � Employer’s efforts to make the work place a “fun” place to be while at the same time recognizing the need for performance � Perks such as benefits provided by the firm’s clients (e.g., tickets to performances of entertainers who might be clients of the firm) � Perks such as health club membership, medical care programs, family involvement, etc. � Celebrating special achievements of the staff with awards such as employee of the month � Time off, with or without docking one’s pay, for special personal events such as children’s performances, etc. � Office wine and cheese parties at the end of the week, etc. � Personal financial planning paid for by the employer These are only a few of the creative ways to reward staff who have contributed to the well-being and high performance level of your firm. Notice that none of these involved payment of more money to the staff person and the relative cost of facilitating these efforts is small. One could also tie economic (money) bonuses to the performance of the office. The problem with most of the bonus systems that I’ve seen is that the staff generally has little or no control over the path to the outcome or the outcome itself. Under these circumstances, the payment has no bearing to the performance of the individual and, therefore, will not cause the desired behavior. Without control over the course of conduct, there can be no accountability for the actual performance. But, where you can tie behavior to performance, then, by all means, consider using financial rewards. For example, if you want the firm to work as a team, or want to create small teams for the benefit of a particular client or industry focus, you want to describe this goal as one of the firm’s objectives. Then, follow through by lowering the guaranteed portion of the compensation and increasing the bonus portion of the compensation that will be rewarded when and if the teams reach their stated objective(s) of teamwork and success as a team. You may not be able to lower the guaranteed portion of the existing compensation system; in that case, merely put more money on the table for those who reach the firm’s goals … and no increase for those who don’t meet the firm’s goals. And provide periodic and frequent feedback to the individuals so they know how well they’re doing, and what they need to do to more quickly reach the firm’s goals. This entire process, in itself, can be an exercise in teamwork. Not only “talk the talk, but walk the walk.” A common mechanism to learn what your staff wants in order to be motivated is to ask them. Too few people ask those involved what they want; rather, they sit and stew about it, attempting to reach the one best solution when, in fact, there is no one best solution, but a myriad of options that depend on the individuals involved. In the year 2000, the governing mode of learning is: “Ask the people what they want.” And you shall learn. Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC , � 2000. Mr. Poll’s email is [email protected]

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