Solo Attorney Burnout: How to Form Good Staff Relationships

By Law Firm Suites - December 29, 2015
Solo Attorney Burnout: How to Form Good Staff Relationships

Civil litigation attorney, Kerith Kentish, shares his advice on how to build positive relationships with staff in order to avoid solo attorney burnout.

I believe in Richard Branson’s wisdom: Employees come first.

I recently shared my advice for combating solo attorney burnout, where I listed having a good relationship with your staff as a key solution.

If you’re lucky enough to have staff, it is important to make an effort to form a good relationship with them. This will make a difference on those days when you’re feeling burnt out and you need to rely on your staff for support.

Here are five tips to help you build positive employer-employee relationships as a solo attorney:

Take an interest

One of the best ways to build a positive relationship with someone is to take a few moments to learn about them. It doesn’t take much effort to learn the names of their children or remember their birthday.

With today’s technology, you really have no excuse for being forgetful. For example, I use the calendar feature on my iPhone to remind me of employee birthdays the day of and a few days prior.

Taking an interest in the lives of your employees builds loyalty and likeability. You need employee loyalty in your firm because it creates value. Your employees will take more pride in their work, be more productive and make an effort to satisfy your clients if they hold you in high regard.

Taking an interest in the lives of your employees builds loyalty and likeability. Click To Tweet

Be thoughtful

When you travel for business, make an effort to bring something back for your staff. Remember, they are holding down the fort for you while you are away.

Yes, you do pay them and it is their job function, but it’s a small way to say thank you. Is a box of chocolates, or a bag of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee really going to break the bank? I doubt it.

Try not to get them the same thing every time you travel. Who really wants to walk around with 10 key rings?

You should be having casual conversations with your staff in which you get to know them and what they like. Through these conversations you will be able to learn enough about them to pick out the perfect memento. These tokens show appreciation, and demonstrate that you value the role they play in the success of your firm.

Reward them for good work

Make sure you’re actively involved in employee recognition. As an employer, you can acknowledge the efforts of your staff on a day-to-day basis to make them feel more encouraged and motivated.

When you know your staff has been working hard, small rewards show your appreciation for their contributions to your practice. For example:

  • Let them take a longer lunch or an extra break when they have performed well.
  • Bake a cake and bring it to work.
  • Give a card with a gift certificate.
  • Offer more vacation time.
  • Take them out to lunch.
  • Close early on a Friday or the day before a holiday.

Often, a simple thank you to a staff member when they do a good job goes a long way. Say thank you often and mean it each time you say it.

Teach them new skills

There is always a way to be a good boss. Each practitioner must find what works for them and what works for their staff.

For me, I have found that teaching my staff new skills and taking the time to properly train them creates loyalty in my firm. The first step of avoiding solo attorney burnout is delegating work to your staff; however, this is also critical to being a good boss.

People like that you are improving their lives. Your staff will appreciate the active role you’ve taken in developing their competency.

Your staff will appreciate the active role you’ve taken in developing their competency. Click To Tweet

Always apologize

It’s easier to form a good relationship with your staff when you greet them at the start of each day, maintain a friendly disposition and own up to your mistakes. Otherwise, you risk appearing cold and unappreciative.

There are some days when the solo attorney burnout gets to you and you snap at one of your clerks. You need to know that this mistake is not going to end the employment relationship.

If you have been a jerk throughout their employment, as opposed to showing genuine kindness and accountability, there is a greater likelihood that they could end up abandoning you when you need them most.

Always apologize when you know you’ve failed to keep your composure. Humility is your friend when it comes to employer-employee relations. It’s important to maintain trust and remain approachable.

About Kerith Kentish

Solo Attorney BurnoutKerith T. Kentish is a Civil Litigator and ADR professional practicing predominantly in a highly respected family firm in Anguilla. He obtained his LLB from the University of the West Indies (Barbados), his LLM from the Schulich School of Law (Canada) and his LEC from the Hugh Wooding Law School (Trinidad). He is admitted to practice as a Barrister in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in the circuits of Anguilla (2012) and the British Virgin Islands (2013). Kerith is currently the Vice President of the Anguilla Bar Association, a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a solo practitioner with Joyce Kentish & Associates.
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