Hogwash! Ask your associates questions? Surely, you must be joking. What would you ever want to ask an associate, besides, "Is my coffee ready yet?" or "You call this research?" Associates are to be seen, and not heard!
If you think like that, quite frankly, you are a miserable failure as a leader. Sure, associates know far less than you, the almighty real-life Denny Crane, but if you've hired the right associate, that person can act as a sounding board, an alternative point of view, and hopefully, a revenue stream in training. And so long as we're encouraging associates to speak up and ask questions, we'll encourage you to do the same.
Conversations. Feedback. Professional development. It all helps you make sure that you get the most out of your associates.
1. What Do You Think About This Case?
She's sat in on enough client meetings and consultations by now to understand the basics of how a typical case goes. Why not test her, and she if she is retaining anything?
You may know, after five minutes with the client, whether their case has merits or not. Does she? Get in touch with your inner law school professor and grill her for her assessment of the case's merits, the relevant law, and how she would deal with the client, case, or opposing counsel. As they regularly say on Grey's Anatomy, "This is a teaching hospital. Teach." Your firm should be a teaching firm, if you want to experience long-term growth (and if you want your associates to stick around).
2. Where Do You Want To Be in Five Years?
Speaking of sticking around, you might wonder what your dear associate's plans are. What are they looking for, career-wise? Is there a long-term fit between her wants and needs and your law firm?
And if her response is, "Working here, learning from you, of course," she's probably full of it.
3. Do You Have Any Comments or Concerns About the Office?
There's probably a more suave way to phrase that question, but the point is this: feedback about the office and working conditions is important. Do your employees have everything that they need to succeed? How is morale? Is there any way to improve morale, such as adding a telecommute day or casual Fridays? Is everyone pulling their own weight?
Of course, your associates and staff may not be eager to criticize the office to your face. There are two ways to deal with their reluctance: have regular one-on-one meetings with each staff member, which builds trust and comfort, and makes it far more likely that they'll open up to you with their concerns. Or, institute an anonymous feedback system.
Are your associates heard and seen? What questions do you ask them? Join the discussion on LinkedIn.
- 5 Kinds of Clients Your Firm Will Want in the New Year (FindLaw's Strategist Blog)
- Community Involvement: 5 Ways to Build Your Client Base (FindLaw's Strategist Blog)
- New Year's Resolutions for Small Firm Lawyers (FindLaw's Strategist Blog)