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For the small firm lawyers and solos out there who know the ebb and flow of the feast or famine model of law practice, there's a way to make sure you don't go hungry during one of those long famines: Firing staff, or cutting hours.
Small firm owners are probably thinking that this is rather harsh. There's no doubt about it, it is incredibly difficult to let go of a valued staff member, especially in the small firm setting. But if the famine is associated with a lull in the workload, you have to do the math on whether maintaining your current level of staffing is a financially sound business decision. After all, if self-preservation is an instinct you possess, you know all too well that if your firm goes under, both you and that staff member will be losing their jobs.
Think Beyond Firing
If the math is coming up close, you may be able to get away with not firing anyone. You may want to consider the following alternatives:
Don't Be Afraid to Fire
If you are wearing your cold-hearted business person hat, the only thing holding you back from firing a staff member during lean times should be the long-term costs. Rehiring and training are expensive, and are also a significant drain on your own time. However, if the cost savings justify it, then being cold-hearted may be necessary. Don't be afraid to make the difficult business decisions, just be certain it's right.
Automate in the Interim
Thanks to all the new automation tools available to businesses, such as self-scheduling tools, phone answering/call routing, and even document automation, replacing your staff with technology could very well be an interim, or even permanent, solution. In the long run, automation can save you both time and money.
Loaning Out Staff
If you truly feel awful about firing staff, or cutting hours, or maybe you just really don't think you'd ever find another secretary, paralegal, or receptionist that's as good, you may want to consider finding them a temporary position at another firm. Good help is hard to find, and some of your colleagues may be more than happy to pay your experienced staff member temporarily to help out or even train their own for a few months.