Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Law firm management roles

Aug 14, 2012

Law Firm Management Roles – What Do I Need To Be Good At?


I am the owner of a 12 attorney firm in Dallas. We have 26 people including attorneys and staff. I founded the firm 20 years ago. While we have an Accounting Manager – I am responsible for the management and direction of the firm. While we have done okay over the years – I often feel deficient as a manager and am not always sure that I am covering all of the bases. Is there such thing as management 101 for guys like me?


Mention management 101 and I think of the five functions of management. Each of these roles must be performed by someone in every law firm and business if it is to be successful. In a small firm such as yours you must perform each of these functions and be reasonably good at all of them.

Here are the five functions:

1.  Planning

Deciding in advance what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who is to do it. Planning bridges the gap from where you are to where you want to go. It makes it possible for things to occur which would not otherwise happen. Planning is often referred to as business, long range, or strategic planning.

2.  Organizing

Creating an intentional structure of roles, duties and responsibilites, and accountabilities. Defining  what is to be done, by who, and how? Sometimes this involves establishing departments or practice groups.

3.  Staffing

Manning the jobs which involves hiring, performance management, training, mentoring, and development of people to fill the organizational roles.

4.  Directing

Directing employees involves motivation, communications and leadership.

5.  Controlling

Measurement of accomplishments of events against the standard of plans and the correction of deviations to insure attainment of objectives according to plans. In essence this involves reviewing your business, long range or strategic plan or budget against actual performance using metrics and dashboards/reports to determine how well you are making progress. If you are falling short of firm goals – determine problem areas and take corrective action to get performance back on course.

Use the above functions as a report card. Ask your self – how good are you at performing each of these roles? Are you performing them at all?

In addition to these roles you need to have a working knowledge of accounting and finance and be able to manage the financial affairs of the firm "work the books" as well as being good at getting the right people on the bus (hiring right) and keeping them there.

As you continue to grow you will eventually need to hire management talent to delegate some of these functions to perform.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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