“Law Firm Administrator” is a dynamic position and there is no exact set of tasks. At its most basic, the nature of the Law Firm Administrator position is to manage the “day-to-day” running of the firm. As I like to define it, a Law Firm Administrator finds out what your firm needs right now and in the future, and finds a way to help you do the work to grow your firm.
There are five task groupings that are typical for Admins in solo or small law firms:
1. Efficiency Expert
2. Human Resources
3. Business Development
4. Money Matters
You might have noticed that “technology” wasn’t included in the list of task groupings. That’s because technology all by itself doesn’t really help anyone or make anyone more productive or profitable. A radical law firm administrator knows what tech is out there for firms like yours, and can show you how to leverage that technology to improve your firm’s efficiency.
One way to most effectively leverage technology is to automate tasks. Truly radical administrators work with firm owners and staff to design and implement automated workflow systems that dramatically improve the firm’s efficiency and profitability.
Most lawyers seem understand the value of policies and procedures for limiting your legal risk exposure. A law firm administrator can expand the owner’s knowledge and demonstrate the direct link between policies and procedures and productivity. A good administrator knows the value of documenting and following policies and procedures. A radical administrator knows the foundation you need and can draft them with you.
The most valuable resource in any business is its people. An admin needs to have a strong background in Human Resources. Your people are just as important as your technology. The law firm administrator should make sure there is a match between people and positions to achieve balance and facilitate productivity. An admin should understand benefits and payroll as well as employment regulations relating to wages & overtime, medical leave, workers’ compensation, and unemployment. An admin should also know have a depth of experience with HR functions like recruiting, interviewing, on-boarding, coaching, supervision, discipline, and documentation.
Business development includes marketing and sales. A law firm administrator doesn’t necessarily need to be the best marketer or salesperson, but it sure helps. Ideally, administrators have experience in both fields and add value to these functions by ensuring there is a targeted marketing strategy (or system) that has a method for tracking the firm’s return on investment.
Business development also includes developing systems that manage your contacts and connections, and can track referral sources as well as potential clients. A law firm administration should be able to help you build your “Intake Pipeline” that converts leads to potential clients and potential clients into paying clients.
Every time I talk to a law firm owner about bookkeeping, budgets, and accounting they make a face like they’re having a root canal. I get it. We went to law school to be attorneys – not bean counters. But it’s time to face the facts, you own a business and you need to engage in the money matters.
That does not mean you need to do your own bookkeeping and fill out your own taxes.
Delegating responsibility for money matters doesn’t mean delegating power or control. An administrator can work with you to learn what to keep and what to delegate in order to improve your firm’s financial performance and profitability. Administrators build systems that (1) free up lawyers to help clients and (2) ensure better-trained people handle the data entry.
I also include “performance metrics” in Money Matters. An admin needs to know what data provides the best indicators of a firm’s efficiency, profitability, and performance. They also know where that data lives and how to present it to owners in clear and concise reports (charts, graphs, and summaries). It’s absolutely essential for an admin to understand finances and budget, and to be able to help lead the analysis of the financial figures.
Capacity includes your firm’s employees, office space, equipment, utilities, and other critical things that make the firm run. In a negative context, capacity is called “overhead.” And obviously, the goal is to keep overhead low. Right?
Try thinking of it this way instead:
A solo working out of her house on with a laptop, answering her own phone, doing her own social media, and working nights to balance her checkbooks has very little overhead. She also has very little capacity. In order to work fewer hours and help more people, she needs to build capacity.
A law firm administrator uses their skill and expertise in every other area (efficiency, technology, management, marketing, and money) to help owners understand the firm’s current capacity and the required steps to increase capacity. The admin helps the owner understand how many clients the firm can handle and how many employees the firm can afford right now. Radical administrators can also put on the “COO hat” and help owners understand how many clients the firm needs in order to grow, what employees will be needed to do the work for that many clients, and what office space and technology will be needed to accommodate the employees who will serve the clients.
Law firm administrators help owners manage relationships and get the best deals from vendors and suppliers like virtual receptionists, contract attorneys, bookkeepers, payroll, tech, case management, subscriptions. Administrators help owners understand when they are ready to outsource a function or bring an outsourced function back in-house. Administrators make growth a little less overwhelming.
That being said, in firms without much staff and where everyone wears many hats, “capacity” also relates to the Admin’s ability to actually do the business of the firm. Admins in small law don’t just design and train. They do the work. And they need to do it well.
Even firms without the current capacity (or need) for a full-time law firm administrator will see immediate benefits from working with someone part-time … you’d be surprised how much we can accomplish in a few days each month or a few hours every week.
– The RadAd