It doesn't take a master motivational speaker to understand what generally drives people. From the time people are young, they're driven and motivated by the need for affirmation and love. This has served as the basis for some leadership and motivational theory. While some bosses believe people respond better to threats and fear, the best in the business know that showing love is the best way to get people to work hard. This is true for lawyers just as it's true for other professionals and workers in general.
If you're wondering what drives attorneys to work hard on their cases, the research shows that it all comes down to different methods of showing love. Despite taking public derision from all angles, lawyers are really just people with fairly predictable human needs. With this in mind, people tend to want praise. They dedicate their lives to the law. They've had to go through college, study for the LSAT, complete a hectic three years at law school and then sit for a bar exam. They want to know that all that hard work has led to some professional competence. Thus, they're looking for bosses and clients who will show them in some way that their work is effective and meaningful.
People perform well when they love what they do
The general rule is that people will be at their best when they love their work. This goes for golfers, musicians, financial advisors and certainly lawyers. Thus, those trying to motivate a lawyer to work up a case in a diligent way will want to focus on affirming that lawyer's love for his work. Some of the best ways to create this sense are as follows.
Real praise leads to real self-worth
There is such a thing as extrinsic motivation. People will be motivated to some extent if you tell them they have to do a thing or they are fired. However, a motivation that comes from within tends to be much more sustainable and effective at producing proper motivation. With this in mind, many who try to motivate lawyers have found that giving out real praise will help to drive up self-worth in these lawyers. They will then work hard on a case not because they have been told to do so, but because they will feel like real lawyers who are bringing value to an organization. Just as students and young people perform better when they think they're better at something, lawyers follow this very real trend.
Moving beyond the billable hour to other measures of value
All too often, lawyers are assessed on the basis of the billable hour. Some firms tell their associates that if they work 2,000 or more billable hours, they'll get a reward. If they fail to do those hours, they might just be shown the door. With this in mind, if those lawyers are able to bill a higher number of hours, they are seen as being more valuable to the firm. This can be a soul-killing metric for many lawyers, both young and old. It suggests that the actual quality of what they are doing is not nearly as important as the length of time they are doing it. Likewise, using only the billable hour as a measure of analysis makes it feel as if those lawyers are replaceable by any person who can sit at a desk.
Instead, attorneys are motivated by metrics that go beyond just time. Think about creative ways to assess the actual quality of the work a lawyer is doing. Was their work, especially creative? Did it problem solve well? Was it presented in a format that showed professionalism and a touch of class? Those looking to motivate lawyers must look beyond the billable hour to get the most out of those lawyers.
Quarterly rewards can work
Some law firms just reward their attorneys at the end of every year. If the attorney does well, then he gets a bonus. If he doesn't, then he's disappointed when a bonus never comes. Some of the most innovative law firms out there are rewarding their attorneys on a quarterly basis. This way, there are more opportunities to share with the attorney that they are appreciated by the firm and by the clients the firm represents.
Measuring accomplishments big and small
Lawyers are notoriously conscious of the honors they receive. In fact, if you go into the offices of many lawyers, you will see plaques hanging on their walls. Their resumes will include whatever awards they have received. The list of awards for lawyers is often long when they do well. Some of these awards are legitimate, while others are purchased. If you're serious about being a tremendous motivator of attorneys, then you will keep track of their accomplishments and find a way to recognize those. If a lawyer wins a big case, this should be celebrated. If he provides excellent service to multiple clients, a good firm will take note. If his ability to bring in and retain clients is second to none for a given year, then that, too, is an accomplishment worth celebrating. The practice of law is hard, so celebrating accomplishments are more than necessary.
Lawyers are competitive
Those seeking to motivate must keep in mind that lawyers are naturally competitive. Most lawyers have had success in school and in their professional lives. They thrive on getting wins in their academic, professional and social lives. This means that those seeking to motivate must keep in mind the competitive nature of lawyers. Build out contests that they can win. Creative incentive programs that force them to compete against themselves. This way, it is possible for all lawyers in a given office to win, rather than having a system set up where some people are guaranteed to lose.
A firm's culture is critical
Motivation doesn't just happen. It has to come from the top, with a leader that sets the tone for the firm. Good leaders lead by example, showing that hard work and high levels of client service are the expectation. The best leaders show their love and appreciation for their lawyers by setting a good example and then setting those lawyers up to have success of their own.
Ultimately attorneys are just like any other worker. They want to know their work matters. They want to feel loved, affirmed and appreciated. If you are looking to motivate a lawyer to work hard on cases, then following these methods will give you the best shot.
Published by Daphenee Plaisir