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Practice Management: How to motivate

Every Issue

Cite as: September 2015 89 (9) LIJ, p.77

Creating a motivating work environment can have a big impact on you and your clients.

  • Enthusiasm is contagious and can make a real difference in the day to day experience of working in your firm. Start the day in a positive and inclusive way – it is better for you and those around you.
  • Do not underpay your staff – poor pay is a great demotivator. Once you have the salary right, don’t think financial rewards are the be all and end all for creating motivating workplaces.
  • Read and learn more about this interesting area. A good starting place is the Daniel Pink online video “The puzzle of motivation” ( ?language=en).
  • It makes a real difference when you work with motivated and committed colleagues. Here are some ideas and tips on how you can create a work environment that will help keep you and your people motivated and engaged.

    A positive personal impact

    As with any leader, the power of a partner’s personality has a big influence on the vibe in the office or the team. Worried partner – worried staff. Moody partner – wary staff. Angry partner – fearful staff. Worried, wary and fearful are not adjectives that one hears when describing productive and motivated employees.

    And make sure there is little tolerance of unpleasant and unhelpful behaviour in others – poor morale is often a reflection of poor personal relationships.

    Communicate the purpose of the work

    People are more likely to work harder and more effectively if they can attribute meaning to their work. In day to day terms, think about describing people’s contributions in ways that highlight this. For instance, does the receptionist “just answer phones” or “provide a great first impression of our firm so that our clients know we are a helpful and professional law firm”? Is the young lawyer “just doing the research” or “making sure all aspects of case law are considered to ensure we provide the right advice at the right price”?

    Create opportunities for interesting work and further development

    People working in law firms, and not just lawyers, crave interesting and challenging work and the opportunity to learn new things. A good partner/manager can create learning and development opportunities by delegating more difficult work that provides the challenge staff seek. Ask people about what they would like to do more of or less of and try to incorporate this into their work.

    Give recognition

    Too often I hear people say that they do not have the time in their day to provide positive feedback to people. They are just too busy. Yet these same people seem to find the time to discuss any mistakes made, often in tiresome detail. Take the time to say thank you for a job well done. Pass on positive client feedback to staff. And if you are working in a place where recognition is limited, create your own list of achievements so you can reflect on your progress.

    Kriss Will is an HR management consultant who has worked with law firms for more than 20 years (


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