May 18, 2023
Not everything that gets measured gets managed.
I just heard a story about that earlier this week.
A paralegal friend recently left the small law firm where she had worked for over a decade. I reached out to her when I saw on LinkedIn that she had changed firms.
The last time we talked was just before the shutdown in March 2020. What I thought would be a short congratulatory call about the new position became a much longer call about why she left the firm she previously loved.
While other factors may have influenced her decision to leave, the primary reasons she explained to me related to feeling unappreciated and her belief that the lawyers ignored the reports she was running every month and every quarter.
According to my friend (who permitted me to tell this story as long she remains anonymous), the law firm experienced attrition in its financial operations staff during the pandemic. The firm lost all three finance, accounting, and billing team members.
Instead of hiring replacements, firm management decided to decentralize the functions previously handled by the three-person finance operations team. Instead of one three-person team handling those duties, the law firm leadership spread the responsibilities to the matter and client teams.
The newly assigned decentralized tasks included: (a) monthly, quarterly, and annual budgets, (b) monthly and quarterly accruals, and (c) realization and profitability reports broken down by clients, originating attorneys, and billing timekeepers.
My friend was not happy to inherit the additional responsibilities. But after training to run the reports and a salary increase, she did the work for over a year. Her problem with the extra work was that nobody seemed to do anything with the data, and nobody explained why she had to run the reports if nobody used the information.
She did not know if the attorneys used the data somehow but failed to tell her. Still, she was responsible for updating the reports and communicating with the clients about the budgets and accruals.
Ultimately, she got frustrated and felt like the financial work she inherited was busy work, and nobody cared about the information. Because she felt like the finance work she did every month was a waste of time, she looked for and got a job at another firm.
She might have stayed at her previous job if that law firm had:
1. Explained why the reports were needed.
2. Shown appreciation for the reports.
3. Explained what actions the lawyers took when they received the reports.