While staff is invaluable (and in many cases essential) to the operation and growth of a successful legal practice, remember that once you hire staff, you shift from being a “lawyer” to a “lawyer-employer”. Quite apart from the issues of what it means to practise law, the limitations on who may engage in the practice of law, and the supervision of legal staff, a lawyer-employer needs to consider many practical issues. While a thorough overview is beyond the scope of this Module, you should consider, among other things:

  • providing continuing education for staff to ensure they are staying current in areas relevant to your practice;
  • setting aside time for regular meetings to give and receive feedback and make employees aware of the firm’s direction;
  • meeting with employees individually to gauge their competency levels and ensure their tasks are appropriate;
  • reviewing employment law obligations;
  • establishing rules as to how technology is to be used by the staff and ensuring staff are technologically literate;
  • emphasizing the confidential nature of the information the staff will have access to, and the obligation to preserve client confidence. Remember, you must take all reasonable steps to ensure the privacy and safekeeping of a client’s confidential information (Code of Professional Conduct, section 3.3-1)

Remember, as a lawyer, you have complete professional responsibility for all work entrusted to you. You must directly supervise staff to whom you delegate tasks (section 6.1-1 of the Code).

Understanding the rules surrounding delegation and supervision are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Before you decide to hire, make sure you take the time to educate yourself about staff issues and develop a plan. Consider developing an office manual that sets out standard procedures, firm policies, as well as employee benefits and ensure that is available and accessible to all employees.