Diary of a legal aid lawyer

Diary of a legal aid lawyer: Getting the most from your talented legal aid team

When I first started at The Family Law Company, I asked a member of our support staff where she worked – she said she was “just in the basement”. But to me there was no “just” about it. All good things are built on solid foundations; the most important people are often behind the scenes. So how can you best utilise their skills?

Whenever I take on a new case, I want my team involved from the start, to be invested in it. One way is to discuss the details early on; give your views and ask for theirs. Break down into bite-sized chunks what needs to be done, find out what they can take on and whether there’s anything that might affect how much time they can put in. This helps to plan. I use the SMART technique as a guideline to set objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timed.

Encourage your team to take on tasks of greater complexity. This lets them know they’re doing well and means you can be confident in delegating. But it’s never a question of throwing them in at the deep end and leaving them floundering. We have an open-door culture at The Family Law Company, in our opinion there’s no such thing as a silly question. This means our case management, client service and the engagement of our teams all increase. It’s a good idea to get your team involved in the wider business to learn different skills too, for example writing blogs or attending networking and legal events.

When it comes to making the most of potential, there’s no substitute for training. I find it useful to always implement learning points within a case. What, if anything, could have been done differently? Do they need support to do something better next time?

Understand what training they’ve already had and what they need – and then find someone to carry it out. We have a dedicated training committee who supports this need. It’s helpful to find out how individuals view their future. For example, if they have a passion for advocacy, we set up mock trials they can take part in. If they really enjoy speaking to clients, we involve them in more client-facing tasks.

Finally, critical to all the above is having a genuine commitment to wellbeing. Make sure stress levels aren’t going through the roof and give support whenever needed. Personally, I try to keep the work environment warm, friendly, and lively.

Ultimately, making the most of your team means you can build trust. Delegating more challenging tasks frees you up to be more productive and devote extra time to complex cases. It helps your own development as you take on cases that stretch you. And of course from a commercial perspective, giving the right level of work to the right person, whether paralegal or support staff, simply makes sense.

Imran Khodabocus, Director responsible for training at The Family Law Company

The Family Law Company will return with a new entry to their diary of a legal aid lawyer every fortnight, available exclusively on Today’s Family Lawyer.

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join nearly 3,000 other family practitioners - Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Thursday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.