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A good staff is the backbone of any successful law firm, and the difference between a good staff and a poor one can make or break your practice. But a good staff doesn’t happen by accident. From vetting to hiring, from training to empowerment, a good staff is built carefully with people who embrace your values and vision.

When you finally have your optimal team in place, your office runs smoothly, efficiently and, we hope, profitably. A good staff, especially one that’s been intact for a considerable amount of time, combines unique strengths from its members. The whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

A study in Harvard Business Review found “familiarity was a better predictor of performance than the individual experience of team members or project managers.” Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt; it breeds competency.

That said, however, turnover is the one universal truth among any workplace or organization — your law firm included. The challenge is to keep your team as intact as possible, and here’s where incentives play a part.

A good, competitive salary is a must. People want to feel like they’re valued, and often they equate that to the dollars on their paychecks. But beyond salary are many ideas for incentivizing your team members to stay.

An annual retreat for staff members and their families in a vacation location could be one. Occasional paid Fridays off for a job completed ahead of schedule would appeal to many; I mean, who doesn’t want a three-day weekend? A monthly lunch at one of your town’s finest restaurants could work.

Of course, cold, hard cash always plays. Bonuses for meeting goals are one of the traditional ways of rewarding and incentivizing employees, often showing up as a year-end bonus check.

One of our clients, however, keeps it more immediate with a quarterly scorecard for her employees. Although the goals for each employee are different based on their jobs, the scorecard remains the same across the board. An employee scoring 93 or higher gets the maximum bonus with lower scores getting a percentage.

Since implementing this system, she has found that staff performance has increased, and based on the practice’s goals, they have created ways to make the firm more profitable. In short, her employees have taken ownership in her success.

Happy and motivated employees will make your office a better place to work — and I’ll bet it makes it more profitable, too.

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