I have performed law firm audits and the firms found them to be very helpful. If the firm is TRULY interested in the input from their people (attorneys and staff), and will respond to it in some fashion, the employees will contribute. They appreciate the opportunity to do so. Note that the firm’s response does not always mean agreement, but just some acknowledgment of the input.
The questions I ask are tailor-made for the individual firm and the specific problems they are trying to address, but I will send you a list of questions I have used in the past. Understand that each firm is different and has its own issues, so “one size doesn’t fit all.” These are, however, some of the basic questions I ask, and then follow up with more specifics depending on the client’s needs.
I usually suggest that an outside party conduct the audit. Many attorneys and staff members, for whatever reason, may not be comfortable being honest with their manager or some other “management” person. I have found people who feel comfortable they will not face retaliation in some form will be very honest and forthright. It also ensures that the data gathered is presented without bias or slant.
So, with these provisos, I attach some sample staff questions. If you feel they will help, you are welcome to pass them along. Some of them came from Nancy Byerly Jones’ book, Easy Self-Audits for Busy Law Firms, which is an excellent book and can be purchased from either the ABA or ALA.
Carole M. Leffler
Staff Interview Questions
1. What are the three things you like most?
2. What are the three things you like least?
3. If you could make any change in how your job is done, what would it be?
4. Who is your boss?
5. Do you feel you have adequate resources at your disposal to do your job?
6. Do you feel your requests for assistance or your suggestions for improvement are responded to timely?
7. What do you think about the overall management of the firm?
8. What concerns you the most about the:
a) firm’s clients
b) firm’s vendors or suppliers
c) the attorneys
d) your supervising attorney(s)
e) the administrator
f) other staff members
1. What are your challenges regarding firm software?
2. If you had a problem with your computer, who would you go to?
3. What problems, if any, are you experiencing with your present docket/work control system? Is there anything you would change about it? If so, what?
4. Is your file naming system consistent with everyone else’s? If not, why not?
1. How is overflow work handled? How would you handle it?
2. Do you feel underworked or overworked?
3. Do you feel the firm values your efforts? How do they show they do or don’t?
4. Do you think the filing system is adequate and meets your needs? If not, how would you change it?
5. Do you use a file opening procedure that is faithfully implemented with each new case (i.e., no file will be opened until after a conflict of interest is done)?
6. Would you refer a friend who needed legal assistance to this firm? Why or why not?
7. Are you given clear and complete instructions regarding your work? Can you give an example of when you were and when you weren’t?
8. What is the most time-consuming part of your work?
9. What is the least time-consuming?
10. What is the most frustrating part of your job?
1. Do you consider yourself to be a marketer for the firm? What would you like to do in this regard that you are not currently doing?
2. How much client contact do you have?
1. Have you ever been asked to do work or perform duties with which you are uncomfortable?
2. How would you rate your morale?
a) morale of the support staff?
b) morale of the attorneys?
c) overall morale of the firm?
3. Do you believe the personnel policies are clearly defined and adhered to?
4. Do you respect the lawyers and support staff in your office? Why or why not?
5. Do you feel like you are part of a team? If not, why not?
6. Do you feel you are kept informed of and given an opportunity to offer input regarding matters affecting you? Can you provide examples?
7. Are you given reasonable priority dates within which work must be completed? Examples?
8. How do the managers react to your taking time away from the office for vacation, sick leave, etc.
9. Do you think the lawyers and administrator set good examples for the staff by providing and faithfully utilizing dependable risk management policies and systems (e.g., docket/work control, conflicts of interest, good documentation and file management)? If not, why not? If so, in what ways?
10. Are staff members ever asked to be a party to unethical conduct or to participate in any other uncomfortable and unprofessional situations?
11. What do you think of the staff evaluation policies and procedures?
12. Do all staff members receive frequent feedback regarding the quality of their work product, their overall performance, and their other contributions to the firm?
13. Do you feel any type of training is needed, i.e., software, ethics, confidentiality, client relations, etc.?
14. If for some reason your supervisor is an inappropriate resource, do you know to whom you should report problems such as sexual harassment, unethical actions or omissions, suspected substance abuse, and other concerns without a fear of retaliation?
15. Do you respect the lawyers and administrator of this firm? Why or why not?
16. How do you feel about pitching in and helping a co-worker who needs help? What were the circumstances the last time you did so?
17. If you were the client, would you be satisfied having you as a staff person assigned to a case in light of your job performance, professionalism, and attitude?
18. Have any clients made remarks to you regarding service they have received from anyone in the firm?
19. Do you and your attorney(s) have a policy for returning all client calls within 24 hours? Is the policy adhered to?
20. What do you think about the firm’s benefit programs – sick leave, vacation, insurance, 401(k) plan, etc.? Any benefits you would like to change?
Anything else you would like to add?