A member of the New York State Bar Association who was recently elected to serve as her firm’s Managing Partner asked the below question about what should be the role of an administrator in a 30+ attorney law firm.
Question: As the recently elected Managing Partner of a 30+ attorney law firm located on Long Island, I have some questions about the effective performance of our firm’s administrator. It would be appreciated if you would kindly provide a job description for a law firm administrator for our size firm.
Response: Professional law firm administrators may make important contributions to the financial and operating success of their law firms. The value of these administrators can increase as they apply business principles to their firms and to enhance productivity by:
- developing automation to insure the delivery of high quality legal services,
- maintaining, analyzing and interpreting financial data and management information for the Managing Partner and the partners,
- managing/coordinating the human resources functions for the administrative support staff,
- providing administrative management support to those partners who are responsible for substantive areas of the practice and
- performing/coordinating all of the other operational functions required of a growth oriented law firm.
As requested, below is a detailed job position of what I believe should be the role of the law firm’s administrator.
Position Description for Firm Administrator
The Firm Administrator shall be responsible for managing the administrative operations of the Firm, including supervising all non-attorney personnel; evaluating and managing the Firm’s operating and information systems; overseeing the Firm’s finance functions; assisting in the marketing of the Firm’s legal services and client development activities; and evaluating, managing and supervising the facilities of the Firm.
The Firm Administrator will report to the Firm’s executive committee and will meet with the executive committee on a regular, periodic basis. The Firm Administrator may consult on an as-needed basis with the executive committee or any member of the Firm so designated by the executive committee for specific purposes. The Firm Administrator’s responsibilities, which may be altered or added to from time to time by the executive committee or by action of the members, are described in more detail below:
Personnel and Human Resources Management
The Firm Administrator should have an extensive background in personnel and human resource management and will be responsible for overall non-attorney personnel management, including the following:
- Determining non-attorney staff needs in coordination with the executive committee, practice group leaders, and supervising attorneys, as appropriate.
- Interviewing and screening applicants for non-attorney positions.
- Supervising the training of non-attorney personnel.
- Evaluating non-attorney personnel, including consulting with the executive committee, practice group leaders and supervising attorneys.
- Coordinating vacation schedules of non-attorney personnel.
- Counseling non-attorney personnel who are not complying with Firm procedures and requirements and taking appropriate disciplinary action when necessary.
- Handling termination of employment of non-attorney employees after consultation with the executive committee and, where applicable, the supervising attorneys.
- Conducting non-attorney personnel meetings.
- Maintaining personnel records for all employees.
- Handling unemployment compensation hearings.
- Determining and recommending salary adjustments for non-attorney personnel.
- Maintaining the non-attorney employment manual.
- Maintaining the attorney manual, containing policies and procedures applicable only to attorney personnel.
- Assisting the executive committee in associate attorney compensation and bonus evaluation process.
- Administering, evaluating, and recommending changes, as appropriate, to, the benefits offered by the Firm, including welfare and retirement benefits.
Management of Firm Finances
The Firm Administrator should have a strong financial background and will be responsible for the overall financial planning and financial management for the Firm, including responsibility for the following:
- Planning and implementing the Firm’s annual budget.
- Tracking client development efforts.
- Financial and tax reporting.
- General ledger and trust accounting.
- Assisting with billing and collections.
- Cash flow control.
- Managing banking relationships.
- Payroll and fringe benefits for employees.
Management of Computer and Other Operating and Information Systems
The Firm Administrator should have a broad knowledge of computer systems and other operating and information systems, both hardware and software, as used in a law firm environment. Duties of the Firm Administrator with respect to management of the Firm’s computer systems and other operating systems will include the following:
- Evaluating periodically the computer systems used by the Firm, including hardware and all software, to determine whether changes in these systems are merited to increase efficiency and to achieve cost savings.
- Securing and managing appropriate maintenance contracts for computer hardware and software systems.
- Managing records retention, including information storage and retrieval.
- Managing the library, including all reference materials and subscriptions.
- Managing the telephone system, including periodically evaluating the telephone system to ensure that the Firm has a cost effective and up-to-date system.
The Firm Administrator will be responsible for the overall management of the Firm’s physical facilities and related functions, including the following:
- Office space planning.
- Renovation of office space when necessary.
- Communicating with the Firm’s landlord.
- Office furniture.
- Office equipment, including copy machines, fax machines, postage and other mail equipment.
- Purchasing office and breakroom supplies, including food and drink items, and miscellaneous equipment.
Firm Marketing and Client Development Activities
The Firm Administrator will assist the attorneys in the marketing of the Firm’s legal services and client development activities, including the following:
- Coordinating the preparation and periodic updating of the Firm’s brochure.
- Assisting in preparing and disseminating in a timely manner the Firm’s announcements for new members, new associates and other matters.
- Handling Firm advertising.
- Handling other activities that will promote and enhance the Firm’s visibility and image in the communities served by the Firm.
The Firm Administrator should assist the Firm’s attorneys in recruiting attorneys, training associates, training legal assistants, and improving the total quality of the practice of law for the Firm’s attorneys. The Firm Administrator also is responsible for coordinating business and social functions of the Firm.