General Staff Issues

While staff is invaluable (and in many circumstances essential) to the operation and growth of a practice, remember that once staff is hired, you shift from being a "lawyer" to being a "lawyer-employer." Quite apart from the issues of what it means to practise law, the limitations placed on who may engage in the practice of law, and supervision of paralegals, a lawyer-employer needs to consider many practical issues. A thorough overview is beyond the scope of this module, but some of the issues to consider are:

  • providing continuing education for staff to ensure they are staying current in areas relevant to your practice;
  • setting aside time for regular staff meetings to give and receive feedback, and make employees aware of the firm's direction;
  • reviewing employment law obligations, along with issues such as tax deductions, and benefits. (Note: some matters are discussed in other modules, such as Taxation and Employee Deductions.)
  • establishing rules as to how technology, such as e-mail and the Internet, are to be used by staff; and
  • emphasizing the confidential nature of the information the staff will have access to, and the obligation to preserve client confidences. Remember that you must take all reasonable steps to ensure the privacy and safekeeping of a client's confidential information (BC Code, Chapter 3, rule 3.3-1).

This is the tip of a very large iceberg. Before you hire, 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 it is available (in hard copy or electronic form) for each employee.