This may seem like a straightforward question, but it’s not. Why? Because the causes of poor performance are not always straightforward. It can be the result of someone who doesn’t have the skills or attitude to perform. Or it can be the result of someone who is being asked to do too much.
Both types of employees are unproductive and can impact your cases. Your job is to identify productivity issues and then dig into the reasons for the subpar performance to determine if it’s a systematic problem that the firm needs to address, or an individual productivity issue.
- If you have identified incompetence as the issue, do you need to provide additional training, or is there a lack of interest, drive, or ability?
- If you have identified overload as the issue, do you need to redistribute caseloads, or ensure that the employee has (and is using) tools to manage her caseload?
Below I will share with you some key questions to consider when trying to determine the root cause of a productivity issue. In the 30+ years I spent practicing law, I managed high volumes of cases and people and found that asking questions always helped. The answers you uncover should help you get a handle on whether an unproductive employee needs help, a nudge, or a farewell.
It’s important to have a handle on the composition of paralegals’ caseloads. What types of cases (soft tissue/subjective injury, definitive injury, wrongful death, etc.) are included? Balance this information against your understanding of what time and effort goes into managing each type of case at your firm.
If you have a paralegal who is underperforming, you can gain additional insight into possible reasons for this by looking at the work stages of the cases.
- If paralegal A has the bulk of his cases in pre-demand, for example, and you have identified a dip in KPIs (he’s behind on client contacts or requests for outstanding records), this could be an indication that he has too many cases in that stage and that he’s having a hard time prioritizing. A manager should step in and provide guidance at this point.
- If paralegal B has the bulk of her cases in post-demand, where the workload responsibilities have shifted to others and she, too, is behind on tasks, it’s possible she’s not capable of doing the job efficiently. Or you might uncover some process or operational issues – perhaps she is performing tasks that are not her responsibility – which might need to be addressed by a process change.