Follow appropriate protocol

An important practice management tip is to make sure to follow appropriate law firm (or wherever) protocol, including being sensitive to proper chain of command when taking any kind of significant action or making requests.  In the law firm setting (and in many other legal jobs), there is generally a process and guidelines to follow before taking most actions.  First. determine what the protocol is (i.e., face to face meeting, e-mail, formal memo, etc.) and then follow that pattern.

While following the proper steps, pay particular attention to whom you need to contact.  For most issues, you will likely be required to contact your direct supervisor first before going above or even around him or her and contacting others.  Remember that people are sensitive (particularly at law firms) so taking the extra time to follow appropriate procedure and contact the right person can only help you and potentially get you in trouble if you do not.

Some examples -- looking for new work projects, performing client conflict checks, asking about your firm statistics (billable hours, collections, etc.) notifying people about or requesting vacation time, completing self-evaluations, asking for a raise, asking to modify your work schedule, asking about expense reimbursement policy, etc.

Suppose for example you have prepared a memo to support the reasons you are entitled to a raise and a bonus.  The protocol in your firm and in your practice group (note they may be different) may be to send to your practice group leader and then he or she forwards on to someone higher up in firm management.  To the extent you are responsible for sending, remember not to leave anyone out who is suppose to be included because they will find out.  If sending to multiple people, be mindful of ordering on e-mail because some people will care.  Also, titles may matter to some folks, particularly lawyers in management.

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