Why do some law firms have a healthier office culture than others?
As a leading legal marketing agency, our Postali team members notice that some law firm’s office cultures are healthier, happier, and more productive than others. This issue is equally important to our business (and businesses regardless of type), and we’re taking a deep dive into the elements that create a healthy law office culture.
Watch this video to hear our insights, or keep reading for more in-depth info.
Throughout the years, we have developed business partnerships with many law firms and have gained valuable insight into how they operate. This inside knowledge of the legal industry, matched with the experience of running our own small business, allows us to provide clients with the guidance they need to be successful.
Values are more than your mission statement on your website. Values are the heartbeat that establishes the rhythm of the office. Are you a casual firm? Or more button-down? Is accruing billable hours the most important thing, or are you committed to building long-term relationships? When senior partners articulate what matters most in branding, growth, and motivation, they’re more likely to hire associates that reflect their core values.
Partners shouldn’t hire people who don’t support their brand. And associates shouldn’t take a job that doesn’t mesh with their individual goals and motivation. Finding an office team that works together begins with the hiring and interviewing. If they’re not right from the get-go, they’re not suitable for the long run.
Words and actions always count, but they’re even more valuable during the interview and hiring process. Employers should explicitly share their firm’s values and ask candidates questions to ensure that prospective employees genuinely understand their values. Applicants have their personal fact-finding mission during the interview. Most people want more than a paycheck; they want to work at a place where they’re appreciated.
A job interview is similar to a first date: both parties check each other out to see if it’s a good fit.
Prospective associates are eager to make a favorable impression. Having potential co-workers involved in the interview process makes it more informal and ultimately more revealing.
Jenna Saponaro, Postali’s Chief of Staff, routinely uses the Wonscore assessment test to determine if a prospective employee is a good fit for the specific role that needs to be filled. The results are tailored to certain attributes and skillsets needed for a position.
“A personality test is also a good indicator of how motivated and interested a potential candidate is,” says Jenna. “Some people take the test right after the initial phone interview, others wait a few weeks, and a few ignore the link. It’s a tool best used in conjunction with one-on-one conversations, portfolios, recommendations, and other hiring factors.”
Hiring someone on a trial basis (a natural for litigators!) is also an option. While a probationary period with a review isn’t necessary for every hire, it might be worthwhile when you’re filling a high-profile position.
Healthy office cultures value humanity over hierarchy. At its heart, a law office is where humans work, talk, and interact with each other.
Humanity is when everyone on the team knows their role and unique skillset contributes to the larger goal. Hierarchy has an “upstairs, downstairs” vibe. While senior partners bring in the billable hours that keep the lights on, they didn’t do it alone. A multi-million dollar billing involves hundreds of hours from people whose name isn’t on the front door.
“No one wants to go to work and wonder if they’re doing well or not,” says Jenna. “Team members should know what’s expected from them, day-to-day.”
Expectations are discussed during interviewing and onboarding and then never brought up again. A better approach is to give praise and constructive feedback regularly.
Email, text, and Slack are good, fast ways to communicate. Still, they don’t replace the humanity-boosting benefits of real-life interaction. Even if your face-to-face conversations are on zoom, team members appreciate and value a personal connection.
A no-pain-no-gain mindset isn’t healthy for working out or working, period. Your HR department should ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of the firm’s policies and practices regarding sick days, personal days, and parental leave. It isn’t fair to offer benefits to entice someone to work at your firm, only to shame or scold them when they exercise their right to paid sick leave and other benefits.
Associates and staff are more likely to stay at a firm that connects their professional goals with personal rewards. More than ever, helping team members stay connected means a better focus on the firm’s goals and clients. Partners, associates, paralegals, IT staff – everyone’s role is interdependent. Finding ways to acknowledge and encourage connectivity is key to healthy office culture.
Law firm associates and staff often work long hours, nights, and weekends. They sacrifice a big chunk of their personal lives to support the firm’s mission. Celebrate achievements and milestones to show their efforts are invaluable.
At Postali, we publicly celebrate a team member’s work anniversary through our social media. (We also encourage cupcakes.) Additionally, we surprise employees with personalized gifts. We do the same when a new person joins our team. Law firms that appreciate associates’ hard work have a healthier office culture.
Associates are often afraid to show vulnerabilities because they don’t want to seem weak in a profession where being a “shark” is a compliment. The ongoing pandemic, volatile economics, and everyday life can wear down even the most cheerful and self-reliant individual. It must be clear to team members that their overall wellbeing is important and taken into consideration. Knowing that team members are rooting for you – and not plotting against you – encourages people to work together.
Does your office support a favorite charity? Is there one day where everyone puts on their old jeans and a company tee-shirt to volunteer at a local shelter or food bank? It’s healthy to experience team members outside the confines of their job title or position. Not all co-workers become great friends, but teambuilding projects and volunteering as a group strengthens the commitment to work together.
The Covid-19 changed the standard workplace like no other event in modern history. Law firms and other businesses found sustainable solutions when face-to-face contact wasn’t possible or safe. Court proceedings via zoom? Check. Maintaining – or exceeding – productivity levels when people work remotely from home? Yes. The pandemic has turned the old way of doing business on its head. Being open to change is the first step toward a happier, healthier office culture.
Taking steps to improve your law office’s culture starts by gathering information. You can do this in a few ways:
Whatever time and energy you spend on bolstering the health of your law office’s culture is a wise investment. With over 1.3 million practicing attorneys nationwide, you want to utilize every advantage to make your firm stand apart.
Postali is a full-service marketing agency that creates award-winning websites for solo practitioners and mid-sized law firms. We help lawyers in multiple aspects of their practice, including call tracking & voice services, full-scale photo & video production, press & media relations, content marketing, SEO, and paid search marketing.