Law firm culture is an extremely important factor when it comes to the success of a business and the wellbeing of its employees – yet it is commonly overlooked. Creating and nurturing a positive workplace environment is essential to getting the best out of lawyers, improving client relationships and opening up the business to new opportunities.
Many law firms sadly remain stuck in the past and still adopt old-fashioned practices that could create a toxic working environment. If you’re a lawyer really looking to advance in your career and are employed in this type of company, you may feel that maintaining the status quo is not going to give you the opportunities to reach your goals.
The question is, how do you avoid finding yourself in a new company that has exactly the same practices and environment than the one you left behind? Here are the qualities and factors we think you should look for if you want to work in a positive law firm culture.
A positive law firm culture depends on effective leadership at all levels, both at the team level, department, division and the whole firm. This involves dedicating quality time to set out clear goals for the business and the individuals within it, while motivating Partners and employees alike to embrace and achieve these objectives.
For a company to succeed, it must have a clear direction and everybody should be pulling in the same direction. If the law firm’s culture consists of several departments trying to compete and outdo each other for bragging rights, then the business is likely to struggle to meet its objectives.
An effective leader will also put the company’s needs before their own and avoid the temptation of placing themselves above their subordinates. It takes more than one person to make a law firm successful, so a leader must act selflessly to ensure that everything is working as it should.
Closely related to the topic of leadership is the issue of communication. A positive law firm culture will encourage regular distribution of praise and feedback so that lawyers understand exactly what is expected of them and are motivated by the fact that their hard work and dedication is not going unnoticed.
If several lawyers are required to collaborate on a specific project, a successful law firm will ensure that everybody involved will be kept up to date on progress – even after their contribution has ended. This instils a sense of togetherness and combined achievement which can have an extremely positive effect on morale.
While receiving market salary and a bonus is obviously welcome, a company wanting to adopt a positive law firm culture should also look at giving out small perks and thank-yous every once in a while. Gestures like these help lawyers feel more appreciated and helps them keep motivated.
Successful law firms will embody a true sense of teamwork. This includes a willingness to share work and clients, to ensure that tasks are carried out as efficiently and expertly as possible.
A positive law firm culture also allows for employees to use their initiative and request genuine input regarding potential changes or challenges. If lawyers feel like their voices will not be heard or that they are just an insignificant cog in a machine, they are unlikely to be motivated to do a good job and the quality of work will undoubtedly suffer.
The essence of teamwork should also be applied in terms of the law firm’s remuneration structure. If an “eat what you kill” mentality is prevalent, then this may dissuade lawyers from sharing their case work so they can garner as much money as possible – thereby jeopardising the quality of work that is carried out.
Companies that display a positive law firm culture will also have a more measured approach when it comes to workload. While it’s logical for there to be deadlines for the completion of a case, they should be based around the needs of the client and not just arbitrarily demanded by management.
Being stressed about workload, whether it is because there is simply too much of it or you’re worried about not billing the minimum amount because there isn’t enough work to go around, is not a sign of a positive law firm culture. There needs to be an effective time management structure in place to ensure that work can be carried out and distributed as efficiently as possible so as not to scrimp on quality – while simultaneously reducing the need for long hours and associated stresses.
Maintaining the status quo is the enemy of creativity and opportunity. While following the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra might have succeeded in the past, it does not pass muster in today’s more competitive legal environment.
Law firms must be much more proactive, both in the way they handle their client’s cases and their internal business. Only those that are willing to adapt and take reasonable risks will thrive.
A positive law firm culture embraces innovation and thrives on exploring new opportunities – whether it be new areas of law or adopting more modern working practice. A company that is still stuck in the past will certainly not be a good environment for lawyers really looking to make a name for themselves in their field.
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If you are looking for your next opportunity and are keen to move to a company with a positive law firm culture, finding a business that suits you can be extremely challenging if you don’t have any support. Scanning online job boards only gives you a snapshot of what it would be like working for the firm – and only shows you what the firm wants you to see.
This is where a specialist legal recruiter, such as Jepson Holt, can help. They will have in-depth knowledge about the inner workings of law firms and provide you with information and opportunities that would otherwise have been locked to you.
At Jepson Holt, we take the time to fully understand what you want from your career and the type of law firm culture that you will thrive in. We will then recommend opportunities that perfectly align with your goals, so you can be confident you are walking into a legal position that is built around you.
Securing a job at a law firm with a positive culture is just one of the ways you can enhance your career. To give you more guidance, we have created a free eBook entitled: “Taking Control of Your Legal Career”. From how to build a personal brand to the importance of investing in yourself, this handy reference details everything you need to know about how to make the most of your working life. This is just part of our commitment to helping you achieve the legal career you deserve.