Think about your law firm and its environment. It doesn’t matter if the firm is large, medium or small; the culture around you is what is important.Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett, P.A. has some nice tips on this.
Your law firm probably has some written policies and procedures, maybe a mission statement and strategic goals it would like to reach. But what about the unwritten rules and the perceptions each employee has about how the firm works? These are often the deciding factor in what the law firm culture looks like.
Do you have the ability to change the culture in your firm? Often it is only the attorneys at the top of the management hierarchy who can influence the organizational structure. But if your firm setting isn’t functioning the best it can, it may be time for it to change, or time for you to make a change.
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself when evaluating your workplace:
1. Does your law firm have a team spirit about it? Merely tolerating each other isn’t good enough. If the employees at all levels are friendly and willing to work together, it makes going to work not feel like drudgery. It also helps if there is a democratic feel to the office where people can be heard, no matter who they are.
2. Does your firm care about your family life? A firm that is sensitive to its employees’ needs and allows flexibility as long as the work is getting done, is a humanistic firm. After all, your quality of life outside of your practice should be one of the most important aspects of your day. If your billable hours matter more to the firm than you’re getting to spend time with your family, then you are sacrificing your life for money.
3. Does your firm have good leadership? You should be able to see it and feel it organization-wide, and the leaders should be accessible to everyone and approachable by everyone who works there. In other words, it shouldn’t be an intimidating environment. The communication should be open and respectful from the mailroom to the most influential person in the firm.
4. Is your firm open to change? If the status quo of the firm is firmly entrenched and the leaders are aggressive in maintaining the practice as it is, you’ll know that traditions aren’t going to change anytime soon. On the flip side, if your firm is growing rapidly, there should be adequate planning so you can stay innovative and competitive, without spiraling out of control.
5. Is there a good balance of experience? If there are too many partners who are unproductive, or too many new attorneys with not enough practical experience, the firm won’t feel solid. The result may be lack of competitiveness, which means no positive growth for anyone.
As an attorney, it is important that you live your values, and your values need to extend to your law firm. You should be sharing in the vision of the firm. If your firm’s vision or values don’t match up to your own, you need to take a step back. Can you make any changes so you don’t compromise your own practice? If not, what other options do you have? Change is scary, but your happiness in your law practice and your personal life should be tantamount.