In the highly competitive legal industry, law firms constantly seek strategies to boost profits, acquire new clients, retain employees and attract top talent. While, traditionally, the focus has been on implementing strategic business plans for financial success, it’s time that firms heed the words of Peter Drucker (often dubbed the “father of management thinking”), who said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
It’s time to look inward. Work-life balance, celebrating successes, rewarding employees and opening doors (quite literally) can lead to greater profits. If you are not focusing on your law firm culture, your bottom line and profits are already impacted, no matter how strategic you are in other areas.
Moving away from burnout
In January, Realm Recruit found that nearly two-thirds of all legal professionals have experienced burnout due to work, and nearly a third felt their firm didn’t support their well-being. Over the last two years, other surveys have similarly found that lawyers experience burnout in their jobs over half the time. Fostering a positive and supportive work culture, providing mental health support resources, access to counseling services and training, implementing mentorship programs for younger attorneys, allowing hybrid work environments and leading with empathy are just a few ways firms can begin to effectuate change.
Engaged employees stay
The heart and soul of any successful law firm are its employees. By emphasizing a positive and inclusive culture, firms can cultivate an environment that promotes employee engagement and retention. Firms should conduct employee surveys yearly to gauge employee morale, provide regular feedback and performance reviews, and encourage the open exchange of ideas. Listening to your team and checking in regularly is crucial. Professional development training is also a meaningful way to engage and invest in your employees. Bridging the gap and bringing teams together outside the office by hosting events such as mentor v. mentee bowling, “Team Building Tuesdays” where each team meets for lunch, or even hosting a book club in the office all allow your team to feel as if they are part of your firm’s fabric. Additionally, firms should embrace the diversity of their team through cultural and heritage awareness days, establishing women’s initiatives and attending community events together, such as a local Pride Day.
Impact of your culture on client relationships
Your core values and culture should align with the services that you provide. When a firm prioritizes its culture, employees genuinely care about client needs and demonstrate your firm’s values in their interactions. Emphasizing communication, collaboration and empathy among your team fosters more profound connections with clients, leading to client loyalty, increased referrals and a positive reputation, all of which also drive profitability. Participating in your client’s events, hosting joint seminars or supporting charitable initiatives together with your clients is another great way to nurture those relationships and include your teams. Many firms also shy away from sharing stories about their culture or internal events on social media, but clients today want to see what you are all about.
Bringing in top talent
Any recruiter today will tell you that a strong culture is crucial to attracting top talent. Today’s job seekers increasingly prioritize culture and values when considering employment opportunities. Firms that value work-life balance, inclusivity, mentorship and professional development become magnets for talented individuals. And it must be more than just lip service; it must come from the top. Your leadership team must set the tone for your culture and practice it daily. Consider your culture when making new hires, too. Do they fit in with the culture you have created?
Why collaboration works
Collaboration must start with firm leadership, who must lead by example. Open-door policies and frequent team meetings lead to efficient problem-solving, innovation and better client outcomes. Creating formal and informal team-building opportunities fosters a culture that encourages collaboration and prompts law firms to become more adaptive and capable of meeting clients’ evolving needs, ultimately increasing profitability. Firms should also ensure their teams have the technology resources they need for collaboration.
Creating a competitive advantage
In an increasingly saturated legal market, firms must differentiate themselves from their competitors, whether for retaining talent or clients. While strategic planning is essential, your culture must become an integral part of your brand identity and must be communicated. Clients are more likely to gravitate towards firms whose employees exhibit a compelling culture, and a strong culture enables law firms to build a sustainable and profitable future where employees and clients thrive.