Transforming the Culture of Your Law Firm
Over fifty million people have watched the Simon Sinek TEDTalk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. He starts with ‘why’ and he’s made fantastic headway in bringing the idea of a purpose driven organisation to life.
That’s fantastic, but we can’t all engage with Simon and his team and each business out there needs something slightly different, even when they’re all in the legal sector.
So, what does it take to transform the culture of your firm and why would you want to do it? What is a purpose-driven business and what are the benefits of creating a purpose driven business?
Finally, how do you embed the culture and link that to the development of your brand and what role do you as a leader play in all of this?
Then there’s the $64m question: will it add anything extra to your bottom line?
These are great questions, all of which we intend to answer over a series of articles in the next twelve months.
So, who are we and how are we qualified to write these articles and help you create a world class culture and brand for your business?
Lauren Jones, MA Design and Branding Strategy, is the Founder and Director of Box Creative, a world beating brand agency who have worked with some incredible organisations to develop jaw dropping brands.
Rebecca Bonnington, MSc Coaching, is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tricres, a pioneering business consulting and coaching company which supports professional services businesses to create, develop and embed a world beating culture into the very fabric of their organisation, giving them sustainable, controlled growth.
What is law firm culture?
Your firm’s culture is more than just your mission statement and vision. It’s what you stand for, how you are known and how people experience you when they buy or interact with you.
It’s how you talk to people, not just customers, but your staff too. It’s how you deal with suppliers, it’s which suppliers you deal with and whether you pay your bills on time. It’s how you attract and recruit new people to your team and it’s how you sell your product or service.
In other words, your culture IS your business.
Most firms don’t design their culture. Most rely on a culture forming naturally and developing as they grow. This works when you’re small and have around eight to ten staff. However, as soon as you begin to grow or open up other locations, this culture can disappear or turn toxic really quickly.
We’ve all worked in firms where there’s a toxic culture and it’s no fun. People leave, people are unproductive, there are higher rates of sickness and absenteeism and you loose customers just as quickly as you gain them. None of which is good for business.
Some businesses may decide to stay small to avoid this kind of mess and that’s ok. Some businesses manage to maintain a fantastic culture whilst growing because they pick the right people and they have a strong personality which keeps the culture growing in the right direction.
We prefer not to leave it to chance, which is why we work with firms to design and develop a strong brand that is aligned with a strong culture.
Here’s how we see things:
A quick overview of the model
1. Your employees are your first customer. They are your front line, your people on the ground, your ambassadors and advocates. They should be treated as such, and in doing so – they sell your business for you, to your customers, every day. It promotes the feeling; ‘I can contribute / my ideas are valuable’
2. It can be used as a marketing tactic. People, talent and consumers are drawn to people doing good – for their customers AND staff. By capturing the day-to-day in marketing materials, they create insights and transparency customers love to see.
3. You will only have a great brand if you have a great culture. By starting with what you care about and knowing what you stand for, it attracts the right sort of people and encourages the right sort of behaviours – this leads growth and makes you more agile.
When you have your brand and your culture aligned and embedded, you get
the following benefits for your business;
- You can make clear, conscious choices easily and quickly, based on your values
- You can hire more of the right people more often because you’re hiring for values and attitude, not just skill
- You attract and retain the right kind of people into your business because they recognise you as someone who thinks and acts like they do
- You attract more of the right kind of customers and clients who don’t argue about money or service, because they’ve already bought into your brand and your culture
- You make more profit because you have less staff turnover, more client loyalty, less hassle from customers and clients and you create a virtuous cycle of benefits to your suppliers, making it easier to deal with them
This is what the Tricres Culture as a Foundation for Growth Model Looks like:
Don’t just take our word for it though, we’ve got some brilliant examples of companies who have really nailed this in their businesses:
Chicago Based Law Firm
3 Partners, $3.2m in revenues and 20 staff
They worked with Tricres to develop their Purpose, Vision and Values and discovered a problem with the concept of billable hours. As they viewed their newly adopted Purpose, Vision and Values;
Purpose: Lawyers for Innovators
Vision: To transform the way law is practiced in the United States
Mission: We partner with innovative clients, solve their challenges with an empathetic team of advisors, apply diverse viewpoints, and adopts a creative approach to the law.
Values: Autonomy, Empathy, Relevance
These are backed up by clear meanings and associated behaviours
They realised that assessing the performance of their lawyers in relation to billable hours did not fit with their Purpose, Vision or Values. It’s not innovative, its not transformational and it’s not a creative approach to the law.
They decided to pilot an outcomes based performance and promotion system in the practice, keeping tabs on the hours they bill clients, but focusing on the way law is delivered to their clients and the new clients their lawyers are bringing on board.
Instead of rewarding hours worked, they’re rewarding clients brought into the firm and outcomes. Their lawyers earn bonuses based on quality of work delivered and the clients they bring to the firm.
This approach empowers their lawyers, creates happier clients because outcomes are better and work is carried out in a more efficient and effective way.
Whilst the firm focuses on small, innovative and creative companies, their clients stick with them because of their culture and creative approach. Their latest deal is the sale of one of these innovative entities to an extremely large US tech business.
When you get the culture right, the business flows much more easily.
Brands from other sectors:
“If you care about having a company where employees treat work as play and regard themselves as ultimate customers for the products they produce, then you have to be careful whom you hire, treat them right, and train them to treat other people right. Otherwise you may come to work one day and find it isn’t a place you want to be anymore. We do have employees who never sleep outside or who have never peed in the woods. What our staff all have in common is a passion for something outside themselves, whether for surfing or opera, climbing or gardening, skiing or community activism.” Lifted straight from their website.
Culture: Informal, collaborative, active.
Great for: Outdoorsy, go getters and action seekers.
The Elevate Prize
At the heart of this entrepreneurial, philanthropic platform are a key set of values that every employee aligns to and gets behind. With a purpose of raising human consciousness, no mean feat, their team scour the globe for social impact heroes that are tackling some of the world’s biggest problems. This involves global collaboration, creating a safe environment and platform to allow for freedom and creativity to take place, resulting in radically diverse outcomes that can change the world.
What’s even more incredible is this was built and embedded from day one, with a clear recruitment strategy, application process and assessment matrix.
Culture: Collective, transparent and effective.
Great for: socially conscious, purpose-led individuals wanting to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Not only is Netflix an amazing, disruptive product, it’s also a great place to work with a very strong culture. They publish their culture manifesto and it’s entertaining to say the least! But the key to their culture is trust and flexibility with their employees: Rather than micromanaging employees via vacation policies, reporting and reviews, they pride itself on setting solid expectations for its personnel and assessing output rather than input. They focus on quality of the work and ability over hours poured over it.
Culture: Productive, flexible, hardworking
Great for: ambitious, self-motivators looking for balance
We’re going to leave you this month with some thoughts on how to begin creating and embedding an amazing culture and brand in your business.
- Think about what you stand for and for what purpose your business exists (its more than just to make money)
- Consider your people first, our model shows that your employees are your first customers. Get that right and they look after your external customers
- Think about what you definitely DON’T stand for. What are the non-negotiables in your business?
- Hire people based on your purpose, vision and values. You can train skills, but its hard, if not impossible to train values
- Read the next article to get more detail on how to create your awesome brand and culture or contact
And we’ll help you with transforming your law firm culture.