When I started my career in legal services in the late 1990s, law firm culture was something amorphous that no one quite had a handle on. Prospective hires would often ask what the law firm culture was like and the answers would include such things as we get together every Friday afternoon for drinks in the boardroom. We work hard and play hard.
In truth, most firms had no real sense of what their culture was all about nor why it was worth spending time on this. When misunderstood, culture becomes a blunt instrument for quashing diversity and inclusion at a law firm. Conversely, when culture is understood and nurtured, it can become a source of tremendous energy across an organization.
What is law firm culture?
The foundational values shared by members of a law firm help form its culture when these values shape decision-making, policies, compensation, service standards (and more). Values are the ends you pursue. They are core principles. By way of example, my organization’s core values are integrity, transparency, confidentiality, helping, and inclusivity.
Culture also takes shape by weaving values into all aspects of the law firm. Further, cultural norms also define what is encouraged, discouraged, accepted, or rejected within a group. When properly aligned with personal values, drives, and needs, culture can unleash tremendous amounts of energy toward a shared purpose and foster an organization’s capacity to thrive.
A firm’s strategy sets out goals and the means for reaching them. Culture motivates and empowers members of the firm to carry out a firm’s strategic plan. Culture also contributes to retention and differentiates your firm from that law firm across the street.
We need more strong law firm cultures.
The time is now
The time has come to become intentional about the values you aspire to at your law firm as the foundation for the culture you are building. Culture building is a crucial action to take to establish a flourishing law firm.
For the full in-depth article and discussion, you can read it here.
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