Non-profits have mission statements. Businesses have core values, and universities have academic visions. Institutions everywhere make choices about the culture they want to nurture. Your firm shouldn’t be any different.
The sense of identity created by intentional culture can provide guidance and purpose. This holds true for you too, solos.
Culture helps team members better understand how to work together. It lets clients see how your firm is the right fit for their needs. And while it may grow from your practice area, you do need to choose it.
What matters to you? Why did you choose your practice area? Why’d you become a lawyer? Sit with your ideas. Talk through them with your team, a like-minded colleague, or someone whose principles you admire.
You may also want to solicit feedback from people who already work at your firm – as to what to work toward or where you’re at currently. Be prepared to keep an open mind. The purpose here is to be intentional about creating positive culture.
Write your values down. The more specific, the better. They’re markers of your firm’s personality. They may even become what you turn to when making tough decisions.
And share them, especially within your firm.
Change takes work
You may have identified the values you’d like to see at your firm and realized you have some distance to travel. That’s okay. You’ve already started.
Next, consider actionable steps to building the culture you’d like to see. Consider artifacts or surface markers of culture. From employee dress to community engagement to who’s in a position of leadership – these are all artifacts. How can they support your declared values?
Be transparent about your goals and open to feedback. It’ll help keep you on track.
Your firm may not be the only firm that cares about some of these values. But by actively working toward them, you can put yourself in a more unique position.
Hire for cultural fit, not just skills
Don’t forget about your values when it’s time to bring on new members. Include these core principles in job postings. Ask about them in interviews. Skills matter, but so does culture.
In fact, you might find you’ll have a more seamless team if everyone can rally behind the same ideas. New hires will require training regardless. And it’s far easier to train someone who’s genuinely enthusiastic about the shared vision.
About that training – once they’re hired, remember that firm culture is still part of learning the job. After all, they’re now part of the team. Help new members understand how your firm seeks to implement these principles in everyday practice. Support them in working toward the values that drew them to the job in the first place.
If this sounds like extra effort, it is. In the short-term, at least. But remember the long-term vision. Not only will current staff be working with new hires, but those new hires will be representing you to clients. And they’re the future of the team.
Clients will respond
One of the perks of cultivating a firm culture is that it gives you another way to connect with clients. Values – especially those that are put into practice – help your firm stand out from others in your geographic region or practice area.
You may even find that the clients you’re most excited to work with seek you out because your firm’s culture and values resonate with them.
Culture is dynamic
Check back in – with your colleagues, clients, and yourself. Values may need to be reassessed, or sometimes firm culture may need to be realigned. Neither is wrong. Both are inherent to the growth of people and ideas. But know that like most things you want to bring into your every day, maintenance is unavoidable.
Creating culture takes time and effort. And it has a huge impact – on inter-firm comradery, legacy, and who seeks you out for representation.
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