Building a Healthy Company Culture at Your Law Firm
By Aly Schilperoort
You’ve probably heard of the term “burnout”. Unfortunately, too many legal professionals have battled it at some point. In fact, the World Health Organization has officially recognized workplace burnout as a medical condition.
When employees experience burnout, it can often result in emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion, disengagement, decreased productivity, isolation, and more. So, how can companies take care of their employees, especially in industries characterized by long hours and demanding schedules?
Solution: Build a positive, healthy law firm company culture that leaves employees energized to work. People want to feel heard, seen, appreciated, and respected. Without promoting an inclusive culture that allows people to show up as their whole selves, your employees may not feel supported. This, in turn, can significantly impact their well-being and work performance.
We asked law firm owners and industry experts how they maintain a work culture that puts employees first.
Happiness at Work
People cannot do their best work if they’re unhappy. The good news is that there are several effective ways to boost employee happiness—even while working remotely.
“Our office uses messenger communication and some office-wide social rooms to communicate and share news, joys, and successes,” said Shawn Hamp, Managing Partner at Hamp Law Offices, LLC. “When in the office, we focus on team building and human interactions. We get together for meals and happy hours. We would also try to have some events outside the office before the pandemic.”
Bringing people together is a great way to promote a sense of community and inclusion. In-person events are great for connecting with team members face to face. But, for firms working remotely, virtual happy hours or trivia nights are wonderful opportunities to have fun together as a team. This allows everyone to connect and take some time off from their responsibilities.
Another way firms can boost employee morale is by recognizing wins regularly. When navigating endless to-do lists and deadlines, it can be easy to forget to celebrate big and small accomplishments. Sharing these wins across teams recognizes employees for their hard work and promotes a culture where employees motivate one another.
Helping Employees Stay Connected
Building solid connections is critical to the success of your firm. Ultimately, people want to feel a sense of belonging. Employees who feel connected to their organization are often more engaged.
With the sudden shift to remote work, many organizations were compelled to reevaluate how their teams can continue to feel connected. Here’s how law firms made their employees feel aligned with their firms:
Conducting regular one-on-ones with employees is one area that attorneys and industry experts consistently noted.
“Begin with an optimal ‘open door’, active listening culture,” said licensed clinical social worker, Mark Gorkin. “The best leaders want to hear what’s going on in the trenches, for both the individual and the group.”
Trust and transparency are huge factors in how connected employees feel to their organization. Issuing and actively reminding employees of an open-door policy communicates that they are valued members of the organization—regardless of position or status.
Implement a wide variety of activities
Attorney Gene Zweben of Zweben Law Group emphasizes the importance of promoting group activities, so employees feel connected to firm management and one another. “Ask them what they like to do and plan activities around that.”
Conducting firm-wide surveys is a great way to gauge what kind of activities your employees would enjoy. In addition, a healthy mix of gatherings, events, and activities that people are interested in ensures that there’s something for everyone.
Provide regular feedback
Providing employees with regular feedback, not just yearly evaluations, is critical in ensuring they feel connected to their organization. This includes constructive criticism (when appropriate) and positive feedback in recognition of your employees’ wins—big or small. Furthermore, this demonstrates that you genuinely care about their growth and that their wins are your wins too.
Show Up for Your People
Encourage a work-life balance
We spend a big part of our lives in the workplace. However, life doesn’t end at work. One of the best ways to support your employees is by recognizing that they have priorities outside of work. Practicing a work-life balance isn’t always easy. But leadership and built-in policies that encourage this balance make it much more attainable.
Additionally, studies show that employees who do not have a work-life balance tend to burn out more quickly. No surprise then that your firm’s organizational structure should support your employees’ professional and personal needs. Examples include offering flexibility by providing hybrid or remote work options, generous parental leave policies, substantial paid time off, and mental health days.
Listen to your employees
As simple as it may sound, listening is arguably one of the most valuable ways companies can show up for their employees.
“At the end of every meeting, I always ask, ‘What can we do further for you? What do you need?’” says legal staffing expert, Chere Estrin. “I take their hopes, wants, dreams and desires very seriously. They know they can rely on me for anything.”
Taking moments to ask and listen regularly demonstrates that your employees are truly valued as individuals and not just as members of their organization. Also, creating a plan of action based on their feedback shows that you are serious about their well-being, happiness, and growth—and want to see them succeed.
Every individual deserves to have trustworthy leadership that prioritizes the best interest of its employees. But as your business grows and responsibilities increase, don’t forget to step back and reassess where your company culture stands. Take intentional steps to support your employees and build a healthy law firm company culture.
Learn more about building a healthy law firm company culture by listening to our free employee wellbeing webinar.