Think about your law firm and its environment. It doesn’t matter if the firm is large, medium or small—the culture around you is what is important.

Your firm probably has some written policies and procedures, maybe a mission statement and strategic goals it would like to reach. But what about the unwritten rules and the perceptions each employee has about how the firm works? These are often the deciding factor in what the firm culture looks like.

Do you have the ability to change the culture in your firm? Often it is only the attorneys at the top of the management hierarchy who can influence the organizational structure. But if your firm setting isn’t functioning the best it can, it may be time for it to change, or time for you to make a change.

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself when evaluating your workplace:

  1. Does your firm have a team spirit about it? Merely tolerating each other isn’t good enough. If the employees at all levels are friendly and willing to work together, it makes going to work not feel like drudgery. It also helps if there is a democratic feel to the office where people can be heard, no matter who they are.
  2. Does your firm care about your quality of life? A firm that is sensitive to its employees’ needs and allows flexibility as long as the work is getting done is a humanistic firm. After all, your quality of life outside of your practice should be one of the most important aspects of your day, and a better quality of life will, ultimately, make you a better, more effective attorney.
  3. Does your firm have good leadership? You should be able to see it and feel it organization-wide, and the leaders should be accessible to everyone and approachable by everyone who works there. In other words, it shouldn’t be an intimidating environment. The communication should be open and respectful from the mailroom to the most influential person in the firm.
  4. Is your firm open to change? If the status quo of the firm is firmly entrenched and the leaders are aggressive in maintaining the practice as it is, you’ll know that traditions aren’t going to change anytime soon. On the flip side, if your firm is growing rapidly, there should be adequate planning so you can stay innovative and competitive, without spiraling out of control.
  5. Is there a good balance of experience? If there are too many partners who are unproductive, or too many new attorneys with not enough practical experience, the firm won’t feel solid. The result may be lack of competitiveness, which means no positive growth for anyone.

It is important that you live your values, and your values need to extend to your law firm. Ideally, you should be sharing in the vision of the firm.  Sometimes it can be challenging to voice your ideas and input — very challenging. But if your firm’s vision or values don’t match up to your own, you need to take a step back and consider what you can do.

Some important questions to ask yourself: Can you make any changes so you don’t compromise your own practice? Are there conversations you could have with others in your firm that might produce some changes in your firm culture (others might be feeling the same way you do or are actually looking to improve the firm culture)? What other options do you have?

Change is scary, but improving your firm culture is one way to make your work life more fulfilling, more meaningful, and more enjoyable, while making you a more effective and better lawyer.