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Chapter 6/6

Creating A Firm Culture of Care, Balance, and Wellness

Hiring, Staffing, and Growing a Law Firm

8 min read

Create a Law Firm Culture of Care and Wellness

It’s tough to admit, but we know too many law firm work environments known for making team members sick and miserable. Lawyer mental health is too often an afterthought. 

Lawyers and legal staff suffer from higher rates of mental illnesses, stress, and substance abuse than those in other professions. Law firms also create competitive environments where team members might even work against each other to maximize personal gain. This is not the environment you want to create for your law firm.

You want to be an excellent manager and offer good career paths for the people in your law firm. You want to create a positive work culture where people trust each other and are happy to be at work. This isn’t just good for morale, it’s good for business. When employees see employers that are invested in them, they will reward them in several ways.  

Support Your Team

You want to create a healthy, employee-oriented culture that supports self-care and wellness. Lawyer mental health is a major concern for the legal professional. Creating a law firm culture that supports individuals is key.

Here are some ways to create a great law firm culture:

  • Keep hours in check. When you or your staff work too much, you’re not actually helping anyone. You should encourage your staff to be making time to support their personal lives and goals. They don’t always have to be on. They should feel comfortable and empowered to make time for family, friends, hobbies, or travel, without feeling insecure about work. 
  • Focus on employee growth. Give feedback and provide helpful performance metrics that communicate your employee’s performance. Around 68% of employees who receive accurate and consistent feedback feel fulfilled in their positions.
  • Give recognition where it’s due. Don’t forget to tell your employees “thank you” for their hard work. Recognition is the number one thing employees need to inspire them to keep producing great work.
  • Offer work flexibility. A healthy work/life balance is critical for happy, healthy employees. Employees cite flexibility as one of the top features they seek in a job.
  • Communicate. Nothing ruins projects quite like a lack of communication. Plus, solid communication keeps your employees engaged with their work. Businesses with engaged employees bring in approximately 21% more profit than those without.
  • Provide learning opportunities. Allow your employees to dedicate some time each week or each month to additional training. For example, give employees the opportunity to attend conferences or take online courses to further their skills. Around 68% of employees say training and development are the most important policies in the workplace.

Create a Welcoming Work Environment

Your firm’s environment should value each individual for their contributions and do what it takes to make them feel comfortable. If you’re intentional about law firm diversity in your hiring, that’s great. But that is only half of the complete picture. The second piece is staying committed to diversity in your law firm once applicants become a part of your team by making sure everyone feels welcome. 

Here are a handful of tips to help you create a welcoming work environment within your firm:

  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The foundation of any successful firm includes a dedication to respect. There are many ways to make it happen. Start by establishing a zero-tolerance policy for disrespect, harassment, and discrimination. Avoid micromanagement tactics that place undue pressure on your employees. Respect your employees’ individual needs and do what it takes to support them.
  • Foster a law firm culture of open communication. If your employees are uncomfortable, they should feel comfortable telling you. Everyone in your firm should have a voice they feel empowered to share. Make it a point to keep an open door of communication for any employees’ concerns. And, don’t forget the follow-through. If an employee is struggling with discrimination, do something about it. If they’re struggling with their job responsibilities, do what it takes to be their peace in the chaos.
  • Connect on a personal level. Although there are boundaries in an employer-employee relationship, they don’t stop you from caring about the well-being of your employees. Showing a genuine interest in who your employees are personally will create a happier workplace.
  • Compensate all your employees fairly. The gender pay gap is no secret. You can do your part by ensuring your compensation packages include fair pay for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, or background.

Diversity and Inclusivity Matter

The legal profession has not appropriately represented the entire population for far too long. Thankfully, that’s changing. For the past several years, women have outnumbered men in law school classrooms. But, gender diversity is only the beginning.

One in four US adults has a disability. And, Caucasian people will soon no longer make up the majority of the US population.

These stats show the importance of diversity and inclusion in your law firm. By failing to take action, you’re ignoring your clients’ and team members’ needs for safety and feeling welcome. Your firm must have a stance on the values of inclusion and how you plan to implement them into marketing, hiring, and client service.

Defining Law Firm Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity refers to the individuality of people. For example, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, socio-economic status, identity, and age are all diversity factors. 

To be inclusive as a law firm, you respect, accept, advocate access, and welcome individual clients and team members for who they are from the inside out. 

Diversity and Inclusion Best Practices

It’s past time for law firms to consider what being inclusive means for their firms. As a lawyer, you must be more cognizant of this and what this means for your team and clients. You must adapt your marketing, strategy, and legal services, as necessary, to accommodate for better law firm diversity. 

Go Deeper: Podcast Episode #105

How Small Firms Can Promote Diversity, with Heather Hackman

Listen to Episode

Make Inclusivity a Law Firm Value

At Lawyerist, we believe issues of inclusion must be a part of the conversation about your firm values. Your values ?drive your firm forward. They’re the key factors in the decisions you make, such as whether to take on a case or who to hire next. Inclusivity must be part of your values to ensure it’s a part of your law firm’s culture.

As you live that value, you’ll keep inclusivity practices top of mind. When you create job postings, you’ll emphasize them. When you redesign your website, you’ll use diverse stock photos. Every move you make will have inclusivity as a motivating factor. Addressing law firm diversity should be part of your ongoing, active, and part of your strategy.

Meet (or Exceed) Modern Accessibility Standards

As mentioned above, one in every four US adults has a disability that interferes with daily life. It’s important to remember that disabilities come in many forms. For example, hearing, vision, cognition, movement, communication, and mental health are within accessibility standards.

What is accessibility? It’s making every aspect of your law firm as easily accessible as possible. You must consider everything about your law firm, from your website to office space.

There are many resources available to help you enhance your firm’s accessibility, including the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the American Bar Association’s resources. If you have a physical office space, you should also ensure you’re ADA compliant.

Think Differently

You must think differently about inclusivity to truly grasp its importance. It’s time to make a serious effort to put yourself in different shoes, as they say. If you were to lose your eyesight tomorrow, how would that change the way you do business? If you were to become paralyzed from the waist-down tomorrow, how would it change your expectations of other businesses? Take what you discover and make positive changes within your firm for improved law firm diversity.

Work to Improve Access to Justice

We believe it’s up to each law firm to help improve access to justice for all who require the justice system’s support. Access to justice is one of the most troubling issues stemming from diversity.

It isn’t simply about lowering your fees. It’s about communicating value, so your potential clients feel like their investment is worth it. You should use technology to support clients who need help with simple tasks at reasonable prices. Although access to justice is a complex problem to solve, any movement forward is a step in the right direction.

Inclusivity Takes Work And It’s Worth It

Yes, diversity and inclusivity take intentional work, reflection, and dedication. We understand this is hard, but you don’t have to be 100% in a month or even a year. All you have to do is take active and thoughtful steps toward improving diversity and inclusion in your firm.

Take the Next Step in Building a Healthy Firm

There’s nothing like the first time you realize you can focus your energy on [fill in the blank], and your business and clients will be ok because your amazing team has things under control. It’s possible to build your team with the right people and give them the tools to succeed. Ready to learn how having the right systems is an essential next step as you build your business?

Learn more about building Healthy Systems as part of your Healthy Firm