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Lawyerist Values: Grow as People

Lawyerist values team members who grow as people. Everyone on the team recognizes that there is room for them to learn and improve. Specifically, we believe: 

We nurture each other’s integrated personal and professional development and the journey to the best versions of ourselves. We honor our whole selves and support team members in fulfilling their dreams along the way! We aren’t stagnant.

We’re a Team of Lifelong Learners 

No one is perfect. Everyone has room to grow. We expect team members to approach their work and life from a place of potential growth. We ask everyone what they need to learn or improve to do their role better. How can we support them and help them fulfill their goals professionally? 

We also ask team members what they see themselves doing next at Lawyerist but also what they might want to do after Lawyerist. (We don’t presume people will be with us forever). Then, we can look for specific ways to help them get the skills and experience they need during their team tenure, so they leave us happy and appreciative of a great working experience. 

Importantly, our lifelong-learner-attitude doesn’t just apply to our professional roles. We also explore how we can show up as better people. Can we listen more? Connect more deeply? Empathize? Our Seek Candor value allows us to practice conversations that sometimes challenge us with a goal of growing.      

Putting It All Together: Values in Action 

This is the last in a series of articles describing Lawyerist’s core values. At Lawyerist, we:

While all the values stand on their own, they are also very much interconnected and define the fabric of who we are. 

“It’s easy to see each of our principles we cherish in each core value,” explains CEO Stephanie Everett. “You need to Grab the Marker to Experiment Like a Lobster. We Grow as People when we Seek Candor. We Experiment Like a Lobster to Build an Inclusive Community, which often requires us to Seek Candor.” 

Everything works together.  

Values Aren’t Static

Finally, your core values aren’t necessarily static. Lawyers who read The Small Firm Roadmap will remember that Lawyerist shared its core values in Chapter 7. The values defined on that page are not identical to the ones described above. That’s because the company is constantly growing and evaluating what works best. 

While there are elements of earlier versions of our values in today’s version, the current statement is more nuanced and developed. It is a better description of who we are and how we work today. Don’t be afraid to question whether your core values are still perfectly on point. If not, make adjustments.

Interested in Learning More

If our core values resonate with you, we’d love to talk! We are always looking for amazing people who share our core values and post current job openings on our site. If you’d like to learn how our Lab coaches can help you discover your team’s core values, check out our Lawyerist Lab program. Participants consistently tell us that intentionally focusing on their core values has been one of the biggest game changers for their business.     

Lawyerist’s Seek Candor Value Is More Than Honesty

Values matter. A company’s values define and guide decisions. At Lawyerist, one of our core values is “Seek Candor.” To us, it is more than being honest; it is about the willingness and desire to engage in those communications. 

We describe our Seek Candor value as:

Seek Candor.

We’re creating a place where otherwise difficult conversations don’t just happen but are celebrated. This isn’t a license to be mean. Instead, we engage in and practice the process. We work to build trust, be honest, show empathy, and genuinely care for each other.

All of Lawyerist’s core values are connected. Seek Candor and our value “Grow as People” are two sides of the same coin. To Grow as People, we have to be willing to learn and hear from our team about where we can improve. Seek Candor means that our team actively seeks feedback. 

Creating a Team That Cares

Our team members genuinely care for each other. We intentionally create opportunities for our team to get to know each other. We talk about our backgrounds, families, goals, and dreams. Sharing our stories breaks down barriers and allows us to better understand and care for one another. 

It is important to build and sustain these relationships. Not only do we want to work with people that we really care about, but it allows us to honor our values. We acknowledge that seeking candor in conversations is not always easy. It can sometimes be uncomfortable. That is why we approach these talks with empathy. Our care for one another guides our discussions and our approach. 

All Feedback Is a Gift

To improve, you need to be aware of how you are doing. If you’re doing well, you’ll know to stay on course. If you’re not, you need to understand what is not working so you can change. 

Feedback is simply information. It is telling someone if they are doing well or if things could improve. As a result, all feedback—or information—is a gift. Feedback helps us improve.

When we approach all feedback as a gift, we can have more engaging conversations as a team. It doesn’t mean everything needs to be an in-depth discussion. There’s a lot of benefit in exchanging minor edits or thoughts before they have a chance to become more significant. Stephanie discusses this concept and tips on effectively giving feedback in Podcast Episode #364 with David Bradford.

Learn more about Lawyerist core values and our team on our About Us page.

Small Firm Roadmap Stories: Vision and Values

Lawyerist Lab is a community where solo and small-firm lawyers go to innovate, test, experiment, and improve their law businesses. We’re interviewing Lab members on their experiences as they align with The Small Firm Roadmap.

Our personal goals, vision, and values are keyed in across all six team members.

Tell us about your practice. How did it start? What were you doing before you started it?

My partner Jennifer Gersch and I practice criminal defense around Denver. We’re a virtual law firm and travel through most of Colorado to reach our clients. It’s just the two of us — but we have a team of subcontractors.

I spent four years as a solo attorney before I teamed up with Jenn. And I own and manage a second business (property management — a different skill set!), I had a toddler, I had multiple pets (including an office horse), and everything was getting a little chaotic. 

What made you go solo?

Ha! I can’t be a good employee. But really, I reached a point in my career where I wanted the discretion to do what I think is right. I’ve been a prosecutor. I’ve done bankruptcy and tax law. I was an unemployment appeals judge on a contract basis in Idaho. I’ve dabbled in aviation law. You name it. I liked the criminal courtroom because it lets me be creative and I was great in court.

But working in a firm or as a prosecutor, I couldn’t be there for my family and all of my other responsibilities. It was time for me to choose my own fate. I had an undergrad in Accounting and knew I’d like running a business. My dad, an entrepreneur, raised me to be an independent thinker. It all seemed to fit. 

What qualities does someone need to be a successful solo or small firm lawyer?

Justie Nicol of Nicol Gersch Law PC

A couple of things. Ideally, a business background — or at least, a willingness to learn. Business work often doesn’t come naturally to lawyers. So, I’d suggest solos audit a couple of business courses where you can learn organizational systems and accounting control procedures. 

Also, a thirst for knowledge. Study marketing and accounting, along with systems and processes. These days, you can audit courses for free from places like Harvard and MIT. Listen to a couple of lectures on systems thinking. (Lab’s a good resource here.) Don’t forget your local bar associations and other groups for continuing, substantive, legal education.  I know more now about family law – even having never practiced in that area – than I did when I sat for either the Colorado or Idaho bars.

Third, a risk-taker. I was terrified when I started. Probably 90% of lawyers who go out on their own are scared of not making it. You think to yourself: What happens if I invest my personal money and six months from now I’m belly up and I can’t continue doing this?

Solo isn’t sustainable for people who aren’t ready to take that risk. Identify your stomach for risk early. Like, do you hit the six-month mark and fold, or do you go for another twelve months and hope to turn that corner? Know what you’re going to do.  Have a plan and know when enough is enough. Thankfully, I haven’t reached that point yet. 

Last, be organized. Have a backup plan. You can always approach another like-minded attorney and join forces. You may also be able to sell your practice and go back to big-firm or government work. Or you can give up the law entirely, and rely on things like a real estate broker’s license or another career altogether.

Before you joined Lawyerist Lab, what was happening in your business?

I’d been solo for years, and I was about to team up with Jenn. Before joining Lab, I was an Insider. I read all the free resources. I dug into how to write a business plan. I listened to the podcast. But then when it was time to bring on a partner, I felt lost. 

I didn’t know how to get the systems in my head onto paper so a new person could understand. I had to drum up my supervising chops again. I needed help figuring out how to make this transition.

Having a partner is different than a junior associate. She’s a friend and a peer, so I had to reframe my approach. I had to think about compensation systems, maternity leave, caseloads. It was overwhelming. I needed some help!

What Lab tools have you found the most helpful?

For one, vision planning with the team. Along with new partner Jenn, we’ve added contractors and interns, and we want everyone to be on the same page. It was enlightening to work on planning with the team and see what feedback I received. Working with everyone on our values and our future was a big step.

Second, the community — having a group of people to bounce ideas off and getting that validation from lawyers who are working on the same issues or have the same ideas is really, really valuable. 

Lab feels like a backup plan and a safety net, in some ways. I’m not doing this alone. 

What’s one area of The Small Firm Scorecard where your firm is doing well? How are you maintaining that growth?

Our personal goals, vision, and values are keyed in across all six team members. 

We maintain a master vision notebook, which is also where we list our goals, as well as KPIs. We’re starting to build out the notebook to include client journeys and marketing. 

The vision book (which is branded and nicely designed) is for everyone on our team — not just partners and associates. It’s so much more than a business plan. I update it monthly and email it around to keep it top of mind for everyone — but it’s always open for anyone to review. 

We also have assigned homework prior to team meetings to help us set our vision and values for the whole company and incorporate everyone’s answers in this vision book. Everyone has a stake that way. 

What are you working on for the coming quarter?

Partner Jenn is going on maternity leave, so we’ll be in a bit of survival mode. We have contract attorneys coming into help. We’re exploring partnering with new associates. And we all have kids! So I love the idea of turning the stereotype of a criminal defense firm on its head — we’re all women, we all have kids, and we’re blowing it up. 

Along that line, we’re focusing on our core values. Having kids brings work/life balance into focus, along with being able to hold on to who we are. As a personal example, I got hired at a firm years ago who made me take out my facial piercings. They had sentimental value and they were me. I don’t want a firm where we have to change vital things about ourselves to conform. I’m not into conforming. I want to support our people so they can support our clients. 

We encourage rebelliousness. We’re a remote firm. We don’t care when or how you work— just if you get your work done. And I’ve never had to check-in with any employees to make sure they were doing their work. My team is killing it. So, for this quarter, we want to continue that momentum. 

Nicol Gersch Law was founded in 2019 when long-time colleagues and friends, Justie Nicol and Jennifer Gersch, looked around at the criminal defense community and realized partnering up was the way to go.  Not only are Justie and Jenn working together now, but they’ve litigated cases together for about 15 years–all the way back to their Moot Court days at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Hear more about Justie’s philosophies here.