Episode Notes

How well do you know your team? Do they know you care about them? Did you know your relationship with your team can actually impact your bottom line? 

In this episode, Sara talks with Lawyerist Lab member Spencer Schmidt about his journey to becoming a great boss. He’s learned that keeping employees engaged and accountable (even if you’re non-confrontational!) is one of the best ways to care for his clients and grow his business.

If today's podcast resonates with you and you haven't read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, get the first chapter right now for free! Looking for help beyond the book? Check out our coaching community to see if it's right for you.

  • 10:31. Spencer's journey.
  • 13:02. Employee engagement.
  • 23:07. Benefits of caring for your team.

Transcript

Announcer:

Welcome to The Lawyerist Podcast, a series of discussions with entrepreneurs and innovators about building a successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. Lawyerist supports attorneys, building client-centered, and future-oriented small law firms through community, content, and coaching both online and through the Lawyerist Lab. And now from the team that brought you The Small Firm Roadmap and your podcast hosts.

 

Stephanie Everett (00:35):

Hi, I’m Stephanie Everett.

 

Ashley Steckler (00:36):

And I’m Ashley Steckler. And this is episode 422 of the Lawyerist Podcast, part of the Legal Talk Network. Today Sara talks to Labster Spencer Schmidt about keeping his team engaged.

 

Stephanie Everett (00:49):

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Posh Virtual Receptionists, Berkshire Receptionists, and Lawyerist Lab.

 We wouldn’t be able to do this show without their support, so stay tuned because we’re going to tell you more about them later on.

 

Ashley Steckler (01:01):

So Stephanie, Sara’s talking today with Spencer about keeping a team engaged and it’s something that we talk about all the time.

 

Stephanie Everett (01:09):

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think you have to be really intentional with it and there’s lots of ways to do it and it can be little things and big things and silly things and I mean it’s all the things, right? It’s just about, we have a lobster theme around here for those who don’t know because our coaching program we call Labs. So then we call the people in it Labsters, which turned into lobsters. So this summer I saw a bunch of lobster floats on sale, like pool floats. So of course I gave everybody a lobster pool float,

 

Ashley Steckler (01:40):

Which delighted everyone, including those of us who have children, delighted our children.

 

Stephanie Everett (01:46):

And so these are silly things, but they matter and it’s the holidays and I think it’s really easy to feel stuck in like, oh, what are we going to do this year? So we started something last year that I think’s really fun. We try to be really intentional also with our gift-giving. And I think our team was spending all this time and energy trying to think of what’s the perfect gift for everyone on the team, which also is exhausting. So instead we came out with a holiday catalog and it was like the wish book for Lawyerist. And so we came up with some things we thought the team would generally, and then we put it in a cute little document with pictures and descriptions and then gave it to the team and everybody was able to pick what gift they wanted to receive.

 

Ashley Steckler (02:31):

And it was almost reminiscent of the days when we would get those JCPenney catalogs, <laugh>, those big things and you’d flip through them. I got so excited getting this, what’s now a PDF right, that I could almost kind of flip through to see what I wanted to circle and send for my selection.

 

Stephanie Everett (02:50):

I know it was fun. We had some comfort things, we had fancy slippers and robes and we had some kitcheny things, like a bunch of people on the team got the ember mugs that stay heated. Paige and I have already been working on what things we’re going to put in it this year throughout the year as things would come up on our taco Thursday calls and somebody would say, I have this and I love it. We were messaging each other, Ooh, this could go in our gift guide this year. So we try to have fun with it, but I do think it’s kind of fun to be able to pick what’s that one gift that you might not have bought yourself but you kind of want.

 

Ashley Steckler (03:25):

Yeah, I mean we have to think creatively and other things that might engage with the team and get them involved in part of what they need or wanna do. We had some self-care stuff and it was great. So now here’s Sarah’s conversation with Spencer.

 

Spencer Schmidt (03:44):

Hey, I’m Spencer Schmidt. I’m the founder and managing lawyer of Stonebridge Law in the beautiful couch and valley in British Columbia, Canada. We focus on real estate will and estates and business law and I’m on a mission to be the best boss.

 

Sara Muender (03:59):

Well welcome to the show. It has been really cool to see all of the amazing work that you’ve done in your firm in building it up and building this really great team and I absolutely love that mission. And today we’re going to be talking about that employee engagement and you’ve certainly done really well in this area. So tell us a little bit about your journey as a manager leading a team. I wanna hear about the highs and lows, what you think you’ve done well and what you think have been some failures that you’ve learned from and that kind of thing.

 

Spencer Schmidt (04:36):

Yeah, for sure. A bit of the background and even how I came into law I think is important to all that. I am not the guy who was dreaming as a kid to become a lawyer. It really happened randomly. I was in university, become a high school teacher, and I just wanted to teach history in my hometown and coach basketball, my roommate was in law school and he more or less twisted my arm to write the LSAT and apply. And I thought, yeah, that sounds kind of cool. And that kicked it all off for me. I started doing litigation work at a pretty nice established firm that I thought I’d work out forever. And then one day we were at the zoo with my kids and I randomly got a phone call from an old buddy’s dad who said I should move back to my hometown and start practicing there.

 

(05:27):

And I got off the phone, my wife and I laughed about it and 24 hours later I was like, let’s pack the van, let’s move, let’s do this. I had never thought about myself as a business owner, manager, entrepreneur. I had friends and siblings that totally fit that mold in my mind that had this gift of the gab and they could network and they could build a brand and they could lead people. I thought of myself as the employee in a more established organization working my way up over time. So when we did decide to make that decision, my wife and I, to move back to our hometown and become self-employed, I mean that was very excited. That’s why I wanted to do it. But I definitely had some anxieties about that, about supporting a family. We had three kids at the time and trying to buy a house and that whole thing.

 

(06:29):

So when I thought about it and how we wanted to really approach this, interestingly enough, my wife and I had had some conversations over the year at different places. We worked about this was great about this job, this was crummy about this job. These guys threw an awesome Christmas party and that showed us that they really appreciated us. These guys gave us a $5 Starbucks gift card and that stunk. So even without thinking about it, we had developed a little bit of a philosophy over the years just about how to treat people. And I will really credit the first place I worked. So in Canada after law school we do something called articling for a year before you’re called to the bar, it’s kind of like a residency in medicine or something like that. And the firm I worked at, you came outta law school and they just put you in the pit with the legal assistance and they said, go do legal assistant work for a month first, cuz you need to really appreciate what these people do and how they really run and turn everything over here.

 

(07:29):

So I kind of got that good foundation. So when we started our practice here, it was relatively small. I took over for a retiring lawyer, he had one assistant and then we had a receptionist that was shared by four lawyers here. So that was a nice little built up team to start with. But right away within the first two months I had to hire my first person and think about what I was looking for and really sort of push me into ultimately decide on the culture that I wanted to build. And just from the get go, I just felt it was really important to, I was never going to be someone that felt like I was taking advantage of my staff or my team. They were going to always feel how much respect I had for them that I was grateful for all the work that they did and essentially help them understand that they were a big part of me supporting my family and I was a big part of supporting their family. And I never wanted to have this sort of cheesy, we’re all a family here, that’s not the idea. But we have as our first firm value family first. And again, it’s not that we are this family, it’s that everyone’s got more important things in their life than work and we respect that and we understand that and that kind of governs everything that we do.

 

Sara Muender (08:45):

Yeah, that’s incredible. I love that. One thing that I wanna point out is what you were talking about earlier, it’s so much of our self perception or our identity that we relate to throughout our lives impacts the decisions that we make. It impacts what we do and what we don’t do, what we think we’re capable of. And as a coach, I see that all the time and I truly believe that we don’t find our identity, we create our identity, we can be whoever we want to be. And you over the years with learned experience, realized what kind of manager you would want to be and what kind of environment you would want to create. And I think that that is missing in a lot of firm owners visions when they go to sit down and write out their business vision because that’s one of the first things that we have people do in our lab program. Their business vision includes this is how much revenue I wanna make and this is the type of law that I wanna practice. But I think that one big missing piece is what kind of culture do you wanna create for your employees? What do you want it to feel like to work with you, to work for you to be on this team? And so I’m really inspired by the way that you’ve done that. So kind of going back to my original question, how long have you had this firm since you hired your first employee?

 

Spencer Schmidt (10:20):

Four years this month.

 

Sara Muender (10:21):

Okay. So over the last four years, what have been some of the highs and lows that maybe have been learning experiences for you as a manager?

 

Spencer Schmidt (10:31):

Yeah, I’m going to start with one of the lows. And this is one of the biggest lows in general I’ve had in the last four years. And that was a real breakdown in employee relationship that ended up in me having to let someone go at it was a really difficult time in this person’s life. They had sick parent and all this stuff in their life was crumbling around them. And I was in this situation too, stuck on this idea of being the best boss or a great boss and being just nice and liked that I wasn’t holding this person accountable and stuff was fallen through the cracks, left and center, other people were having to pick up the slack and it was just a really unfortunate situation that led to a lot of just bad work happening and I had to let this person go and they understood why. But I really bore the burden of that because if I’d done things differently in the months leading up to that, I think we would’ve had a drastically different outcome. So that one really hit me hard. Yeah, I was pretty low on that. Learned a lot.

 

Sara Muender (11:44):

Yeah, I bet you did. I wanna just stop you there for a second and interrupt because I mean that shows true leadership on your part. There’s a lot of employers who tend to shift the blame on the employees for things not getting done the way they need to get done. And at the end of the day, as business owners, as leaders, as entrepreneurs, we have to be willing to say everything is our fault.

 

Spencer Schmidt (12:12):

Absolutely.

 

Sara Muender (12:13):

And I don’t mean that in a destructive way for ourselves because there’s a difference between taking responsibility and feeling shame and it’s very common and normal to feel shame when you maybe feel like you let someone down and it ended up to be a bad situation for you and them. But recognizing that shame and then understanding this is a learning experience. I’m growing, I’m not a perfect manager, but how can I take responsibility for this situation? How did I not prepare them and set them up for success? And so I think it can be a really powerful mindset to be willing to say everything is my fault. I think it’s a good opportunity to look at how we can do things differently moving forward with other people.

 

Spencer Schmidt (13:02):

Yeah, I agree. There is a lot of power to that. And another way that I think about that too is if I’ve got, again going back to that situation, a client who really dropped the ball, or sorry, an employee that really dropped the ball and I’ve got a client calling me about such and such issue, I can’t pass that on to this. The client doesn’t care about that. I’m the owner, I’m the manager, it’s my name that’s out there. So I think that’s the level one of what you’re talking about. And then level two you’re saying, let’s really grab that and make that a tool, something useful to us.

 

Sara Muender (13:38):

Yeah, good point. So how has that changed the way that you manage your team and set them up for success since then?

 

Spencer Schmidt (13:47):

Well, yeah, we’ve done a lot of different things since then. I mean giving feedback, pointing out people’s flaws and that’s still a hard thing. I’m a very non-confrontational person, so that’s something I constantly work on. But since then we’ve done a lot of development of our firm values, of our culture, of documenting these things consistently, talking about these things so that there’s no questions in employees’ minds about where we’re going, what we’re doing, who we are. Practically speaking, we’ve implemented some tools that have been really, really critical to our growth and success. I can talk about those for a minute. It sounds really boring, but it’s really just a set of meetings, <laugh> that we do. It starts on the smallest scale of just a weekly team meeting. That’s all it’s called. It’s nothing fancy. It’s the same time, same day every week. I mean I guess it’s essentially a staff meeting, but it’s just an opportunity for me to bring things to the table that I need to as a group and for us to have a really open round table discussion about whatever issues we’re facing and start solving those problems.

 

(14:58):

That one’s huge. Tons of great things come out of that. Beyond that, we have, every week I have a weekly one-on-one with every member of our team. So again, that same time, same day every week, it’s a 30 minute block for everyone to come in and bring whatever it is they need to the table. Whether that’s work related, not or not. And I have the same going back on them. We also do regular quarterly offsite meetings with our whole team for the whole day where just sort of an expanded of the weekly team meeting where we’re getting into our culture values and different issues and things like that. That cadence of meetings just has really provided the structure of what we’re doing here and helps things get caught before they carry out of control.

 

Sara Muender (15:46):

Yeah. Another thing that does is it solves for the non-confrontational people pleasing issue with you. Yeah. Cause it’s not about you, it’s about the business. And when you create structure and systems, then those things are what drive the things that need to be said and the way in which you hold people accountable because it’s not like Spencer’s opinions about how people are doing things. What does the business say about how we do things here? What does our operations manual say? What does our employee manual say? What are our policies here? What’s expected of the team? And so it becomes less personal and that takes a lot of pressure off of you. I think that all of the meetings that you described, the weekly team meeting, the weekly one-on-ones, the quarterly retreats, I think that those should be non-negotiable for every firm owner that has employees. Depending on the size of the firm, those one-on-ones might be with a manager that you elect to be over them. Maybe it’s not with the firm owner themselves, but I think they should be.

 

Spencer Schmidt (16:53):

Absolutely. I agree. And we’re kind of right on that size right now. We’ve grown a fair bit in the last year and yeah, it’s at that point when we add our next person, whenever that’s going to be, that’s probably the tipping point where I can no longer do a one-on-one with everyone. We need to delegate and have some teirs there. I was going to say this as well, this is not news. This is stuff that comes on this podcast and through Lawyerist and through attraction, this sort of meeting cadence, I got into that just to the beginning of 2020 when I first started to wrap my head around really taking control of my organization. So a month or so of this before covid hit. And it was an absolute lifesaver for me. It provided so much clarity and just peace in all of that chaos. It was huge.

 

Sara Muender (17:39):

Yeah, I bet. And it creates that container, that structure to make sure that everything is being covered, your employees are being, I’ll just say cuz it’s our topic engaged with and you can kind of take a pulse on where everything and everyone is at. We’re going to take a quick break to hear from our amazing sponsors. And then when we come back, I wanna kind of go big picture with this idea of employee engagement and take a deep dive into what you think that means. So we’ll be right back

 

Zack Glaser:

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Sara Muender:

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Sound interesting? Schedule a 10-minute, no-pressure call with me, Sara, by clicking the link in the show notes or visit lawerist.com/coaching.   

 

Zack Glaser: 

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Sara Muender (20:13):

I’m Beck with Spencer and we are talking about employee engagement and I’d love to know from a big picture perspective, what exactly does that mean to you? What’s your philosophy on it? How does that show up in the way that you engage with your employees other than those maybe?

 

Spencer Schmidt (20:32):

I think for me it starts with being a real human and recognizing that the people you work with are real humans and you spend so much time with them that you have this opportunity to build fantastic, meaningful, impactful relationships. And I don’t think of a pyramid where I at the owner am at the top. I really feel ultimately I make decisions and I lead and I can dictate things. But it’s just a level of respect at a most human level that we are all the same. No one’s better than anyone else.

 

Sara Muender (21:14):

I love that. Tell me about your team culture. What are some of the things that you guys do to keep it fresh and keep it fun?

 

Spencer Schmidt (21:23):

I’m guilty of being a pretty silly guy. It takes me a while to get out of that shell, but I just don’t take myself too seriously. The law is full of very serious people because we do very serious work. But it kind of starts with that and that gives permission to other people in the office to crack jokes, to send memes in our team chat. We watched an episode of the office while we did something during our quarterly retreat last time. I just want it to be light. I think another big piece of that is I don’t take mistakes too seriously either. I’m never coming down on people. They’re always an opportunity to learn, which helps people feel comfortable to come and talk to me when things slip and stuff like that. But mostly it does just feel like kind of a place to hang out a little bit. We’re doing, we’re working hard, we’re doing lots but everyone chats, everyone just visits and

 

Sara Muender (22:18):

Yeah. Well you make a good point that you spend a lot of time with your team. I can’t do the quick math in my head, but assuming someone works 40 hours a week, weekend and week out, except for maybe a few holiday weeks during the year, I would love to do the math on that to figure out the percentage of time of your life that you spend with your team. Cause it would be a lot. And you’re right. And it’s like you might as well make it comfortable

 

Spencer Schmidt (22:46):

For sure.

 

Sara Muender (22:47):

Everyone knows what’s expected of them and they’re doing the work and they know that there are going to be consequences if they don’t. It’s just natural consequences. They wanna get their work done. You have the right people in the right seats, they want to do it, they want to be successful. And you’ve talk to me about how you empower your team to grow and get better in their roles. I think that that’s an important one.

 

Spencer Schmidt (23:07):

Yeah. It goes back to sort of again, this foundation piece, just caring about people. So it’s really easy to ask someone how their kids are doing or their parents how whatever soccer game was on the weekend, it’s really easy to, yeah, I should do that. Yeah, on Monday I’ll go around ask everyone how their weekend was and you’re not really listening and you don’t really care if you are genuine and sincere in wanting to know about people’s lives and learning their kids’ names and what sports they play and all of these different things. Naturally those people feel the same way about you and your family. And it just leads to this culture where everyone is showing up for each other and asking people to do things, to do hard things to change, to grow, to improve, become so much easier again from the perspective of a non-confrontational people pleaser person, you just feel a connection and a trust that they’re happy to do those things for you because they know you do those things for them.

 

(24:25):

I don’t mean to say that it’s a transactional relationship, it just kind of has this magic to it, I guess. When you care about people, they care about you and everything else they do. And maybe the one other thing I would say is I’ve found over the years, people generally will rise sync to whatever expectations you place on them. So people who in school who are sort of told that they’re maybe not smart or not good at this, they start to believe that. And the kids that excel and like, oh you’re so smart and you’re like, they believe that. And it’s just the same for adults and it’s the same in the workplace. So that’s one way I guess I really think about empowering people is just believing that they’re capable of so much because they are.

 

Sara Muender (25:12):

Yeah, that’s beautiful. How do you think that benefits the other parts of your business, your clients, your revenue? I mean everything.

 

Spencer Schmidt (25:20):

That is the biggest factor in my opinion. That’s the biggest factor in the whole equation. There’s been a lot of positive movement over the last number of years about focusing on the client experience for law firms. And I think that’s really, really great and important. The way that I focus on the client experience is to focus on my employees experience cuz they are the ones who spend the most time more than I do as the lawyer communicating, meeting with talking to, dealing with the clients when employees are engaged and are just totally bought into what you’re doing. The natural effect of that is it passes on to everything that they do with the clients. And again, that’s my philosophy is the best way to create a positive great client experience is to focus on the employee experience first.

 

Sara Muender (26:13):

You make a good argument my friend.

 

Spencer Schmidt (26:15):

And of course the natural result of that is a successful profitable firm, which is ultimately a big thing that everyone needs.

 

Sara Muender (26:24):

So healthy employees means healthy clients which and happy clients, which means healthy profits because more people are going to wanna work with you and your revenue’s up and your team is making good decisions financially and is makes for a healthy firm, which is what we’re all about.

 

Spencer Schmidt (26:45):

Then you got a healthy, happy owner.

 

Sara Muender (26:47):

Yes. I mean that might be the most important thing. Let’s be real. You are a business owner to serve your life and that’s okay. It’s okay to have that perspective of like, cuz you could just go get a job as a lawyer and probably get a great salary and lots of benefits. But business owners, you do this because you wanna make a bigger impact. You want this business to serve your life, you want this business to serve your family and create more opportunities in the future and create jobs. It’s all around a great idea. So

 

Spencer Schmidt (27:25):

Seriously, it is like I love being an employer. I love, I’ve had the opportunity to hire lots of people in the last year and it’s just awesome. I mean going back, you’d asked about highs and lows, you had a couple highs, a few highs this year where I know everyone’s kind of suffering through this great resignation and all of this turmoil in the world. I’ve had the last four people I’ve hired just approach me and said, I’ve heard this is an awesome place to work. Wow, next time you’re hiring, please call me.

 

Sara Muender (27:57):

Wow, that really speaks to what you’re doing.

 

Spencer Schmidt (28:00):

Yeah, it’s crazy. So we’ve got nine people now in our office and a year ago it was two and a half and it’s all about that emphasis I put on the team. So yeah, the happy owner. Yeah, that’s great. But there is some altruistic elements to it. It is great to provide people with a living and to be helping support their family. And then the other piece to it, which I know is something that is important to Lawyerist, which is access to justice. I live in a community, it’s not a small town. Well maybe it is a small town, but certainly it’s not tiny, tiny village or anything like that. But we are really underserved. There’s not enough Lawyerist here in our community to properly service the population just for normal legal services. So I don’t do the traditional access to justice type areas of law like family law, tenancy law, criminal law. So often the access to justice conversations fly over my head. But in reality, by building a growing organization that can provide just the normal legal services to more people is increasing access to justice in my community. And that just feels good.

 

Sara Muender (29:10):

Yeah, yeah, that’s definitely something to be proud of. And I wanna circle back to this, the original idea that I had brought up, that we create our identity and I think that we create our reality of what our business can be. And you’ve proven that in a time where people are saying, I hear it every day that it’s so hard to hire good people right now. It’s so competitive, it’s impossible. And they don’t even try cuz they’ve just got this narrative in their head that it’s not going to happen. And it’s like, yeah, well you’re right if you have that attitude. And I always tell them about stories like this, of other attorneys that I coach in our lab program that are doing it and it’s because they’re doing something well and it’s because they have this mindset of abundance and they have this mindset of really connecting with other human beings. And so I guess I’m just trying to encourage those listening that your law firm can be anything you want it to be, regardless of the economy, regardless of the great resignation, regardless of even things that are going on in your personal life. It really can. And you’ve proven that for sure. So proud of you.

 

Spencer Schmidt (30:27):

Yeah, thanks. And yeah, I’ll chime in on that. It absolutely is possible. Again, I did not think I was made for this, that I had the natural tendencies to be an entrepreneur. It turns out it’s totally my jam. It’s exactly what my life was calling for and what my family wanted and all of that stuff. It’s not that hard to stand out in the legal industry. It’s so traditional. So whatever it is, you don’t have to move the needle very far from center to suddenly be a big Las Vegas strip sign like saying, Hey, come work here. It’s great. So we do cool. We start a four day work week in April, which is kind of, people are doing it, but in the legal industry and we’ve had to figure out different ways to make it work. It’s still kind of getting traction, but that’s been awesome. You can no doubt how our team feels about that. No, it’s awesome.

 

Sara Muender (31:25):

Yeah, that’s cool. I mean, I’m curious, let’s go deeper a little bit more on that. How do you make that work?

 

Spencer Schmidt (31:32):

Lots of experimenting, just trying little changes here, here and there. So we started, for example, all of us taking this one day off Wednesday and there’s a whole backstory for why it was Wednesday, not Friday or Friday or Monday. So we did that for a while. Then we’ve tried splitting it up. So some people have Mondays off, some people have Wednesdays off, some peop and then it’s a question of what do you do just to make sure you’re checking your email that day for anything urgent. What happens if you do end up working? Are you counting those hours and getting time off another day or just trying lots of different things? And it’s been over six months now and it’s maybe just now starting to feel like it’s really set in. We’ve got a groove on it. But just like anything in an organization, you know, just wanna focus on one variable at a time. You don’t wanna change too many things cuz you don’t know then what was working or what wasn’t working. And really what it’s required the most is just my absolute support thrown behind it and keep trying, just believing in what making it. I believe in doing that. And then we’ll figure out a way to make it work

 

Sara Muender (32:36):

That’s almost unimaginable that you can have, you really can have it all. You can have a happy team and a profitable business and be a happy owner and only do it in four days a week. <laugh> like that. That’s what we’re going for. It’s

 

Spencer Schmidt (32:53):

Incredible. We’re close. We’re really close. Yeah,

 

Sara Muender (32:55):

That’s incredible. Well, for those out there who are listening and maybe, yeah, this sounds great, but maybe they have a hard time truly, deeply connecting with their human employees or maybe they think that it crosses boundaries to have fun with their employees or to make it a more comfortable, casual environment, whatever you wanna call it. Do you have any advice for them or any thoughts for them?

 

Spencer Schmidt (33:24):

Yeah, probably lots. I mean things like, you know, still gotta be yourself. If you’re not a fun silly person, don’t try and be a fun silly person. That’s just going to be weird. So you do kind of have to explore who you are first, and there might be some changes that need made cuz you probably want people that, well, you do. You need people who are aligning not the same as you need to set out what it is you want to create and then make sure the people that you have or that you’re bringing in fit into that. I mean, to the naysayers, I guess out there, just think about if you were a legal assistant, what would it be working for you? If you’ve got high turnover in your office, that’s probably a good sign. I mean a bad sign, whatever you want to, whatever you want to call it, you’ll really, really put yourself in their shoes. And I’m not talking about we don’t have a milkshake bar in the break room or I’m not like you, not the No, I know, right? <laugh>, it’s not anything silly that it’s, I can’t say better than just be real human. And I get personalities are different. There’s introverts, there’s extroverts. It’s hard to connect with people, but there’s a level that everyone can achieve in their own way and just, I don’t think there’s any possible bad result that comes from maybe trying some of this stuff out if you’re really unsure about it. What’s the worst that would happen if you just started being really nice?

 

Sara Muender (34:56):

Yeah, absolutely. And it doesn’t mean you have to be soft. No, no. If we let the systems and the structure guide the way that we lead our employees and set them up for success, and I’ll, I’ll say even on the Lawyerist team, we have an incredible team. I love working here. We really do practice what we preach in the topic of employee engagement for real. And there are different personalities on our team and it just like any human to human interaction, we all have our traumas and our triggers and our perceptions of the way that other people speak or behave or talk to us. And it’s super normal to sometimes take it outta context or take it personally or think that people are thinking things of you. But at the end of the day, we have the weekly team meetings, for example, here at Lawyerist.

 

(35:52):

Like we’ve built it into the system of having this meeting to talk about our personal wins the week before. And so it’s not a personal thing. It’s not like this person on the team, well, they didn’t talk to me and so they didn’t ask me whatever. It’s like, no, we all go around and share our wins. It’s just part of the culture, it’s part of the process. And so I think I just wanna drive that home that you have for business owners that are extreme introverts or they have trouble being social in that regard. Let the systems guide that, let a manager guide that delegate leading the team to someone else or leading the team meetings, things like that.

 

Spencer Schmidt (36:33):

Absolutely. That’s a great tip. Yeah.

 

Sara Muender (36:35):

Any last takeaways that you want to leave on the topic of employee engagement?

 

Spencer Schmidt (36:42):

I just think for me it’s really led to a fulfilling career or what feels like it. I’m still feel like I’m getting started, but that’s the best part of my job.

 

Sara Muender (36:54):

Well, what are you excited about? What’s next for you?

 

Spencer Schmidt (36:57):

Oh, what’s next? I mean it’s, we’re building some foundational pieces right now and some systems to really, we’ve got really fun, exciting ideas for the new year. We’re just laying the groundwork for that right now. And probably the next thing we’re looking at is maybe always growing, looking for more practice areas just with that access to justice idea in mind of helping more people in our community.

 

Sara Muender (37:20):

I love it. Well, I can’t wait to see what you do in 2023. And this was so inspiring and I know a lot of people are going to have a lot of takeaways about how they empower their teams.

 

Spencer Schmidt (37:32):

Awesome. Thanks for having me.

 

Sara Muender (37:33):

Yeah, it’s great. Thanks for being here.

 

Announcer:

The Lawyerist Podcast is edited by Britany Felix. Are you ready to implement the ideas we discuss here into your practice? Wondering what to do next? Here are your first two steps. First. If you haven’t read The Small Firm Roadmap yet, grab the first chapter for free at Lawyerist.com/book. Looking for help beyond the book? Let’s chat about whether our coaching communities, are right for you. Head to Lawyerist.com/community/lab to schedule a 10-minute call with our team to learn more. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.

Your Hosts

Sara Muender

Sara is a Community Coach at Lawyerist. She is a certified life coach and has had years of coaching others through their professional and personal lives. She works one-on-one with our Lab community members to take their business and perspective to the next level.

Featured Guests

Spencer Schmidt Headshot

Spencer Schmidt

Spencer is the founder and managing lawyer of Stonebridge Law, a 4-lawyer firm located on beautiful Vancouver Island, British Columbia. His journey to law feels like a happy accident. Some people dream of being a lawyer from a young age, but not Spencer. His university roommate was in law school and convinced him to apply on a whim. He is grateful to have fallen into this profession and gets a thrill out of helping people in big moments in their lives like starting businesses, buying a home, and planning their wills.

He founded Stonebridge Law with the goal of increasing access to legal services and improving client experiences in small communities. To do this, Spencer puts building the perfect team at the top of his list. His philosophy is that when you focus on your team first, everything falls into place. If you let him, he’ll talk your ear off about his latest barbeque creations. He’s a self-proclaimed taco aficionado and won’t be satisfied until he’s found the perfect taco.

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Last updated December 14th, 2022