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Collaboration Insights: Profitability from a values-based culture in a law practice

Organizational values have gotten a great deal of attention as a positive component of organizational strategy, but what is the purpose of values? Core values are standards that the partners or attorneys subscript to and use to recruit, promote and recognize individuals. Values determine acceptable behavior and regulate how decisions are made.

When a law firm adopts core values, the partners decide to promote and model the agreed-upon standards that define what it means to be a partner or employee in their law firm. The key is to ensure that the values mean something instead of just being words on a wall. They come alive because they are evident throughout the firm in the behavior, communication and the way the business operates. Every component of your practice must align with your values.

Before you think this is just touchy-feely stuff, understand that aligning your employees throughout your organization is key to a successful and profitable business. In order to run a fruitful practice, your law firm needs to understand the noble purpose of their work and the values to which you ascribe. Simon Sinek’s incredible insights teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. Simon leads a movement with the “bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every single day feeling inspired, safe at work and feel fulfilled at the end of the day.” In order to do this, he states that you need to start with defining the “why” of your organization. Why do you exist? In an article by Karen Beattie, she adds, “Simon preaches the Start with Why gospel and what it takes to create an environment where people wake up inspired to go to work and perform their best.”

Your people want to know that what they do matters. This is especially true for your younger employees. Millennials and gen Z’s social consciousness matters, and they want to know their organization is making a difference in the world. To engage your youngest employees, you need to start by defining your why and the purpose of your work beyond profits. Engaging all your employees can be accomplished by defining core values that align with your why and your vision.

A firm’s culture is complex — a mixture of its mission, values, skills and personalities. When left to its own devices, the culture can run off the rails. Your organization has a culture whether or not you choose to admit it, and it is more advantageous when leaders cultivate the culture they desire. Great leaders understand that in order to transform their culture, they need to look at how work is accomplished, information is shared, employees are treated and what is recognized in your organization. The failure of a firm to define its culture is often the reason for high turnover, internal conflict and lost productivity.

My best clients start with getting clear on their vision for their organization. A clear vision of the future is important, but then one needs to assess how work currently gets accomplished. A vision clearly defined helps everyone in your firm know where you want to go in the future. They check how aligned their people are throughout your organization (including your support staff) by getting feedback from employees by conducting a cultural assessment.

Once that is accomplished, the organization looks at the strengths and areas in need of attention. If they currently have values, the leadership determines how they are currently used in the organization. Can a new employee or client know your values by the way your firm interacts with them? If they cannot, then leadership needs to behaviorally define the values and expected behaviors by all employees. Creating a strategic blueprint around the unified vision will help every employee understand their role in bringing the vision to life. Then it is time to create excitement and engagement through uncovering your “why.”

Taking time to conduct this process puts you in charge of what the future looks like for your practice. It creates a brand that attracts like-minded individuals and engages them through your communication practices. If you think you do not have time for this process, think again. It is a way to set yourself apart and create an organization where employees choose to stay. Use this process to create a way of doing business that inspires you, your firm and your clients — or steer a rudderless ship.

Beth Sears, Ph.D., president of Workplace Communication, Inc. is an interpersonal and organizational communication expert. Using her unique approach, Beth has helped leaders to clarify their vision and create language that inspires and engages their workforce, resulting in collaborative, focused teams. Contact her at (585) 538-6360.

About Beth Sears