Company Culture: Building a Robust Culture in Your Firm

5 min read

Here’s how you can boost employee retention, increase staff engagement, and improve productivity by investing in your company culture.

All companies have their own unique culture. Sometimes that culture is intentionally created by leadership. Sometimes the employees create the culture themselves. And sometimes, in the absence of any intentional culture-building initiatives, the culture simply comes about by accident through the natural goings-on of the company itself.

While all companies have a culture, not all of those cultures are positive. Some of them are toxic. Some of them contribute to high employee turnover, reduced productivity, low morale, and higher costs for the firm in question. If you aren’t intentionally creating a positive culture, you are leaving your firm’s productivity and employee retention to chance. Here’s how you can build a positive culture in your firm and reap the benefits of a more engaged, more productive workforce.

Consider Your Firm’s Values and Purpose

The first step in engineering a company culture involves setting your firm’s purpose and values. Your firm’s purpose – the reason for its existence – should be about more than just making money. Perhaps your tax law practice exists to help simplify taxes for the everyday person. Maybe your corporate legal firm’s purpose is to make doing business stress-free. Whatever your firm’s purpose, you should be able to articulate it in about the same span as a tagline on a business card. 

Your firm’s purpose statement should appeal to both your employees and your potential clients. It should be something that’s easy for people to get behind. It should motivate your team to perform at their peak and motivate your clients to want to do business with you.

Once you’ve found your firm’s purpose, it’s time to establish your firm’s values. Your firm’s values are a lot like a person’s values. Your values will influence how you make decisions and how your firm does business. 

Aim to come up with a maximum of 5 main values that your firm prioritizes. They should be specific and memorable. You should also number your values in order of priority so that you’ll always know which values outrank the others, should they come into conflict.

Your firm’s values could be things like “we’re stronger together”, or “client satisfaction comes first”. Whatever your values are, you’ll want to continually evaluate whether or not your firm is acting in concert with them – and if not, you’ll need to determine how best to bring your operations in line with your values.

You can help to establish a positive culture by documenting your firm’s values and purpose (see Appara’s here) in a policy manual for new hires. When your new team members can easily see what your workplace values look like in practice, it’ll be easier for them to embody those values.

Purpose and values are two of the key things that contribute to a strong company culture. By aligning your team with your values and purpose, you can create a strong sense of camaraderie and unite people around a shared goal.

Set Expectations from the Top Down

Company culture starts at the top, and it doesn’t arise by accident. That’s why your firm’s leadership needs to set the culture by example. If you want a culture where self-care matters and burnout is a key problem to avoid, then your leadership team can’t be working 80-hour weeks, skipping family dinners, and accruing unused vacation time. Similarly, if you want a culture that’s open to using new technology to solve problems, then you can’t have technophobes in leadership positions. 

Moreover, if you want to avoid staff infighting, backbiting, and backstabbing, then you need to establish a culture where those things are forbidden. You need to establish a culture of teamwork, where your staff are expected to work together instead of just looking out for themselves. 

Your senior leadership must take an active role in setting your culture – by embodying it themselves. Law firm leaders need to actively lead by example when it comes to company culture – by being positive, respectful, ambitious, and helpful.

Beware the Easy Outs

When it comes to creating a culture, it’s very easy to simply throw together an office bowling team, buy a cold-brew coffee machine, or toss a foosball table in the break room and call it a day.

But law firm culture is about more than just perks. It’s more than catered lunches and hockey tickets. Culture means practising what you preach and investing in your team. It means caring for your people – and encouraging them to care for themselves. Culture means standing up for your values even when it’s inconvenient and especially when it costs you something.

When building your culture, you’ll want to prioritize the intangible just as much as the tangible. Everyone loves perks, yes – but what everyone loves more than perks is a culture where they feel welcomed, respected, and valued. “We have a foosball table” doesn’t engage employees or entice new hires the same way “You’re valued here” does.

Company culture is one of those intangible things that is difficult to quantify, but we all instinctively pick up on simply by being in a certain workplace. However, all companies have a culture, whether that culture is planned or not. That’s why you’ll want to intentionally plan your workplace culture around values like inclusion, diligence, fair play, and teamwork. When your culture is guided by your key values and can be intangibly felt in your team’s everyday interactions, that’s when your firm can experience unprecedented growth.

Is your firm culture one that’s friendly toward new technology? Are you ready to experience the future of legal automation and document management software? Book your Appara demo today to discover how a tech-first culture can benefit your firm.

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