Culture and Communication Breakdown: What’s It Costing Your Business?

As a lawyer, you're well aware that the success of your firm depends on a multitude of factors. From effective case management to excellent client service, there are countless things that can make or break your business. However, there's one crucial aspect of running a law firm that's often overlooked: your firm's culture.  

Understanding Team Culture

Before we dig any deeper, let’s make sure we’re clear on what we’re talking about when it comes to culture. After all, “culture” has become somewhat of a buzzword in modern business books, each with a slightly different definition.  

Work culture isn’t about who you are; it’s a description of how you are, of what it’s actually like to work at your firm. It’s the result of the many interactions between team members and how they show up at work, together, over time. Through these many interactions, culture develops from the bottom up.  

This means that, whether their culture was intentionally nurtured or not, all firms have one.  

A positive team culture is usually synonymous with a great place to work. These teams align with a set of shared values. Because these teams trust one another, they have open and honest communication. They work together better and are often more collaborative. Generally, team members feel valued, motivated, and engaged in their work.  

Why firm leaders should care 

Intentionally creating and nurturing your firm’s culture isn’t just about being touchy-feely, there are bottom-line benefits to a healthy culture. First and foremost, a healthy culture is essential for attracting and retaining top talent. In today's competitive legal market, talented attorneys and staff have their pick of firms to work for. If your firm doesn't have a culture that values and supports its employees, you'll struggle to attract the best and brightest. 

But it's not just about attracting talent – a positive culture is also critical for delivering exceptional client experiences. When your team enjoys their work environment and their team, they'll work more efficiently and collaboratively, which means better outcomes for your clients. 

On the other hand, a negative culture can have serious consequences for your business. If your team members don't feel valued or supported, they're more likely to burn out or leave for greener pastures. This turnover can be costly both in terms of time and money, and it can also lead to a drop in the quality of your work. 

Improving Workplace Culture  

Fortunately, there are steps that law firm leaders can take to improve their team culture and create a more positive environment for their employees. Here are a few examples:  

Define and communicate your team’s core values: Your core values are the guiding principles for your team—they are like the rules of the sandbox, and everyone should be aligned with your team’s values.   

Appreciate different communication styles: Everyone brings their personality and history to the workplace. What one person finds curt another will see as efficient. Understanding and appreciating these different styles can be incredibly helpful as teams navigate how they work together.    

Foster a sense of community: Create opportunities for employees to connect and build relationships with each other. This can include team-building activities, company outings, and volunteer events.  

Invest in the team’s growth and development: Offer training and development opportunities that can help employees build new skills and advance their careers. This can include attending conferences, taking courses, or receiving mentorship from more experienced colleagues.  

Overall, improving team culture requires consistent effort and a commitment to creating a positive work environment. As a leader, your role is to set the tone, communicate effectively, and provide the support and resources your team needs to succeed. By investing in your team's development and well-being, you can create a culture that promotes collaboration, innovation, and success.

eBook: Training and Collaboration Across Distributed Teams


Stephanie Everett

Written by Stephanie Everett

Stephanie leads the Lawyerist team in her CEO role; serving as lead strategy and business coach for the Lawyerist Lab program; and regularly speaks at CLEs and legal conferences. Stephanie joined the Lawyerist team in 2018 and launched the Lawyerist Lab program. She still works closely with the lawyers in the Lab program but splits her time and also oversees business operations. She is a co-author of Lawyerist’s popular book The Small Firm Roadmap, and host of The Lawyerist Podcast.

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