As a lawyer, you’re aware that presenting a successful case in court starts with good collaboration between yourself and your client. Collaboration can be defined in various ways or mean something a little different to everyone, but essentially it comes down to working with others productively and openly. Without good collaboration, it can be difficult to accomplish or produce something that more than one person has a vested interest in.
But what does good collaboration actually look like at a law firm? What steps can you take as the leader of your firm to ensure the work environment is collaborative?
As the leader of your law firm, the last thing you want is to have a toxic work environment for your staff. Toxic work environments can rack up costs for both you, your employees, and your clients. The work you and your employees produce won’t be as effective and thorough as it can be, and toxic environments are known to be breeding grounds for poor employee engagement and turnover.
In fact, in organizations where collaborative cultures are present, those organizations are 5.5 times more likely to be high-performing than those that do not have collaborative cultures. But creating such a culture can be tricky and take time, especially if the culture already has elements of toxicity. So, how can you help turn your culture around?
Steps to Take
- Establish a clear vision for your firm: If your staff doesn’t know why your firm exists and what its goals are, they won’t know what to strive towards or how their roles fit in with something bigger than themselves. Make sure to establish and communicate a mission statement, the values you want your firm to embody, and what you hope your firm can become.
- Encourage and practice frequent, open communication: At a minimum, let your team know what’s going on in terms of workload and changes to policies and other expectations. Be transparent, but also get creative and include opportunities for recognition such as staff birthdays, work anniversaries, and professional accomplishments. Creating an environment where open and frequent communication is practiced doesn’t have to translate to a daily meeting either. It can be something as simple as an email with trivia games.
- Establish team projects and learning opportunities: Your staff should have opportunities to collaborate on cases or research projects. Not only can they learn together, but can also learn how to appreciate different perspectives. Bringing in training consultants or workshops about establishing a collaborative working process or reaching consensus as a group can be beneficial for employees who aren’t aware of how collaboration works.
- Interviewing and onboarding new employees: When you have an open staff position to fill, you have another opportunity to communicate that your firm’s culture values collaboration and employee input. By involving your current staff members in the hiring and training process for new employees, they’ll gain insight into how those processes work, share their input, and contribute skills they may not have been previously aware of. Involving current staff in the hiring and training process also sends a message that their input matters, which can raise morale and establish loyalty to your firm.
- Reinforcement: Team Building activities, anonymous culture surveys, and retraining are ways to reinforce a collaborative working environment. Engage your staff to participate in fun activities or philanthropic events that require communication and teamwork to accomplish something. Remember that team building can also include informal birthday celebration lunches where staff members can get to know each other outside of their work personas.
Collaborative environments are ones where employees are able to communicate openly, transparently, and establish trust. Like it or not, a leader’s actions and words often communicate more than an organization’s policies or procedures. Your firm’s policies and procedures should support the creation of a collaborative culture, but it’s up to you to “walk the talk.”
That means learning how to be collaborative yourself and seeking out training and experiential learning opportunities. Getting it “right” can take time and involve both setbacks and progress. But the costs of not learning how to be collaborative and establishing an environment in your firm where employees are encouraged to work together can spell disaster. Your firm can become less efficient, less effective, and you and your employees can burn out quickly.
Taking the steps to create an environment of collaboration means ensuring the success of your firm, your employees and your reputation as a lawyer. Learn more about taking those first steps with my podcast, “Crushing Chaos with Law Firm Mentor.” Start listening now.