Why is company culture important to a legal firm?

The legal industry in the UK is consistently scrutinised for having a diversity and accessibility problem, particularly within firms. This in turn is detrimental to business, as strong company culture yields many benefits – all of which are motivational indicators.

Positive company culture, and a strong one at that, sees higher staff retention levels than those firms that have a poor culture. This makes them an employer of choice too for those looking for new career opportunities. In a highly competitive workforce, appealing to employees as a great place to work is in every firm’s best interest.

Other incentives include better employee engagement, fewer absences, increased innovation, stronger output, greater loyalty… The list is endless, but chiefly a strong sense of belonging breeds positive outcomes.

How to go about it

Before trying to improve your company’s culture, it is important to consider the limitations. External influences and extenuating circumstances can and often do have an impact on a culture. Events such as mergers and acquisitions, downsizing and upsizing are effectors of employee confidence. In matters of change, being informative with your staff is a great way to improve confidence and internal communication.

Implementation of training programmes, employee wellbeing checks and open and honest communications are all great methods of improving interaction channels in the office, whilst making employees feel much more at home.

It ultimately comes down to transparency. Having respect for your team and taking the time to learn your employee’s personal values are all great starting points to implementing and improving company culture.

Who’s responsible?

As you would expect, strategy is put into the hands of the senior management teams. They are the ones who create and communicate the vision and values of the firm whilst shaping the culture of the business itself.

Senior management are also responsible for agenda setting, and it is their responsibility to create the vision statement (the goal of the firm) that their employees can buy into, and support.

When it turns sour and begins to impede performance, the buck stops with the senior partners. The common misconception is that anything to do with culture falls under HR, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the role and responsibility of those who occupy the top table within the firm.

Key considerations

When implementing tactics, it is important to consider your size as a firm. Colleagues in larger firms may sometimes feel they are more of a number than an individual, so it’s important for the senior leadership team to create a culture that clearly communicates how it values its people and makes them each see how they can play a role in driving the business forward.

It is also essential to personalise your culture. No employee is going to feel at home when your efforts are ‘for show’ or just to attract the top talent. The values that are at the core of the firm’s ethos should be presented well for all to see: how they serve their clients, treat colleagues and the professionalism by which they conduct themselves when representing the business. This is how the firm’s culture is manifested in practice.

When a law firm has a great company culture, there is a strong sense of belonging – employees feel happy to work there (and sad when they leave), they enjoy being there and they are more productive as a result. Maintaining this is all in your best interests as a firm. Also, don’t be disheartened if not everybody gets on board, just encourage more.

It has been implied that bad company culture affects a wide variety of company characteristics, including workplace diversity. In a saturated market, the last thing you want to do is put off the top talent for not championing all aspects of culture.

Overall, you may find that re-evaluating company culture priorities will be mutually beneficial for management, employees and the future of the firm as a whole.