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Six keys to increasing loyalty at your law firm

Six keys to increasing loyalty at your law firm

BridgeTower Media Newswires//July 15, 2019//

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By Beth Sears
BridgeTower Media Newswires

law-firm_mainAll too often, attorneys abandon the law practice with which they work to join another or start their own. Usually unresolved conflict, misaligned values or better opportunities head the list of reasons for the separation. Many just think that their firm will be better now and do not use it as an opportunity to assess why it happened. Whenever this occurs, organizations should look at what is the issue — not who is the issue — to ensure it does not happen again. They should also focus on characteristics that create loyal employees.

Creating a culture of engagement. Creating a workplace where employees choose to stay is possible, as evidenced by five law firms making it on to Fortune’s “Great Places to Work” list. These organizations have found ways to engage their employees in the operation of the business. Loyalty is strengthened when individuals feel trusted and respected and are involved indecision making that affects them. There is recognition for a job well done and relationships are built to help individuals feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Strong leadership. Strong leaders are extremely self-aware and operate with honesty and integrity. Their words are backed up by their behaviors, and they have a clear vision for the organization. They determine the firm’s goals, articulate them on a regular basis and show how their decisions help to maintain the organization’s focus. They are not afraid to gain input from others when making decisions. They take responsibility if they make a mistake and communicate what is being done so it doesn’t happen in the future. When lawyers and staff understand the firm’s direction, they are better suited to make decisions that align with the goals of the organization.

Ongoing communication. Morale issues often occur in organizations with poor communication practices. Poor internal communication causes people to be uninformed and feel out of the loop. When law firms take time to create a strategic communication process, everyone works more efficiently. This includes problem solving as well as sharing good feedback received from clients. Baker Donelson, one of the firms which made the “Great Places” list nine years in a row, holds short “Daily Docket” meetings every morning to keep people on the same page. A sense of belonging can be the difference between creating loyalty and people departing. Various departments should all feel a sense of involvement rather than just working under one roof.

Sense of fairness. An important aspect of your culture is a sense in which employees feel they are being treated fairly. This doesn’t just include terms of compensation; employees need to know that their opinions matter and the organization cares about them as a person. Successful firms hold all their people accountable after giving them clear roles and responsibilities, plus the support they need. Once this occurs, people are all held to the same standard regarding the written policies and procedures.

Work/life balance. While recently working with a group of attorneys, a more seasoned professional discussed how younger employees do not have the same commitment as they did because they are unwilling to work until 8 p.m. most evenings. Younger attorneys in particular want to find more time for their personal lives. Burnout is a real problem with attorneys and, truthfully, working 50-60 hours a week diminishes your effectiveness. Find ways to help your attorneys balance their work and personal life and there is a good chance their loyalty will increase.

Commitment to quality. Exceptional service is what will keep your clients returning, and it does not happen by accident. Law firms need to create a purposeful approach to the client’s experience by helping all employees understand what that means in your organization. This requires a commitment from all employees, not just the staff, in order to create a consistent practice that your clients come to appreciate. Through meaningful discussions, your organization should set client service standards focused on how a person feels when he or she interacts with your organization. Everything about the client’s experience, including the environment and how they are treated, will determine whether they return — and a stable practice is a good way to create loyal employees.

Creating a more collaborative working environment can help, but loyalty must be earned. When employee loyalty grows, so does the organization. Loyal employees are hard to find these days, but maintaining an intentionally healthy work culture is a good way to create a win-win for all.

Beth Sears, an interpersonal and organizational communication expert, is the president of Workplace Communication Inc., based in Scottsville, New York.

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