September/October 2019

The Thriving Lawyer

Culture: The Key to Firm and Individual Wellness

Anne E. Collier
Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds. —Navy SEAL saying

I am passionate about wellness. Everyone’s wellness. Life’s too short not to love what you do or deal with unnecessary aggravation. A partner at a BigLaw firm recently shared with me, “I don’t work a day in my life. Practicing law is play, so I get to play every day.” It’s no surprise that this lawyer is successful and valued by clients. I wish this for every lawyer.

I am also passionate about the need for firms to embrace diversity and inclusion, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not out of a sense of fairness. Because if fairness were compelling to all, diversity and inclusion wouldn’t be a “field,” nor would the statistics on women and people of color making equity partner reflect such dismal progress over the last couple of decades. Rather, I am focused on the very practical and timeless need for people in all fields to work together for the individual good, the good of the clients, and the wellness of their organizations and communities. Whether you are solving a society’s or a client’s challenges, you need diverse perspectives and experiences to solve complex problems. Quite literally, it’s a matter of surviving and thriving. Thus, whether you care most about the firm’s efficacy and bottom line, your experience of work, or the environment and the people around you, how people work together and treat each other matters.

Not everyone shares this view. The skeptics assert that a focus on how colleagues treat each other detracts from the focus on work. It’s a waste of time, they say. They challenge the very existence of a problem because they are having a positive experience in the workplace. And, more importantly, they cite the “fact” that in a firm’s meritocracy everyone has equal opportunities to prove themselves, and that diverse lawyers who are exceptionally bright will actually have far more opportunities than white men. People have to perform, they say. They also cite the hassle factor: They want to work with people who have the same attitude toward life, work similarly, at the same tempo, and are dedicated to the practice of law.

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