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July 18, 2022

Creating and Branding an Award-Winning Law Firm Culture

A strong firm culture can help reduce turnover, improve employee morale and serve clients at a higher level.

Charles B. Jimerson
A strong firm culture can help reduce turnover, improve employee morale and serve clients at a higher level.

A strong firm culture can help reduce turnover, improve employee morale and serve clients at a higher level.

iStock / pixelfit

Whatever opinions one has on recent workplace behavior trends, it has become evident that somewhere in the typical corporate structure, a disconnect has formed between employer and employee. Is it pay? Benefits? Hours? Is it worth narrowing down to one variable? Truthfully, it could be any of those things to any one individual.

At Jimerson Birr, we’ve taken a different approach to workplace culture. Yes, we believe in competitive pay, good benefits and a healthy work/life balance, but our program runs deeper than those markers. We want to set employees up for career success, on their own terms. As a firm, we always listen to our clients’ goals first and use those as our benchmarks. When it comes to professional development and workplace culture, we do the same for our employees.

We’ve internally branded our approach JB FOR ME, which stands for the values that matter most to employees: personal and professional Fulfillment through Opportunities, Refreshment, Mindfulness and Empowerment. In this article, I take a deep dive into how we have operationalized this program to reduce turnover, improve employee morale and serve our clients at a higher level.

Don’t call it kumbaya

What I’ve described to you may sound like a bunch of corporate gibberish. Work is work, and it’s not sentimental. But the reality is that during the workweek most people will see their direct supervisor more than they see their best friend.

So how do we make that not only tolerable but also a good time? This leads to the first pillar of JB FOR ME: fulfillment. If we do everything right, our employees are fulfilled.

We want each of our employees to lead a healthy, balanced life. Working at a law firm can be stressful. According to a Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation study in cooperation with the American Bar Association, rates of depression and alcohol abuse are higher among lawyers than the general population. It is our calling to chart a different path.

To help reach each employee’s level of fulfillment, we work hard to listen, provide structure and create autonomous and team opportunities for them to thrive. Striking a balance between work, achievement milestones and personal life—and understanding the ways in which those can affect one another—is how we’ve learned to best produce an atmosphere of fulfillment.

Employees move up, or they choose to move out

We believe that opportunity creates more opportunity, and opportunities abound at our firm for those who desire to meet them and advance their careers. As an employer, we are committed to enabling our team members to establish financial security. We couple that with a professional development platform that facilitates the hands-on professional experience and ongoing training opportunities to maximize career growth. The firm is committed to programs that promote and monitor completion of annual training initiatives, such as monthly technology training courses, position-specific learning activities and continuing education requirements. On an individual and firm-wide basis this ensures that our workforce is well-trained, apprised of important legal developments and technologically advanced in methods that promote efficiencies in the practice of law. Our internally hosted professional development programs play an increasingly important role in legal innovation and client cost reduction, as our program is designed to synergistically help each employee learn core skills to propel their career growth and ability to competently serve our clients.

A little R&R never hurts

While we are an ambitious group, we recognize the importance of being refreshed. A strong workplace culture emphasizes work/life balance, workplace flexibility and the special benefits and perks that make work fun. Some of my own most memorable work-related reflections include not only the big victories for clients in and out of the courtroom but the laughs and storytelling shared at events, fun competitions and activities that have been part of our Firm Cup tradition. Every month of the year, we offer a fully programmed schedule that includes a mix of physical and mental competitions, socials and celebrations, philanthropic initiatives, health and wellness options and team spirit challenges—the vast majority of which are offered during work hours. Completed activities build Firm Cup points throughout the year, which, besides putting someone in a position to receive our coveted Karate Kid All Valley Tournament–sized traveling trophy for the year, can also be redeemed for some cool swag. From our Mental Health Monday group walks to our Bob Ross team painting challenge, there’s something to lighten everyone’s day and offer a reprieve from the pressures of workday demands.

Beyond the Firm Cup, we also make celebrating each other a priority, promoting a positive environment through our recognition programs and annual cycle of employee awards. One way we operationalize this is through our Givea-Gong program. When a team member goes above and beyond to help a fellow JB teammate, said teammate submits an electronic “gong report,” which triggers a company-wide email explaining how they went above and beyond, and how their actions tie into one of our underlying seven superior service commitments. Not only does this give proper kudos, but it also reinforces our dedication to working through the same values and principles.

Mindfulness: Wherever you are, be there totally

As a mindful firm, we take responsibility for our interconnectedness with the world around us. As a team of problem solvers, we see challenges and desire to be part of rendering and implementing solutions. Our  seven superior service commitments—conferring client-defined value; being efficient and cost-effective; accessibility; delivering an experience while delivering results; creating meaningful and enduring partnerships; exceptional communication based upon listening; and accountability to goals—guide not only our interactions with our clients and fellow colleagues, but also our interactions with the community we are proud to support.

Through our involvement, we thoughtfully select social responsibility initiatives on an annual basis to invest in and invite our team members to give of their time and talent in a way that is most meaningful for them. Whether we are taking on special service projects, serving on boards or delivering pro bono work, we are delighted for opportunities to serve as advocates, ambassadors, thought leaders and volunteers.

When our team members are engaged with civic and trade organizations, it not only provides them with a sense of social responsibility but shows that we genuinely care about the world around us.

You should like feedback; it’s free

Among the most important determining factors of employee happiness is the feeling of being empowered. In psychology, empowerment is one of the greatest, most confidence-inducing states. Empowerment requires access to proper resources and information to make informed decisions and suggestions, as well as an open and inclusive workplace culture where every team member feels invited to the table, valued and trusted to make their best contributions. Here, our transparent reporting process puts the most influential metrics to our team’s success in front of all personnel to promote healthy collaboration, and we audit our internal departments on a regular schedule to monitor and anticipate how resource needs may be evolving.

We recognize that level of seniority does not relate to the quality of the idea, so we welcome feedback from all levels of the organization from the very first day of service. To emphasize this, when we welcome a new employee to our firm, we schedule feedback meetings at significant benchmarks. This gives them a safe and transparent way to tell us how we can improve our onboarding process, workload and relationships.

What comes around goes around

The JB FOR ME program is not just a nice slogan or thing to do, it’s a business decision that pays dividends.

We want to plant seeds of happiness, hope, success and affinity—all things that will come back to the firm and its clients in abundance through the laws of nature. The desire to have a strong workplace culture stems not only from wanting the best for those around us but from a desire to also have the best people around us.

Charles B. Jimerson

Founder, Jimerson Birr, P.A.

Charles B. Jimerson founded Jimerson Birr, P.A., and is the firm’s managing partner. Under his leadership, the firm has won many local, state and national awards honoring fastgrowing companies, veteran-owned businesses and best employers. [email protected]


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