January 27, 2020 Practice Points

Choose Your Response to Change

Change is an inevitable part of life but approaching it from the right perspective can make all the difference.

By Kelsey Heino

Like death and taxes, change is inevitable. Whether it’s adjusting to a new brand of coffee because your go-to stopped production or switching career paths in your forties, changes both big and small have an undeniable impact on your life. It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about it. But, with the right attitude and approach, you can limit the effect of change and move forward in the best way possible. Here are a few tips for when the winds of change strike your law firm.

Be Honest (As Possible)

There are certain situations where discretion is key, such as a large merger or new product launch, but in general, openness and honesty with your work force is going to be the best plan of action. Employees tend to imagine the worst, and if there is a wave of people “pursuing other options” or who are “no longer with the company,” speculation is going to be productivity’s enemy. If an employee is terminated for poor performance, say it. If a position has become redundant, explain why. If there is a protracted period of turnover, first determine the root cause, then address it with your remaining employees. Keeping a shroud of secrecy around uncomfortable topics often results in employee discomfort and jobhunting. Addressing those fears head-on can keep people at their desks by reassuring them that there is something worth staying for.

Admit Defeat

Law firms must adapt to developments in technology and the legal environment in order to survive. Firms without cloud capabilities lag behind those providing employees and clients with mobile options. Failing to recognize the growing trend of alternative billing may decrease client satisfaction. Firms must try new things—but they also must admit when those new things were a bust. Stop the bleeding early when a new technology or billing approach is not yielding results. It is easy to get caught up in the amount of capital already invested but throwing good money after bad does not help your bottom line. When you implement a new strategy, have a set time for review to determine if the return on investment is worth it. If it’s clearly not, move on to the next.

Reflect and Regroup

When there is a period of dramatic change, it can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day dealing with it. Consciously choose to take a step back and look at where you came from and where you’re headed. This can be done through a gratitude practice—consider setting aside 20 minutes at the end of each week to reflect on victories that week/month/year. Pull from different areas of your life for those victories—one week you could celebrate a big deal closing, the next you could be thankful that you were able to have dinner with your family each night. Encourage your employees to do the same. Share the big (and small) milestones with your workforce. Maybe that means donuts on Friday for simply surviving a stressful week. Perhaps a dinner after a project closes. Whatever form it takes, make sure everyone at the firm takes time to recognize that change can also mean progress.

Change is an inevitable part of life and work but approaching it from the right perspective can make all the difference. 

Kelsey Heino is an employment litigation attorney with the Omaha office of Woods Aitken, LLP. 


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