Preserving our “Culture”

There’s been a lot of talk about law firm culture lately.

Countless articles talking about the need to preserve law firm culture through forcing people back to the office. Statements from law firm executives about their precious culture. Terrifying tales of what might happen if that culture is destroyed.

But one article in particular (this one) made me irate when I read it a few months back.

Some highlights (or maybe lowlights):

  • “If our lawyers just become units of chargeable hours production then I can see why they’d just go to whoever’s paying the highest…”
  • “With Covid, people have been working from home more for a year and you can easily worry that it reduces the bond you would have had in the office. You can see why people might just make a decision based on whoever the highest bidder is.”
  • “If you think about the job, it’s a high intensity, high effort sort of role. If you join as a young lawyer and then don’t actually see anyone, it’s not fun.”
  • “I fear the relationship, particularly with junior lawyers, risks becoming much more transactional. That’s a challenge we’re going to see across the year and why it was so good to get back into the office…”

Before I even get to the culture part, let’s take a look for a second at some of those quotes.

In any event – I’m not sure what law firms think their culture is. And that’s a huge part of the problem.

My favourite definition/explanation of culture is this one (a nice hybrid from leadership expert Adam Grant and ex-basketball player turned psychologist John Amaechi).

“A culture is defined by the worst behaviour tolerated.”



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