Empowering Teams is Essential for Future Law Firm Success

Leading law firms gathered this week, to address pressing topics including The Great Resignation, the importance of purpose and why firms need to empower teams to be able to attract and retain talent. Nine Feet Tall’s virtual panel event brought together key leaders from firms including Simmons & Simmons, Brodies LLP and Mewburn Ellis to name a few. The event was called “Empowering Teams in Law Firms” and was discussion-based.

The panel featured Helen Hodgkinson, Chief People Officer at TLT, Emma Dowden, Chief Operating Officer at Burges Salmon, Izabel Grindal, Head of Governance & Change at DLA Piper & Tiggy Atkinson, Partner & Legal Sector Lead at Nine Feet Tall.

Central to discussions was the acknowledgement that law firms can no longer rely on just the benefits package to attract and retain talent. The effects of the pandemic and subsequent Great Resignation have shown that purpose, transparency, and culture make a difference to teams within law firms. These values, and ways of working will play a pivotal role in the way people choose their next firm and how long to stay. Empowering teams to feel valued is essential for the success of all firms in the future. The panel addressed the need for a change of culture and a move away from the say-do gap. Emma Dowden of Burges Salmon said: “Values must resonate with actions and behaviours. We want our people to live and breathe our values, so they need to see them in action. Policies, behaviours, actions, and decisions all need to be aligned.”

Izabel Grindal of DLA Piper followed up by stressing the importance of engaging and involving teams by enabling people to speak up: “Do people feel safe to speak up and know it is okay to show their vulnerability and be authentic in the workplace? It is important to make sure culture at the firm allows for this.”

The discussions moved to explore the different individual values within a team and why people want to feel empowered. Law firms now understand they can play a role in creating a fairer world for the future and many have started to create strategies which improve their commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusivity.

When it comes to empowerment, leadership is essential for driving change. Helen Hodgkinson of TLT said: “It is important to remember leaders are human beings as well. We are all experiencing challenges around the future of work, but the responsibility for ‘walking the walk’ and empowering teams around them, ultimately lies with the leaders.” The panel agreed, leaders must set the tone, communication must be authentic, and leaders must listen and encourage feedback; making sure interactions and communications touch on the human side and not just work.

The legal profession is one of perfectionism and permitting teams to take risks and allow them to learn from mistakes is a real culture shift that still has some way to go. Tiggy Atkinson shared the concept of ‘freedom within a framework’ to help define clear boundaries when it comes to devolved decision making.

To help firms evolve culture and improve recruitment and retention, Nine Feet Tall are offering all those who registered for the event a free “Employee Value Proposition Assessment.” This includes a heatmap addressing current working practices and scoping improvements in employer branding.

A recording of the event is available at NineFeetTall.com and anyone interested in future events from Nine Feet Tall can sign up to receive the legal newsletter here.

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