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Make Your Law Firm a Great Place to Work

If you can't wait to get to the office, you probably work at a great law firm.

If you feel like your co-workers are trusted friends, you probably work at a great law firm.

If you don't care about how much money you're making, you probably work at a great law firm.

Whether you are an employee or an employer, there are some sure signs that you work at a great law firm. Making the firm great depends more on the people than the practice area or any other common denominator in the workplace. It's not about firm development; it's about people development.

Here are some tips:

1. Choose Employees Wisely

Employers, and their managers by designation, set the tone for a firm's culture. It is especially true in small firms, where bosses can have more input on hiring decisions.

When it comes to hiring, it is like choosing a sports team. A coach wants the best players, but really needs them to play well together. A great quarterback, for example, is not going to complete many passes unless the receivers follow the team's play patterns. Together, however, they can create a winning culture.

Likewise, a law firm needs complementary members -- people who work well together -- to create a great working environment. As the organization grows, other leaders will take over the day-to-day, but a great culture can last for generations.

2. Build Respect and Trust

According to a study by The Society for Human Resource Management, "respectful treatment of all employees" was the number-one contributor to job satisfaction. "Trust between employees and senior management" was second, but really these qualities go together at great firms.

Communication is key to building trust and respect among employees. Greg Besner, writing for Entrepreneur, said that listening, caring and helping are part of that process.

"Send pulse surveys, host focus groups, plan one-on-one meetings and participate in conversations around the office whenever possible," he said. "Sometimes the best feedback happens in these casual settings, when formal barriers are not in place."

3. Develop People, Not Practices

Companies that have the best "people development" cultures also have the best records of superior, sustained financial performance and stability, according to a study by McKinsey & Co. Reporting for Legal Marketing Reader, John O. Cunningham said it is also true for law firms.

Citing national rankings by Forbes, he said Atlanta-based Alston Bird; Boston-based Bingham McCutchen; Rochester-based Nixon Peabody; and Seattle-based Perkins Coie were named as leaders in people development.

"The leaders at these firms have consciously sought to transform their environments so that lawyers and other key professionals are respected, empowered and incorporated into the team," he wrote. "These firms recognize that most of their employees are not in fact lawyers, but are indeed critical to success."

Nixon Peabody's Harry Trueheart said, "Better job satisfaction means better client satisfaction... and all employees must be well-served to serve your clients the very best."

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