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Is Your Law Firm Culture Stifling Innovation?

James Goodwin, an attorney/author/columnist, is sort of a counter-culture guy.

He says that law firms should not use "firm culture" to stifle innovation. In a column on "The Culture Card," Goodwin says culture can be good or bad.

"In museums and art galleries, culture means intelligence, refinement, and beauty," he says. "In a lab, culture means a plate of mold."

Culture Should Drive Growth

Writing for Above the Law, Goodwin explains that law firms need to adapt to a changing marketplace more than ever. If they preserve firm culture at the expense of growth, it will not end well.

"Culture should be something that drives a law firm to grow, not something that grows over a law firm's corpse," he wrote.

It is a remarkable suggestion, given that firm culture has become a most important attribute in many law firms. Culture has more to do with an attorney's happiness than any other factor, some say.

Goodwin warns, however, that "stagnant firm cultures are doomed to fail in a legal market that is shifting at a break-neck pace." In other words, a successful firm culture should be open to change.

Changing Firm Culture

More often, lawyers have to adapt to different firm cultures. Like going to a foreign country, an attorney has to learn the language, the dress, and sometimes even the music.

But firms should also adapt. Some initiatives may work; others may fail. Goodwin says that doesn't mean it is wrong to try out something new.

"There are attorneys out there who brag about having never lost a case," he says. "Chances are that just means they never took on a case that was actually worth fighting."

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