Paul Spiegelman is the co-founder of the Small Giants Community, a peer-group of purpose-driven business leaders. He is the former...
In this episode with Paul Spiegelman, we talk about what culture in your law firm means, why it is important, and how to create culture deliberately and intentionally.
Paul Spiegelman is the co-founder of the Small Giants Community, a peer-group of purpose-driven business leaders.
Paul recommends the book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins.
If you’d like to hear more about this topic, you should check out Nicole Abboud’s podcast with Paul.
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Lawyerist Podcast with Sam Glover and Aaron Street. Each week, Lawyerist brings you advice and interviews to help you build a more successful law practice in today’s challenging and constantly changing legal market. And now, here are Sam and Aaron.
Sam Glover: Hi, I’m Sam Glover.
Aaron Street: And I’m Aaron Street. And this is episode 160 of the Lawyerist podcast, part of Legal Talk Network. Today we’re talking with Paul Spiegelman about fostering culture in your law firm.
Sam Glover: Today’s podcast is brought to you by LawPay, FreshBooks, and Ruby Receptionists. We appreciate their support and we will tell you more about them later in the show.
Aaron Street: So, for the past 6 months or so, we’ve been growing and engaging an ever-increasing group of Lawyerist insiders in a private Facebook group for Lawyerist insiders. There are hundreds of small-firm lawyers there now, helping each other by asking and answering practice related questions, and engaging with us on the resources and advice we have on how they can manage and grow their firms. And it’s a super interesting and engaged and supportive group of people and I thought it would be really fun to pitch to all of you the opportunity to get into that private group for free, which is very simple. You just go to Lawyerist.com/insider and you can get an invite if you are a practicing small-firm lawyer.
Sam Glover: Yep, go to Lawyerist.com/insider. Join there and we will send you an invitation to join the Facebook group. You can’t join straight from Facebook. We need you to go and register on our site first, but it’s a fun thing and we have a lot more plans for the insider generally.
Aaron Street: Yeah and the reason we funnel people through the website first, is because we want to make sure that everyone in the group is actually a lawyer, because we don’t want you to be subjected to pitches from vendors and consultants or PR agencies, who would otherwise try to get in with our audience. And so we limit it to practicing lawyers, so that you can actually support each other in your firms.
Sam Glover: Yeah, so for today’s podcast we’ve got a brief sponsored interview with Jean Clauson, from ARAG, about the fundamentals of great client service, and then we’ll hear my conversation with Paul Spiegalman.
Jean Clauson: Hi, I’m Jean Clauson. I’m a legal industry advocate at ARAG, and I work to champion solo and small-practice attorneys to play a vital solution in the access to justice problems in America. I’ve spent nearly 10 years developing the ARAG network of nearly 13,000 attorneys. I’m a member of the Legal Marketing Association and I also serve as the president of Group Legal Services. ARAG helps to close the access to justice gap by providing affordable access to legal help for moderate to modest mean income Americans. One of the many ways we’re doing this is by connecting attorneys with clients they otherwise might not have access to.
SPEAKER NOTES: [00: 00: 24] Sam
[00: 00: 26] Aaron
Sam Glover: Hi, Jean. Thanks for being with us today, and we are gonna talk about client service fundamentals, which is, no matter what kind of fancy technology people are using, or if they’re delivering legal services from oak desks and leather chairs, they kinda remain constant. So, what are some of the fundamentals? Where would you start?
Jean Clauson: Oh, absolutely. We’re a big advocate of attorneys to be more client-centric and that means incorporating simple things, like responsiveness. I would really start there. I think it’s all about setting proper expectations for your clients to keep them up to date, with maybe their case status. Let them know the best way to reach you, by phone or email or text. And also keep a current voicemail recording, so your clients actually know when you’re available and when you’ll get back to them. I think I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that attorneys, either from state bars or our own business, that attorneys aren’t connecting with their clients, or are calling them back in a timely manner. So even just returning every voicemail, even if it’s just to say what your availability is, I think really helps that client understand where you’re at and really helping them overcome their situation.
Sam Glover: One thing that we try to talk to people about is, also talking to your clients about how they would like to communicate. For example, I know a lot of lawyers think, oh I’ll just send a letter and let them know. And like, for me, if you send me a letter, I might open it three months from now. It’s a terrible way to keep in touch with me. And so I think being responsive, as you’re talking about it, probably means more than … It means getting back to people and keeping people aware of things, but also making sure that you’re on the same page about how you’re going to communicate, right?
Jean Clauson: Absolutely. I think you said that well. Where it’s really being deliberate in how you design your business model to incorporate that design and all the technology in the world, I think you even mentioned it earlier, won’t help if you’re not just really looking at the fundamental basics of delivering great service. That just can never be overlooked. Really putting your consumer hat on is really important and kind of taking it from the perspective of, what kind of service would you expect? And would you be happy with the service that you’re sharing with your clients, from a personal perspective?
Sam Glover: I think that’s probably something that not enough lawyers do. Put on their empathy hat and put themselves in their clients shoes and, would I be happy with this? That seems like a pretty powerful way to gauge whether or not you’re likely to be making your clients happy.
Jean Clauson: And just, humanizing. We talk a lot about humanizing your practice. So, people, it’s all about being human and providing that great customer experience.
Sam Glover: What about change? You’ve dropped a few words here like, design, and client-centric, that may not be a part of lawyers vocabularies. And so how do you talk to lawyers about that?
Jean Clauson: Position it from a way of, really stay open to change. The legal industry especially now, in this time, is constantly evolving. So, we try to really collaborate with partners like you, Sam, and the Lawyerist, to really bridge the gap between the circle of influencers to the actual practicing attorneys and their staff. So don’t forget about the staff. It’s really important to educate the entire office and your firm on staying relevant and staying current. And you can do that by really staying in touch with what’s happening at your local bar, your state bar, and on a national level. Or even staying connected through social media and other outlets that are providing really great content on everything from technology, and what the latest and greatest tips are, to those customer service fundamentals that we’ve been talking about.
Sam Glover: Cause we’re talking about change in what the world that your clients are functioning in, right? Lawyers often think about legal technology, but technology changes the way that your clients’ businesses operate too and it’s helpful to stay on top of that. The way people communicate, interact with each other, the way markets change, those are all things that if you embrace them you can take advantage of them, right?
Jean Clauson: Absolutely. Understanding the consumer is huge. And understand the changes that they’re going in, and how are they getting their services outside the legal industry. And how does that align or match with the service that you’re providing and reaching those consumers.
Sam Glover: So, if you want to know more about providing great customer service to your clients, ARAG has a free whitepaper. Eight keys to providing great service to your clients and you can get it at ARAGlegal.com/LawyeristPodcast, all one word. And in case it’s not clear from my pronunciation ARAG is, A R A G. Again, that’s ARAGlegal.com/LawyeristPodcast. Thanks, Jean.
Jean Clauson: Thank you so much, Sam!
Paul Spiegelman: Hi, Sam. Pleasure to be on today. My name is Paul Spiegelman. I am a business person who’s learned and grown and learned along the way, like many of your listeners probably. I had a long career in healthcare after a very career practicing law, but I found that whether it’s a law business or any other kind of business, there are choices that we have to make in how we run our companies. And over the years, my passion for business has centered around culture and the relationship between driving an employee focused culture and then how that leads to, not only better company, but a more profitable company. And in my healthcare business we grew that business to around 400 people over 30 year career and ultimately sold that to a very large company and started a couple other small companies along the way. But, always with this theory that if we created an environment in which people loved what they did, that would lead to customer loyalty. That customer loyalty would then generate the ability for us to gain profits that we could invest back in our people.
So over the years I really became passionate and kind of an evangelist for this idea that culture really equals leadership. And how we lead our companies, makes all the difference in the world in whether you’re on the front line or you’re the CEO, we all want just couple thing in our careers. We want to feel that there’s purpose, that we’re values in what we do. We have the opportunity to learn and grow. So when I had the opportunity, I loved to talk to leaders about that. And what I find is many people resonate with these kinds of messages of running a values driven business, but obviously quite often ask themselves, or me, how to do it. And so, bottom line there’s a lot of practical ways that you can get involved in this kind of work and make a better life and company for yourselves and your employees.
Sam Glover: Well, I’m glad you’re with us today, Paul. Culture is something that we think about a lot internally at Lawyerist and that I think a lot of firms are starting to find on their radar. But before we start talking about culture, I’m curious about the three word thing that you’ve lost over on all of your online bios, which is, you are a lawyer and you practiced law briefly. What did you do?
Paul Spiegelman: Well, I grew up in Los Angeles and after going to UCLA and always wanting to be a doctor and getting a “D” in chemistry, I ended up following in my dad’s footsteps and my dad was a lawyer and had a small practice for many years. Actually retired at 85 years old and had a wonderful career doing that. And so I went to law school and I went right to practice with him, which was a small business litigation firm and loved working with my dad. Didn’t really feel the passion for the business, that I think even he felt, and a couple, maybe 18 months into it, got the opportunity with my two brothers to jump into business together. And so that’s what I did. So I had my 18 month legal career. I look back and loved the education and I think it prepared me in a really positive way for business. But, got out early and was able to just go my own way on the business side and it’s really been an enjoyable ride.
Sam Glover: So, I’m curious. Did they want you involved because you were their brother and they trusted you, or were they like, it would be helpful for us to have a lawyer and you’ve been a lawyer for 18 months, so why don’t you come on board and tell us what to do about that stuff.
Paul Spiegelman: Yeah, no, it wasn’t that. I think that we all … I’m not sure I had much expertise at that point but my brothers and I always wanted to do something together we just didn’t know what it would be or when we would do it. And my older brother was kind of the, born entrepreneur, because mostly he couldn’t really work for anyone else and came up with this idea, originally, to get into the medical alert business. And so, like many people who start businesses, we just bootstrapped it but we were 24 hour a day business from day one. And we responded to people who had medical conditions in their homes and one of us had to sleep overnight on a cot in shifts waiting for calls to come in. So, you just kind do what you had to do. So, we all had various backgrounds and together I think we made a good combination, but we were probably hoping that I wouldn’t need to use too much of my legal background if we just stayed out of trouble.
Sam Glover: So, the story of Barrel Health, in brief, is you did that for a while, you got a big contract and kind of took off from there and eventually got bought. And then kept working on culture at Stericycle. But, I’m curious, culture is a buzzword everywhere now, and I think it’s probably penetrating even the legal industry’s consciousness. But, at what point did you realize that culture was a thing that was helping to make your company successful?
Paul Spiegelman: It’s a great question, Sam, because we really never thought about it that way. We weren’t intentional about creating a certain type of culture, a certain business. But when … Early on, I think we might have had 10 employees at the time and we would hear from our employees comments like, wow, this is a really fun place to work. And we said, well what makes it fun? And they said, well you and your brother seem to genuinely care about us. We do things together and you seem to really care. And we said, where did you used to work? And then we heard these stories about where people used to work and I think we were young enough when we started our business that none of us had really worked in big companies or had some of these experiences that people typically when they don’t feel valued in their work.
And so we realized that what we were doing was unique, and that was pretty early on. And then we were, I guess, smart enough to think that we could take advantage of that, create this wonderful environment. We were essentially, our core business was a call center business, so we contracted with hospitals all over the U.S. to answer calls for them on an outsource basis. And when you think of call centers, we all think of the boiler room operation or the high attrition low margin business and you’re not thinking about a great place to work. And we said, we’re gonna do it differently and we’re gonna create this environment where … These are single moms taking 80, 90 calls a day from people that are upset about their healthcare. It’s a really tough job.
And yet if we can show some gratitude and make it pleasurable for them, then our thought was, they’re just gonna do better work for us. And that became, ultimately, our secret sauce. And we said that as we start to differentiate ourselves in business and in any business we realized that over time we get kind of commoditized. We didn’t want to charge based on price. We didn’t want to compete that way. We wanted to compete based on value and ultimately we were able to charge a premium price for our services because we didn’t sell what we did. We didn’t sell the features and benefits of our service. We sold who we are. We made sure our customers understood that by creating this wonderful culture inside, it was gonna benefit them as well.
Sam Glover: Your culture kind of emerged organically it sounds like. Later on, when your company grew bigger or when you went to work for Stericycle, it sounds like your job was a little bit more, trying to create a culture and make it into a real thing that could be a selling point for the company. How do you go about doing that?
Paul Spiegelman: Yeah, it’s a great question. In our business it did grow organically, but as it grew organically overtime, we started to define it and what it meaned to have a great culture and what were the components of that. Many little things that would contribute to developing a great culture and what we realized is that culture is not just a vibe or a feeling that you get. It’s actually a defined process. It’s a recipe. Just like any other process in your business that you have. And I believe that business leaders need to respect that culture process, even more than many others. We don’t think about documenting the culture, and I think we do need to document it. We need to make sure that we consistently apply it over time. When you’re small, it’s maybe a little bit easier to do that, but a big question people have is, well how do you scale it as you grow?
And as we went from 10 people to 100 to 400, then we’d put systems in place to make sure that that culture survived. And when I sold the company to this large public company called Stericycle, I got the opportunity to do something I’d never done. Which is to work in a large company, and in this case, the company … The five years that I did that, I think when I sold it to them, they were about 10,000 employees and they grew to 25,000 in the five years I was there. They did 30 to 40 acquisitions every year. So just imagine that challenge to try to create a culture or institutionalize it. And so the idea there was really the same thing. Like I mentioned earlier, is that how do we make sure people understand the purpose of the business and why they’re there. How do they feel valued and appreciated in the work that they do. How do [inaudible 00: 16: 26] the opportunity to learn and grow. And what we found was that the answer was not so much in the CEO or the senior leader, although they definitely had to participate and sponsor and buy in and support it. Then you have the front line, that people that are really doing the work every day. They love this kind of attention.
But when then you start to look at the middle managers, the supervisors, and people that have grown in the business and quite often don’t know how to do this kind of stuff and are focused on hitting a target or a number and not understanding the impact of spending time with their team, growing their team, slowing down every day to show that they care about the personal lives of their teammates. And then learning how that’s gonna impact them in their business. So, I can’t say I’m the expert in any of this, but I did have the opportunity to go to a larger company and try to figure out how you can scale these kinds of things. And it’s a long-term journey. It never ends, whether it’s a small or large business.
Sam Glover: Well, what about … You’ve talked about going from 10 to 25,000, what about like a solo practice? I mean half the country’s lawyers are in solo practices. Can you have culture as a solo?
Paul Spiegelman: Oh, yeah. Culture really is defined in a couple ways, and many people look at it differently. But I think a lot of it is the extent to which your employees, your team, yourself are willing to do discretionary work and go above and beyond and really understand why you’re there, and have that permeate the business. As well as the message, as I said earlier, that you deliver. There’s tons of lawyers, tons of solo practitioners and small practices and in this day and age, all of use have choices in terms of who we work with. And what I like to say is, no matter what business we’re in, we’re in the relationship business. Our method of developing those relationships, our methods of creating ourselves as thought leaders in industries, just like you’ve done Sam, to expand your scope, allows you to build your brand, your personal brand. And I think that that’s, for a solo practitioner, who’s looking at this has to say kind of stop and realize that impression that they brand they make on the outside, all starts on the inside. And how can they develop that, even if they have just an assistant, or a paralegal or whoever that’s working with them. I think it’s important no matter what size you are.
Sam Glover: So we need to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors and when we come back, I wanna pick up on something that you dropped, sort of in passing, but I think it’s probably central. Which is this idea of documenting culture and integrating it into the way you do things. So, we’ll be right back.
Aaron Street: Did you know that attorneys who accept online payments get paid 39% faster on average than those using traditional payment methods? With LawPay, the only payment solution offered through the ABA advantage program, you can accept client payments online, via email, or in person. No equipment needed. Visit LawPay.com/Lawyerist to sign up and get your first three months free. Trust the only payment solution developed for attorneys and recommended by 47 state bars. LawPay.
Being a self-employed lawyer is hard enough. Which is why dealing with your day-to-day paperwork on top of it all, shouldn’t have to be. FreshBooks makes ridiculously easy to use cloud-based time and billing software that will help you work smarter, get paid faster, and become more organized. With FreshBooks invoicing, you can create and send polished, professional invoices effortlessly in mere seconds. FreshBooks can set you up to receive payments online, which can seriously improve how quickly you get paid. You can track your time either by using their mobile app or your desktop, meaning you’ll always know what work you did, when you did it, and who you did it for. There’s also a super handy deposit feature, so you can invoice for a payment upfront when you’re kicking off a project. To feel the full impact of how FreshBooks can change the way you deal with your paperwork, FreshBooks is offering our listeners a 30 day free trial. To claim it, just go to FreshBooks.com/Lawyerist and enter Lawyerist in the how did you hear about us section.
Sam Glover: Ruby Receptionists is a live, remote receptionist service that is dedicated to helping lawyers win clients and build trust, one happy caller at a time. From their offices in Portland, Oregon, Ruby’s friendly, professional receptionists ensure exceptional client experiences by: answering calls live in English or Spanish, transferring calls, taking messages, collecting new client intake, addressing common questions, making outbound calls for you, and more. Just like an in-house receptionist at a fraction of the cost. More importantly, they sound like they’re sitting in your office. For a special offer, visit Callruby.com/Lawyerist2018 or call 844-715-7829. That’s 844-715-Ruby.
Okay, we’re back. And Paul, so you kinda ran right past documenting culture, but I know it’s core, and I think you’re talking about values there. Can you run with that and tell us what is the relationship between values and culture and what’s so important about values?
Paul Spiegelman: Well when we think about a culture, or any process we have in business in particular, there’s gotta be a foundation. Where do we start? And I get this question a lot and I think the foundation of a great culture is that the mission and vision and values that permeate your company or your practice, even if it’s one or two people. And quite often when we’re that small, we don’t take the time to articulate what that is or we see some mission statement somewhere and we put a plaque on the wall. And I’m not talking about the plaque on the wall. This stuff has to actually to be genuine and it’s really a process that you go through. And I just did this with a small company yesterday, where … Actually an organization that’s been around for awhile, but didn’t have a definition of what their culture was or what it meant to be a part of that organization. So I took them through a visioning process and there’s many different ways to do that. The school of thought that I like to attack this with is really from Jim Collins, who wrote the great book, Good to Great. Which is kind of a bible for business people.
And he talked about this process where you looked at visioning and values as having three components. First is, purpose and our core purpose, which is defined as how we make the world a better place. It might just be a phrase. In my healthcare business it was, connecting people to healthcare. That was our higher purpose. The second is, our core values. And our core values, we defined as those behaviors that no matter what else changed in our business, would never change. When we think about things like integrity and accountability and originality, whatever they are. It doesn’t have to be one word it can be a phrase, but those are really critical to the business. And the third is what we call the future position. Which is maybe we think of as the typical vision statement. Put yourself out five years, and you say, okay what does our business look like today. Here’s our size, our scope, this is what we’re doing.
But getting back to the values, what I found, and I was a cynic like many around these value statements that companies [crosstalk 00: 23: 42]
Sam Glover: I mean a lot of people are, I feel like the first thing … You bring it up, I recently brought it up with non-profit worm on the board and it felt like everybody was like, oh god somebody’s talking about mission crap again.
Paul Spiegelman: So I was the same way in my business until I went through that exercise. And I remember doing it at that point, with a fairly large group of … They weren’t values that I came up with. I wanted everybody involved in that. And then I started to see how they permeated the business. And the examples I would use were when I might be in a meeting with our leadership team and we would be looking at a project that someone asked us to do that’s in the non-standard project. And some would raise their hand and said, but what a minute, one of our core values is never sacrificing quality and I believe if we take on this project we’re gonna sacrifice the quality of all of our work. And I thought, aha, they’re applying one of the core values. Or maybe that we’re having an employee situation that’s really kinda sticky and the manual says in section 3(a) this is how we’re supposed to deal with it. But someone raises their hand and says, hey one of our core values is always doing the right thing, and the right in this situation is not what’s in the manual. And I just thought, aha, this is guiding our daily decision making and that’s when I knew that we kind of hit the gold mine around how values are used.
It’s the way we tell stories every day. It’s the way we develop our reward and recognition. It’s guideposts for people to understand how to behave in the business. And again, you could be two people, or 20, or 2000. They became very powerful and became the foundation of our culture and I believe it’s the same in any company.
Sam Glover: How do you make those real though? Especially if it’s an aspirational value. When I read about values and how you figure ’em out, everybody says, oh you already have values, you just need to identify them. Well, what if you identify your values and then you realize, you know, we’re actually really shitty about making sure that people have balance between their work and their life at our company, but we want to be better about it. How do you decide that that’s gonna be your value and then how do you actually make it real? On a day-to-day basis. So that people do say things like that.
Paul Spiegelman: Yeah, well I think it’s not an exercise to be taken lightly. You don’t want to change them all the time based on the flavor of the month. These really have to be long discussions, it’s not something you come up with in an hour, and go hey, these are our values and we’ll review them every year and see if we want to change them. We actually use them in ways to, very appropriately, make sure we have the right people on our team. And if you think about times where you might have had to fire somebody in your company, it’s most likely that you didn’t fire them because they didn’t have the skills to do the job. You fired them because ultimately they didn’t fit. And so what does it mean and how do we understand whether they fit or not in the organization? And we have to first go back to well, how did they get on board to begin with? And how did we use our values in the hiring process to make sure we were screening for fit and not just for skill?
In this day and age there’s plenty of people that have the skills to do just about any job we would hire for, but we used to say is that we were gonna hire and make it very difficult for people to get in the door. And put people through the ringer, but once they’re in, we’re gonna make ’em part of the family. So, for even call center positions for every 100 resumes we went through, we hired three people. I remember our head of HR went through 17 different interviews and we did that by dividing and conquering how we interviewed them to understand not only their skills, but whether they fit in the organization. We did personality assessments, we put ’em in different social situations. We did our best to make sure they fit and really concentrated on that. The tougher challenge is, because I think we make the best decisions we can, we never bat 1000%. It’s when we start to realize that maybe we’ve made a mistake, and we start to blame the person we hired or other people are talking and it’s creating all sorts of problems. And what we need to do is look in the mirror and say, what could we have done, and how do we have the courage to make the tough decision.
Sam Glover: Well and I suppose if you’re hiring three people at a time, two of them are getting fired.
Paul Spiegelman: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. At some point, [crosstalk 00: 28: 04]
Sam Glover: How do you prevent that from feeling like Survivor?
Paul Spiegelman: I think that, again, if you create an environment, that’s known as a positive culture, which we did in our case. That was a great recruiting tool. We won nine awards as the best place to work company. Who wouldn’t want, on paper, to work there? But look, not everybody’s gonna fit or people’s lives change or the company outgrows some of the talent that we have. And as leaders we have to have the courage to recognize when that’s happening, to make these tough decisions. And quite often we can trace back why that person doesn’t fit to a particular or a series of our core values.
So, it’s just something that you start to build in and you’d be surprised how apparent it will become over time. And we would start every meeting by telling stories about our core values and if we rewarded people it was because they lived up to the core values. So for the leader has to repeatedly talk about this stuff and make it so that it isn’t just that plaque on the wall but it is how you live every day. And we did have a time, I remember, when we started with four of them and because we were a family started company, there was a looseness in our business, in our culture that people felt like, at one point, we just didn’t have enough accountability. And rather than just start talking about accountability, we’re gonna make it a new core value. And we put a whole program and structure behind it. And it really then took off and stuck in the long-term.
Sam Glover: I mean you kinda have to stop and grade yourself on how well you’re meeting your own values sometimes.
Paul Spiegelman: Oh, you do. You really do and it’s just something that’s so critical. I can sense whether you’re starting a new business or you’re a solo practitioner in a law firm, you’re just thinking about surviving, you’re just thinking about getting that next customer, you’re just thinking about defining what your product or service is. But I just can’t understate the importance of defining who you are. Of those three things that I talked about, the things that can change are, your purpose can change. How you’re making the world a better place, that can change. We review that every year. That five year plan obviously is going to change. What you think today is definitely going to change. But you want those things that remain constant and they provide security for those that come on board and work with you.
Sam Glover: When you started talking about how you try to get that cultural foot during hiring, I expected a really simple, nicely packaged answer, but your answer sounded a lot more like, it’s hard and you’re going to fail at it sometimes, so build in some safeguards and backups.
Paul Spiegelman: Yeah, there’s just no way we’re gonna always get it right, but, especially when we’re growing we get sometimes so excited about, we just got the budget to hire the next person, or our practice has grown and so, hey we get to hire the next one and you see a really good resume and you meet somebody and go, wow this is perfect. You drop them in and you wanna give ’em a computer and a phone and let them go at it. And I just say you gotta slow down. You gotta slow down and go through this process and be really deliberate about it. And try to do your best, knowing that at some point you’re going to fail, and then set yourself up to have honest dialogue going forward, because all of use have stories of how we procrastinated, took too long, finally decided to move somebody out of the organization and everybody else was looking at you and saying, what took you so long?
Sam Glover: If somebody wants to start working on culture or learning more about it, what’s the steps they go through? I assume step one is, if you haven’t sat down and done your mission vision and values, that’s step number one.
Paul Spiegelman: I think that is step number one, in terms of the process, but before that, what I always like to understand is if the leader is talking about wanting to do more in this area, and let’s say they haven’t done it before, the one, that interest has to be genuine. And then two, the question is, well whose job is it to do this work or to start this work? And I like to say that the more inclusive you can be, the better. You don’t want to go through this exercise and hand it to the people that you work with and just say, okay I’ve come up with this new thing. So whether you have one or two other people in your firm, or you’re larger than that, sometimes we have leaders who are more command and control style leaders. People who have grown up just saying, hey look, I learned as a leader to be direct, to tell people what to do and it worked for me. The world’s changed and now this idea of more collaborative leadership and team focused leadership has taken hold and you need to create trust in those you work with, that when you decide to go down this culture route, you’re really genuine and you’re gonna stick with it over tie.
So I think you need to be vulnerable with your team, and just say hey, this is something that I think is important. I’ve learned that there’s maybe a better way to do business. I’d like to do it with you, do it together. Once you get that buy-in, then you start with that mission vision values, and then you look at your other programs over time that show how we can do reward and recognition and training programs and other things and many small things that can be done. They don’t take a big investment. It’s ultimately just starting by showing that you care, listening, empowering your people to be themselves, that you work with and you’ll start to feel this feeling … I remember going to Stericycle, these very directive, command and control leaders who had years of success in the corporate world. And their success came from hitting targets, hitting numbers. They never felt what it was like to impact someone’s life and someone’s career. And when they started to focus on culture, they got that wonderful feeling as well. And so the message is you can well and do good at the same time.
Sam Glover: I suppose the hard work starts after you’ve identified your values then you actually have to make them real and walk the walk not just talk the talk. I think that’s why everybody is so, groans when you talk about mission vision and values because they know that they’ve worked places that have those things and there’s a disconnect between what it says on the break room wall or what it says on the org chart, and what people actually do and how they behave day-to-day. That’s why people groan, but the challenge is to make it real and embody that culture.
Paul Spiegelman: Well and the fact is that there are companies that live it well and companies that don’t. And whether you’re starting your own company or going to work for another company or a firm, then you have a responsibility to do your own due diligence to see if that is real. And that’s by talking to the leaders, seeing how it permeates their business, seeing how … You can walk in a place, my first book was called why is everybody smiling, because people would come and tour our call center and just walk around at the end of the tour come and meet with me, and said God everybody just seems so happy. Why is everyone smiling? I said, I don’t know, go ask them. But it turned out that you could just feel it by walking in the door that the environment we created just made people happy to be there and you could see it on their faces. Even in my short legal career, you could walk in any business, any law firm, you can tell. You can walk in a restaurant, you can look around and say, do these people look happy to be here? Do we feel like they’re treated well?
So I think that’s really where we start and I can’t overstate the fact that it is a long time commitment. Culture’s not a project. It is who we are. It evolves over time. We’ll always be challenged by it, but the results are really incredible. I mean we were able to be five to six times more profitable than other competitor in our space. There’s books that have been written about larger companies that we’ve all heard of like SouthWest Airlines and WholeFoods and Container Store and Harley Davidson, these culture focused, employee focused companies, that far [inaudible 00: 36: 02] in terms of growth and profitability, their peers. Why? Because they have this employee first mentality and culture and values that really mean something in the organization.
Sam Glover: I think that’s a nice place to end. And I neglected to give a shout out to Nicole Abboud, whose Leaders Love Company podcast is where I first heard you talk. And her podcast is well worth a listen if you’re interested in hearing from people like Paul, or Ashley Cox who was on a couple weeks ago. But Paul, where can people find you?
Paul Spiegelman: Oh they can find me at PaulSpiegelman.com and lots of resources there, even to evaluate your internal culture in your organization. It’s always get to set a baseline and measure where we’re going. But, I’m so pleased that the legal profession is taking a closer look at this as well because we’re a business like any other business and I think that lawyers and their teams can feel this impact and grow even better companies and practices by embracing this idea that culture is a very critical part of our business.
Sam Glover: Well thanks so much for being with us today, Paul.
Paul Spiegelman: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Aaron Street: Make sure to catch next week’s episode of the Lawyerist podcast by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast app. And please leave a rating to help other people find our show. You can find the notes for today’s episode on Lawyerist.com/podcast.
Sam Glover: The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not endorsed by Legal Talk Network. Nothing said in this podcast is legal advice for you.
The Lawyerist Podcast is a weekly show about lawyering and law practice hosted by Sam Glover and Aaron Street.
Jonathan Hawkins gives his tips on how to transition out of your practice, whether you are squashed by an anvil out of the blue...
Annie Grace explains how to think about your relationship with alcohol and why moderation is harder than just drinking or not drinking.
Marshall Lichty talks about being a lawyer with ADHD.
Stephanie Everrett talks with Lawyerist Lab member Jennifer Longtin about the strategy they developed to help Jennifer take charge of her firm finances.
Nathan Hightower discusses Culture Index and why too much distance between your core traits and the behaviors required to do your job well might...
Daniel Pink discusses the science of timing and productivity, the subject of his latest book, When, and also compensation and motivation, the subject of...