The best employees are never employees. They are owners from the moment they start their jobs to the moment they retire.
Owners don’t need to be told what their job is as they know their job is to do whatever is meet and proper to do to grow the law firm and help it succeed.
Owners aren’t above menial tasks that they think others below them should do. Whether a first-year associate or a senior partner, if something needs to get done, they do it.
Owners help everyone around them succeed in their careers. Of course they hope for help back, but that isn’t how they are thinking because they get joy and fulfillment from seeing those around them thrive and succeed. And they know as an owner of the firm that the others thriving will help the firm succeed.
Owners are accountable for results on their first day at work. They know that the heart of their job is pleasing the client and even if they don’t know how to do it at first, they know that one way or another an owner makes the client happy or gets it to happen somehow.
Owners that contribute greatly to the firm’s success expect to be rewarded for those contributions — of course, as they are not idiots. However, they are respectful — and even over-respectful — to the contributions of others and realize that it can never be “all about me.” This for the simple reason that “me” is not a law firm. A law firm is at heart a team.
Owners know that their job description is a combination of performing excellent legal work for clients and at the same time building the culture of the firm they work in. Even on day one of work, they know that at its heart, a law firm is a bunch of lawyers who are together just because they want to be together, and if they don’t want to be together then they leave and the game is over. For this reason, owners realize that part of the job is doing their best to make the work environment as positive for their colleagues as possible.
Owners see their partners and colleagues as humans and cut them a break when they need it. They know everyone has those stressed-out, rough days and they don’t hold grudges. Instead, they move onward and upward, recognizing that they themselves aren’t perfect every day.
Owners look for good in their colleagues and clients, as opposed to dwelling up on their flaws.
So as we consider the law firm of the future, it is clear that as much as possible that law firms must attract and retain owners.
You may think this is firm management’s job — and it is — however, if you are reading this, it is your job too if you hope to have a successful and impactful career.
If you are spending a lot of time complaining but little time doing anything to address whatever it is you are complaining about, you really aren’t thinking as an owner.
To conclude, the law firm of the future should, in my view, focus on creating as much as possible true owners of the business. However, this focus is not solely for management — it is for everyone in the firm from the top to the bottom.
Bruce Stachenfeld is the chairman of Duval & Stachenfeld LLP, an approximately 50-lawyer law firm based in midtown Manhattan. The firm is known as “The Pure Play in Real Estate Law” because all of its practice areas are focused around real estate. With almost 50 full-time real estate lawyers, the firm is one of the largest real estate law practices in New York City. You can contact Bruce by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Bruce also writes The Real Estate Philosopher™, which contains applications of Bruce’s eclectic, insightful, and outside-the-box thinking to the real estate world. If you would like to read previous articles or subscribe, please click here.
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