3 Signs Your Law Firm Has a People Problem

9 minutes to read

Your law firm can only succeed with a great team around you. No attorney can grow alone for long.

Conversely, one of the biggest hindrances to a law firm’s growth is people problems. As your team grows, so does the drama, personnel challenges, and organizational complexity.

But how do you know whether your law firm is suffering from a people problem? What are the key signs? How do you solve people problems when they arise? More importantly, how do you prevent them altogether?

In this guide, we’re going to show you three common ways to spot the problems before they become a cancer to your firm’s growth:

  1. You Allow Drama
  2. Your Culture is Misaligned or Nonexistent
  3. You Settle For the Best Available, Not the Best

Hands shaking

1. You Allow Drama

Drama is simply unnecessary habits that start in the workplace, and if allowed, can become one of your law firm’s biggest people problems.

So what is drama and how can you spot it?

Start by familiarizing yourself with Cy Wakeman’s work. Cy Wakeman is a drama researcher, leadership consultant, New York Times best-selling author, and popular Game Changers Summit speaker.

As Cy puts it, drama is emotional waste. It’s any unproductive thought or behavior, and like any other waste in the workplace, she believes it can be eliminated through great mental processes.

Cy’s research has found that the average employee spends nearly 2.5 hours per day in drama, and while that may not sound like a lot to you right now, it starts to add up quickly.

Check this out:

  • Each team member partakes in an average of 2.5 hours of drama per day, which equals 17 hours per week, which equals 68 hours per month, which ultimately equals 816 hours per year.
  • 32 percent of 816 hours is pure ego.
  • 23 percent is resisting accountability.
  • 14 percent is fighting buy-in (you must convince me to do that thing).
  • 13 percent is resisting change.
  • 8 percent is engagement struggle.

Not so insignificant now, is it?

If you notice some of these characteristics from your team members around the office, it’s time to act fast:

  • Gossiping and tattling
  • Bargaining and withholding buy-in
  • Resisting changes and new procedures
  • Lack of accountability
  • Blaming others or circumstances for low performance

Here’s the most shocking part of all: If there’s drama in your law firm, it’s likely because you’ve allowed it.

You endorse what you tolerate. If your team members show up late to work every day and you don’t say anything about it, you have set the new standard. The same goes for putting up with drama and undesirable behavior in the workplace, thus creating a drama-filled environment for you and the rest of your firm.

Cy Wakeman GCS3

This is when it’s time to begin calling your team members up to greatness. If they’re feeling angry, sad, or frustrated in the moment and they come to you to vent, it’s up to you to challenge them to define what great would look like in that scenario — and then to go be great. How could they change their attitude to become the best version of themselves, one that both of you could be proud of?

You must teach your team members to learn to lead themselves, and that starts by refusing to allow drama, instead showing them that they can be great even when they don’t feel like it.

2. Your Culture is Misaligned or Nonexistent

Culture is your law firm’s ultimate competitive advantage. It can be the reason your law firm is unique in your market, better than your competitors, and best equipped to represent your clients. That’s why it’s absolutely essential for you to intentionally cultivate one that people want to work for and with.

Let’s first define culture. What is it and why does it matter?

Culture is the character and personality of your organization. It’s what makes your business unique and is the sum of its values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors, and attitudes. In other words, it’s how your law firm gets things done.

Don’t believe that it truly has the difference to make or break finding great team members and preventing people problems? Check out some of these statistics:

  • Company culture is an important factor for 46% of job seekers.
  • 94% of entrepreneurs and 88% of job seekers say that a healthy culture at work is vital for success.
  • 86% of job seekers avoid companies with a bad reputation.
  • Millennials prioritize “people and culture fit” above everything else.

If you want to find A-players instead of people problems, attract the great candidates who are looking for companies that value what they do. Having a strong culture is a great way to differentiate your law firm and entice great people to work for you.

Those same A-players want to work toward something. They thrive when working for an organization with a common goal they can rally behind, and they want to achieve it alongside team members who share their ideals.

If someone (or multiple people) in your organization aren’t abiding by your carefully-crafted culture — or things are running on a sad autopilot because you’ve never thought about your law firm’s culture — you’ve got a people problem.

A tangible place to start is by defining a set of core values — then living up to it and enforcing it. Core values are not only a great way to show what sets you apart from your competitors and show potential applicants what you’re looking for right off the bat, but also a powerful way to align your team members and make it clear what you will and will not tolerate.

Crisp Core Values

Here are Crisp’s core values (and what they mean for our team members) to give you an idea of what yours could look like:

  • Results Driven, Not Effort Driven – Keep your focus on achieving metrics and objectives; stay committed to the end; never lose sight of the goal.
  • Vested in Client Success – Go the extra mile; find a solution no matter what; ensure clients’ best interests are in mind.
  • Better Than Yesterday – Hold yourself to the same expectations you hold teammates; learn from your mistakes and make progress; create better standards for yourself and your teammates.
  • Solution Focused – Make impactful and effective changes; speak up when something is not working; keep your mindset focused on finding the right solution rather than only bringing problems.
  • Take Ownership – Step up and step in rather than waiting for others to take action first; be accountable for the results of your actions; take the initiative to bring positive results and learn from moments of failure.
  • Team First – Jump in when you see your teammate in need of help; be proactive in finding ways to add value; focus on our five-year vision that we can all be constantly working together toward achieving $1 billion in impact.
  • Consistency – Repeat your behaviors until your habits become second nature; be consistent with your work, habits, mindset, and grind; be a game changer every single day.

As Head of Coaching Strategy Jessica Mogill says, “Hiring isn’t just about finding great people — it’s about becoming a great company that people want to work for. Don’t forget that you’re competing with every brand out there, not just your industry competitors.”

In addition to core values, your vision plays a big role in your law firm’s culture. Do you have one? Is it clearly articulated to your team members?

If not, it’s time to start thinking about it, because it’s one of the most significant drivers behind your law firm’s culture.

Take Crisp’s vision, for example:

It’s clear, to the point, and it communicates exactly what we are committed to accomplishing. That shows potential candidates that we mean business, and that they too can be a part of something bigger than themselves. It also provides current team members with a North Star to guide all their actions, inform the company’s decisions, and keep the culture oriented around something meaningful.

If your law firm’s culture is misaligned or nonexistent, it’s a people problem that needs addressing.

3. You Settle for the Best Available, Not the Best

We hate to break it to you, but if you can’t find great team members to join your law firm, it’s not because there isn’t great talent out there. It’s because your firm is not where they want to work. That’s a big people problem.

A-players are actively looking for a great place to work. They want to be able to thrive in a place where their work will matter and feel excited by what they do every day.

Are you positioning your law firm as that perfect fit where great candidates want to apply?

If you’re having trouble finding them and seem to keep attracting mediocre team members who turn out to be people problems, the problem is likely you.

Here’s proof that your great team members are out there:

We live in the age of the Great Attrition.

In the past few years, a record number of employees have quit or planned to quit their jobs, and that number continues to increase. In the U.S. alone, voluntary attrition increased by almost 800,000 in the past year, while involuntary attrition decreased by almost 400,000 during the same period according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But that’s not all: According to a McKinsey survey, nearly a quarter of employers believe they are holding on to more low-performing talent now compared to a year ago. They’re unable to keep the best talent. They’re simply stuck with the most available.

However, the current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 6.7% with 10.7 million people looking for jobs. So why aren’t you finding your team members with ease? And why do you continue to get stuck with team members who aren’t perfect fits for your organization?

If you don’t have a structured hiring process in place, that’s one place where you can start to turn your luck around. Make it the same for each and every candidate who applies to an open position at your firm, and design it to intentionally narrow the applicant pool every step of the way.

For instance, Crisp’s hiring process is quite extensive — and for good reason. We want to weed out the people who are truly committed from the ones who are not.

By hiring the absolute best person for each role in your law firm, you will avoid bringing on bad fits that will leave later — by your choice or theirs.

Final Thoughts

Just because you have people problems in your law firm doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. You have the power to remove and prevent drama, intentionally craft a culture of excellence, and attract world-class team members to get your organization back on track.

It starts from within, so address your current problems at the root source.

If you’re ready to solve your law firm’s pressing people problems, apply to join Crisp Coach, the ultimate unfair advantage for law firms across the country.

You can do this, and we can help.