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Case Study

National Law Firm Culture Assessment

Overview

Conscient Strategies was engaged by a national law firm with fourteen offices nationwide. Over a three-year period of time, a West Coast office had approximately tripled in size. This growth presented challenges with regards to a deterioration of alignment between the headquarter offices in New York and the office on the West Coast. This included both a vacuum of leadership to address problems as they arose in the West Coast office as well as specific issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The firm reached out to Conscient Strategies as a step towards proactively addressing these issues.

Assessment

We began by undertaking a rapid assessment of the state of the office.  Simultaneously, we worked with firm leadership to understand the desired culture of the firm.

 Through the engagement, we utilized the Conscient Strategies framework, which is built around three key manifestations of culture:

  • Shared beliefs and values
  • Actions and behaviors
  • Physical and space indicators

Within this framework, the Conscient Strategies team focused on a number of elements of particular relevance to the firm, including employee perceptions by specific demographic considerations. We analyzed the information by various employee segments to identify any key differentiators – for example, by position, by gender, by ethnic group, and by years at the firm among other considerations.

 

Conscient Strategies analyzed the information by various employee segments to identify any key differentiators – for example, by position, by gender, by ethnic group, and by years at the firm among other considerations.

 

What We Discovered

The assessment and our analysis revealed the following themes:

Tensions between employee segments

We identified issues within the team on how both lawyers and staff were treated based on gender.  There was a perception that there were only one or two “offenders” on the team, yet our assessment concluded that none of the women working in the West Coast office had a sense of psychological safety in the work place. 

Promotions and partner track

This was a key consideration for many in the West Coast team. Our analysis found that the policies and procedures for advancement did not line up with the perception of what needed to be done to grow within the firm.  There was also a tremendous amount of confusion around how feedback was given and to what end.  As a result, there was considerable discontent surrounding advancement decisions taken by the firm.

Leadership capacity

Partners in the West Coast office, like many law offices in the United States, promote based on the business brought into the firm. However, few of the partners in the West Coast office had consistent or strong leadership capacity to drive the office in a continued direction of growth. 

The assessment also revealed gaps in the client’s national business strategy, operational systems and processes, and business development.

What We Did and Results

At the conclusion of this project, we provided the firm’s leadership with an analysis of the situation in the West Coast office and a list of recommendations to begin shifting misaligned behaviors. Based on our deep listening, observations, and analyses, we developed a plan to create the desired changes and address some of the toxic behaviors noted in the West Coast office. This included considerations such as business strategy, operating structure, filling leadership gaps, and disciplinary tactics to increasingly bridge the gaps that existed between the East and West Coast teams.  

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